Leading far-right politician goes on trial in Germany charged with using Nazi slogan

The case centres on Björn Höcke’s use of slogan ‘everything for Germany’

One of Germany’s leading far-right politicians, Björn Höcke, has gone on trial accused of using a Nazi organisation slogan in rally speeches.

The trial comes five months ahead of state elections in three states, including Thuringia, where Mr Höcke heads the poll-topping Alternative für Deutschland (AfD).

At the heart of the case is the slogan “Alles für Deutschland”, everything for Germany, which Mr Höcke first used in a speech in May 2021 and again in December 2023.

Prosecutors point to how the same expression was first used by the SA, the paramilitary wing of Hitler’s National Socialist party. Postwar Germany imposed a blanket ban on all Nazi slogans, insignia and the notorious Führer salute.

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Mr Höcke, previously a school history teacher, said he was not aware of the SA links to what he called an “everyday” slogan. Last week he said it been used, too, by Germany’s Deutsche Telekom. Within hours the telecommunications company denied this and called in their lawyers.

The first day of hearings was delayed by a series of motions filed by Mr Höcke’s defence, all rejected by the court. The 52-year-old politician remained largely silent on Thursday but is expected to testify at the next sitting.

The AfD has framed the trial as a political witch-hunt and an attack on freedom of expression. A week ago on X, Mr Höcke posted a screenshot of a Der Spiegel article from 2023 with the same slogan in the headline, noting “the author was neither prosecutor nor charged”.

In another post viewed by 1.2 million users, the politician invited X owner Elon Musk to Halle to witness “how Germany is at the forefront of persecuting political opponents and oppressing free speech”.

Musk’s reply – “What did you say?” – prompted angry responses from German users.

The trial could become a proxy court battle with the AfD as a whole, with unpredictable consequences for the German political landscape. Polls indicate support of between 25-34 per cent for the AfD in eastern states in advance of local elections next month, European elections in June and elections for new state parliaments in September.

If found guilty, the politician faces up to three years in prison or a fine. A sentence of even six months, a court spokesman said, means “he would possibly also occupy no public office”.

This would require his local Thuringia AfD to find a new lead candidate for the September 1st state poll.

Gathered outside the court, watched closely by police officers, were about 250 protesters.

One group carried a banner reading: “Höcke is a Nazi” and chanted “All of Halle hates the AfD”.

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