With his “Everything for Germany” slogan, Björn Höcke explored the limits of what can be said. The regional court in Halle has now convicted the Thuringian AfD leader for this Nazi slogan – and that is correct. This is how the rule of law works. This also applies to the right-wing party.

After four days of negotiations, the presiding judge Jan Stengel announced the verdict: Björn Höcke should pay 100 daily rates of 130 euros each for using the banned Nazi saying. In the end, the AfD politician’s personal admission that he had the “feeling of being a politically persecuted person” didn’t help either. Nor did his assertion that he had unknowingly used the forbidden slogan of the SA (Storm Department) of the NSDAP.

An argument that was not very credible from the start. If you listen to Höcke’s speeches more closely, you will quickly realize that he often follows a pattern. In his volume of conversations “Never into the same river twice” from 2018, he even stated his perfidious goal himself: He is working on pushing the boundaries of what can be said.

In the video: Court sentences AfD-Höcke to a fine – this is how the judge justifies the verdict

So it is absolutely understandable that the court did not buy the innocence performance of the high school history teacher, who Höcke was in the AfD before his political career.

At the end of a speech in May 2021 in Merseburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Höcke said: “Everything for our homeland, everything for Saxony-Anhalt, everything for Germany”. The third part of the triad is the forbidden slogan.

The presiding judge explained that the court was convinced that Höcke knew that the SA slogan was banned and used it anyway. “You are an eloquent, intelligent man who knows what he is saying,” said Stengel.

Now one might think that a fine of 13,000 euros would be mild and easy for someone like Höcke to bear. This impression is deceptive: If the verdict becomes final, Höcke will have a criminal record. The Federal Central Register Act regulates which penalties are included in the police clearance certificate. According to paragraph 32, this is not the case only with fines of up to 90 daily rates. However, the verdict is not yet final and an appeal is possible within a week.

The Thuringian AfD is classified as right-wing extremist by the state Office for the Protection of the Constitution and observes, Höcke is its state leader. With the current ruling, there are currently no direct consequences for his top candidacy in the state elections in Thuringia on September 1st.

And yet, in addition to the severe punishment for Höcke, the judge’s ruling also has a larger, overarching effect. He showed that our constitutional state functions on the basis of existing legislation. The SA saying “Everything for Germany” is not an “everyday phrase,” as Höcke argued very clearly, but rather a targeted and illegal breach of a taboo. Our state must defend itself with all its might against the return of such criminal Nazi rhetoric. It is a credit to the Halle Regional Court that it did not allow any gray area or ambiguity here. The language of the Nazi dictatorship must no longer be used or echoed in our democratic state.

It is all the more remarkable that Björn Höcke likes to portray himself as a “politically persecuted person” and repeatedly strains the cover of freedom of expression. Comparable in style and argumentation to Donald Trump, Höcke and his lawyers attempted to defame and delegitimize the court during the proceedings. They even spoke of a “politically motivated process” in which “an example should be made”.

In reality, the trial was about something completely different and sober: namely, determining whether or not the symbols of unconstitutional and terrorist organizations were used. The regional court in Halle has drawn a red line here. With a clear signal to the AfD about where the constitutional limits of their language and their messages lie.

Surely you can still say that? No, we won’t be using such solutions in the future.