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Criminalizing History

Legal Restrictions on Statements and Interpretations of the Past in Germany, Poland, Rwanda, Turkey and Ukraine


Edited By Klaus Bachmann and Christian Garuka

Why do states ban certain statements and interpretations of the past, how do they ban them and what are the practical consequences? This book offers an answer to these questions and at the same time examines, whether the respective legislation was supply-or demand-driven and how prosecutors and courts applied it. The comparison between Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Rwanda and Turkey offers several surprising insights: in most countries, memory law legislation is supply driven and imposed on a reluctant society, in some countries they target apolitical hooligans more than intellectuals or the government’s political opponents. The book also discusses, why and how liberal democracies differ from hybrid regimes in their approach to punitive memory laws and how such laws can be tailored to avoid constraints on free speech, the freedom of the press and academic freedoms.

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Protecting the state and its historical identity: Klaus Bachmann


(Klaus Bachmann)

The development of German legislation and jurisprudence criminalizing the denial of pastatrocities10

The history of Germany’s fight against Holocaust denial is rooted in events long before the Holocaust. It is, to a large extent, the story of art. 130 of the German Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch, StGB), which originated in the German Empire (Kaiserreich), where the article’s only edge was directed against the Social Democrat movement, which was regarded by the ruling elite of the Empire as the main threat for political stability, traditions and law and order. Together with social legislation and election rules discriminating against the social democratic opposition to Chancellor Otto von Bismarck’s rule, art. 130 was an instrument designed to curb the rise of the Social Democratic Party (SPD). Later, art 130 StGB was also a convenient tool for the authorities of the Third Reich for legally harassing critique, although they had created a multitude of additional instruments with which they could extinguish critical voices in society.11 These instruments ranged from extrajudicial imprisonment and street terror during the early 1930s to the ban of all other parties other than the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, NSDAP).

It comes with a surprise, though, that art. 130 StGB survived not only the Third Reich but also its downfall, the rule of the Western Allies in the three occupation zones and the creation of the German Federal Republic in 1949.

For Nazi-nostalgists and defenders of the Third...

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