BERLIN, Germany — A prominent member of Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) will face trial for using a banned Nazi slogan in an election campaign, a court said on Wednesday.
Bjoern Hoecke, the AfD’s regional leader in Thuringia state, is accused of using the phrase “Alles fuer Deutschland” (“Everything for Germany”) during a campaign speech in May 2021.
The slogan was a motto of the so-called Sturmabteilung, a paramilitary group that played a key role in Adolf Hitler’s rise to power.
Along with the Nazi salute and other slogans and symbols from that era, it is illegal in modern-day Germany.
Hoecke will face trial in Merseburg in Saxony-Anhalt state, where he gave the speech to around 250 people in the run-up to Germany’s 2021 federal election, the regional court in Halle said.
Created in 2013 as an anti-euro outfit before morphing into an anti-immigration party, the AfD entered parliament for the first time in 2017 with around 13 percent of the vote.
It slid to around 10 percent in the 2021 election.
But recent opinion surveys have put the party on 22 percent, above Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s center-left SPD on 16 percent.
The AfD has benefited from growing discontent with Scholz’s three-party coalition amid concerns about inflation and the affordability of the government’s climate plans.
High immigration also remains a key voter concern.
The AfD caused a sensation in Hoecke’s stronghold Thuringia when it secured its first district administrator position earlier this year, in the town of Sonneberg.
The far-right party is polling around 34 percent in the state on the border with Bavaria, according to a recent survey by regional broadcaster MDR.
Thuringia will hold a vote for its regional parliament in September 2024, and Hoecke has voiced ambition to become the region’s state premier.
Far-right firebrand Hoecke has caused outrage before with his statements on Germany’s Nazi past.
Considered an extremist by German intelligence services, he has called Berlin’s Holocaust monument a “memorial of shame” and urged a “180-degree shift” in the country’s culture of remembrance.
As a former history teacher, prosecutors have said he uttered the phrase in full knowledge of its “origin and meaning.”
He was charged in June with “public use of a symbol of a former National Socialist organization.”