German Politician Jailed For Publicly Showing Nazi Concentration Camp Tattoo


Buchenwald’s main gate, with the motto “Jedem das Seine” (photo by EmileVictor via Wikimedia Commons)

German politician Marcel Zech has been sentenced to 8 months in jail for showing a Nazi tattoo in a swimming pool. The tattoo depicts a Nazi concentration camp that resembles Auschwitz and the slogan of the Buchenwald concentration camp “Jedem das Seine”: “To everyone what he deserves” (literally: “to each his own”).

Zech is a member of the German National Democratic Party (Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands or NPD), a right-wing party founded in 1964.

In November of 2015 a visitor to the waterpark ‘Turm’ in Brandenburg sighted Zech’s tattoo and photographed it. Following repeated complaints by visitors the management of the waterpark evicted Zech. After the Berliner Zeitung reported on the incident, attorneys filed a lawsuit against Zech. Although his tattoo had been known to the authorities for some time, under German law he could not be prosecuted unless he showed his tattoo in public.

Zech was defended by lawyer Wolfram Nahrath, known for his right-wing sympathies. He asked that his client be acquitted. “In view of the exceptional denunciations directed against my client, he has changed his tattoo,” he stated. Zech had covered his tattoo with one depicting Max and Moritz.

On 7 November 2016 Zech was sentenced to 8 months in prison for sedition. “The defendant has undoubtedly shown through his tattoo that he approves of the mass murder of millions of Jews and Roma,” judge Jörn Kalbow concluded. “A suspended sentence might have been understood as an act of unjustified yielding and backing down by the state in the face of right-wing radicalism.” Zech laughed as the sentence was read.

Nahrath filed an appeal to a higher court. On April 20 a high regional court in Brandenburg rejected the appeal as “unfounded” and upheld the previous sentence.

The 28-year-old Marcel Zech lives in an old building in the northern part of Berlin. He is a member of Barnim district assembly and Panketal district council.

In recent years popular support for right-wing groups in Germany has risen due to the euro crisis, the arrival of thousands of refugees, and the debate about the integration of migrants and Islam. In 2016 there were 3,500 reported cases of attacks against refugees.

On January 17 the German Supreme Court rejected a request filed by the Upper House of Parliament (Bundesrat) to outlaw the NPD. Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière stated that despite the rejection the court had confirmed the government’s opinion that “the ideology of the NPD is unconstitutional and incompatible with the principle of democracy.”

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