History Repeating: Neo-Nazis on Trial for Burning Anne Frank's Diary
Neo-Nazis are on trial in Germany for burning a copy of Anne Frank's diary at a far-right mid-summer festival. Their lawyer claims one defendant did it to "free" himself of Germany's past.
Lars K. (r) is one of the seven defendants in the case. He claims he wanted to free himself from the burden of the past.
The testimony of five witnesses is being heard Wednesday, the second day of the trial, with the key witness being Pretzien's mayor, Friedrich Harwig. During his testimony Wednesday he confirmed that a person had thrown the book into the fire during the festival with the words "It's all lies anyway."
The case caused widespread outrage at the time, raising as it did memories of the Nazi-era burning of books by Jewish authors. Harwig came in for particular criticism for being present at the solstice festival but not taking any action to stop the book burning. He had been earlier criticized for his efforts to integrate young right-wing extremists into the community.
On the first day of the trial on Monday, 25-year old Lars K. admitted to having thrown the book in the fire in front of more than 60 people -- but he claimed it was a spontaneous gesture and had not been planned with the other defendants.
He denied that it had to do anything with right-wing extremism. On the contrary, the defendant's lawyer, speaking on behalf of his client, claimed that the Nazi era had made such a deep impression on Lars K. that he wanted to "free" himself from the "evil" chapter of German history by burning the book. Lars K., like some of his co-defendants, had belonged to the right-wing organization "Heimat Bund Ostelbien" ("East Elbian Homeland Federation") before it was dissolved on July 1, 2006.
Anne Frank's diary is one of the most widely read books in the world. It describes her experiences hiding from the Nazis in an attic in Amsterdam from 1942 to 1944. Frank, who was a German-born Jew, later died of typhus in the Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen at the age of 15.
A verdict in the trial is expected in mid-March.
© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2007
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH