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Thursday, 12 August 2010

Last Laugh Is on German Far Right in Court Case (Germany)

Germany’s far-right supporters lost a major court case on Wednesday after a judge ruled that a satirical anti-racist clothing label depicting a stork that looks like Hitler was not damaging to a clothing label much favored by neo-Nazis.

The case pitted Storch Heinar, the anti-racist and anti-fascist label, against Thor Steinar, the cult label for far rightist movements here. The ruling, in Nuremberg, is seen as a victory a left-leaning youth group, Endstation Rechts, whose name translates as “last stop for the right wing.”

Set up by a group of Social Democrats in the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in 2008 to combat growing rightist extremism there and also in the state of Saxony, Endstation Rechts hit on the idea of starting its own clothing label aimed at satirizing the far-right political parties.

The youth group’s label, Storch Heinar (Storch is the German word for stork), has as its emblem an awkward and scrawny stork, which has become a symbol for a growing movement that is trying to oppose the influence of far-right parties, such as the National Party of Germany, or N.P.D., and neo-Nazi movements.

The N.P.D. is represented in the state governments of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania as well as Saxony.

From the beginning, Storch Heinar was turned into a cartoon character that satirizes Hitler. It has a Hitler-esque mustache and wears an oversized military helmet. Satirizing Hitler’s own life, the stork has an unhappy childhood, is not recognized as an artist, has a very big superiority complex and above all has ambitions to be the greatest fashion designer of all times.

Such humor did not go down at all with Mediatex, the company that owns Thor Steinar. The label won wide appeal among far-right supporters in Germany because of its emphasis on Nordic mythology, which the Nazis used to propagate their philosophy of racial purity.

Mediatex at first tried to take over the trademark of Storch Heinar and copyright the avian name. But it failed.
Then this year, Mediatex filed a complaint against Mathias Brodkorb, a Social Democrat legislator in the state Parliament of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and one of the founders of Storch Heinar. Mediatex alleged that Storch Heinar was injuring and disparaging Thor Steinar. The case went to court last month.

In his ruling, Judge Horst Rottmann said Wednesday that there was no danger that the two labels could be confused, so the danger of Thor Steinar losing potential customers was not an issue. As for denigrating or disparaging Thor Steinar, Mr. Rottmann said satire, as artistic expression and freedom, was protected under the country’s freedom of speech laws.

NY Times