American Neo-Nazi Goes on Trial in Germany
HAMBURG, Germany (AP) _ American neo-Nazi Gary Lauck eluded German authorities for two decades, mailing literature that praised Hitler and vilified Jews to German fascists from the safety of his base in Nebraska.
Last year, Lauck’s luck ran out when he traveled to a neo-Nazi convention in Denmark. There, no longer protected by U.S. free speech guarantees, he was arrested on an international warrant and extradited to Germany to face charges of inciting racial hatred.
Today his trial began.
Lauck, who turns 43 on Sunday, is accused of being the German fascists’ main supplier of brochures, films and other propaganda for two decades, producing the material in Lincoln, Neb., and sending it overseas. Such material is illegal in Germany under a constitution the Allies imposed after World War II.
If convicted, Lauck faces a maximum of five years in prison.
With a haircut and moustache meant to resemble Hitler’s, Lauck entered the courtroom at Hamburg State Court today in a dark suit. Apart from confirming his identity in German and answering a few questions by the judge, Lauck refused to testify.
His defense attorney, Hans-Otto Sieg, said his client declined to comment on the charges because ``he feels he is being tried illegally.″
Sieg asked the judge to stop the trial, but the judge rejected his argument that the Danes were wrong to extradite Lauck.
During the morning session, the prosecutors spent an hour and a half reading the 38-count indictment. In the afternoon, the judge read from hate literature produced by Lauck.
The trial, which is expected to last through the summer, continues Friday. Americans from the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and a U.S. diplomat were monitoring it.
``The problem is the difference in the legal system,″ Lauck’s attorney told Associated Press Television later. ``Everything he is supposed to have done was done in the U.S.A. Putting him on trial here is therefore problematic.″
About 30 German leftists, many with pierced faces and Mohawk haircuts, demonstrated outside the court today before the trial began, holding a banner reading, ``No Forgiving, No Forgetting.″
Two dozen police officers guarded a side entrance and controlled access to the courtroom, which was half-full with about 75 people, including the demonstrators and some neo-Nazis in leather jackets and short haircuts.
During the lunch break, police stood on the sidewalk separating 20 right-wing skinheads and a similar number of leftists.
Lauck fought Germany’s attempt to have him extradited, but exhausted his appeals after the Danish Supreme Court ruled that Lauck’s anti-Semitic statements in his newspaper ``NS Kampfruf″ (``NS Battle Cry″) were an extraditable offense under Danish law.
Arrested in Denmark in March 1995, he was sent to Hamburg that September and indicted on Feb. 7 of this year.
Lauck heads the National Socialist German Workers’ Party-Overseas Organization, which was banned in Germany in 1974. He once said Jews were treated too nicely in Nazi concentration camps, and they were the ``main belligerents″ in World War II.
Lauck says his Nebraska mail-order operation has closed down.
``We moved our files and everything so they wouldn’t fall into enemy hands,″ he said at the time of his arrest.