The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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    BONN, Germany (Reuter) - The German government and the country's
Jewish leader have criticized a court for its handling of a case in
which a far-right leader denied the Nazi Holocaust took place.

     The Mannheim regional court in June gave Guenter Deckert, head of
the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD), a one-year suspended
prison sentence and a $6,300 fine after convicting him of incitement
to racial hatred.

     The court defended its decision Tuesday, saying Deckert was a
highly intelligent father of a family and had no previous criminal

    The case stemmed from a 1991 lecture in Germany by U.S.  neo-Nazi
Fred Leuchter, which Deckert organized.

     Deckert translated the lecture into German and sold videotapes of
it.  Leuchter, who has designed execution chambers for U.S.  prisons
and is to stand trial in Germany on race hate charges, told the NPD he
had visited the Auschwitz death camp and established that it had never
had gas chambers.

     The court said in a statement that Deckert "defends his political
conviction, which is a matter of the heart to him, with great
commitment and at the cost of substantial time and energy."

     Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, whose office
normally prevents her from attacking court judgments, said she could
not remain silent.

     "This is a slap in the face for all victims of the Holocaust and
a shocking signal," she said.

     "What good are the most effective regulations to combat
neo-Nazism if a German court calls the denial of the Holocaust a
'matter of the heart'."

    Germany's Jewish leader Ignatz Bubis told Wednesday's edition of
the daily Berlin newspaper Tagesspiegel: "The judges demonstrate an
attitude for which a teacher would once have been dismissed."

     The Mannheim court had convicted Deckert previously and given him
the same sentence.

     But Germany's highest appeals court, the Federal Court of
Justice, provoked uproar in March by revoking the sentence, saying the
"Auschwitz lie" did not constitute a crime in itself.

     Leutheusser-Scharrenberger said she hoped the Federal Court of
Justice would again overturn the Mannheim ruling.

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