Historians and a prominent Jewish council are protesting the "scandalous" acquittal announced by an appeals court, which threw out an already lenient financial judgment against a former mayor who wrote blogs questioning Nazi Germany's attempt to exterminate Europe's Jews.
Hans Püschel was forced to resign in 2013 as mayor of Krauschwitz, a town of around 600 people, for statements he published on the internet that minimized or denied Nazi crimes. In his writings he belittled historical accounts of the death toll at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in occupied Poland as "lies" and claimed that it resembled a sports ground equipped with a modern hospital and "60 doctors" for inmates.
The German constitution forbids questioning the existence of the Holocaust or praising the Third Reich.
Referring to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in central Berlin, Püschel also suggested: "If we put a thousand hunks of concrete in the middle of Berlin for murdered Jews, then at least 3,000 belong there alongside them for murdered Germans." On the current role of Jews in German society, he wrote of "the dubious to virulent and devastating influence of Jews and Zionism on Germany."
In 2014, a higher regional court upheld the lower court's 2013 decision. The final decision by the state's highest court overturned the regional court's findings and nullified the penalties.
The Saxony-Anhalt court wrote in its judgment that while Püschel had broken the law, it found no evidence that he had "trivialized" the Holocaust in general.
In 2011, the lead judge of the court, Gerhard Henss, also overturned the convictions of two other NPD party officials who had made slanderous and defamatory statements. The court refused to answer any questions about the decision, citing judicial independence.