German theatre’s swastika stunt cleared as free speech

Poster advertising a play named after Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf which sparked protests over an offer of free entry to theatre goers wearing a swastika
AFP

Berlin (AFP) – German prosecutors on Wednesday cleared a performance of a satirical play named after Adolf Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf” that promises free entry to spectators who wear a swastika.

The theatre in the lakeside town of Constance, Baden-Wuerttemberg state, says it aims to show how easily people can be corrupted but the approach sparked numerous legal complaints.

Local prosecutors however on Wednesday said the premiere could go ahead on Friday, which marks Hitler’s birthday in 1889, as well as the controversial swastika campaign.

The theatre says on its website that those who pay for a ticket will be asked to wear a Star of David “as a sign of solidarity with the victims of Nazi barbarism”.

Under German law, publicly displaying swastikas and other Nazi symbols is illegal, unless it is done as part of an artistic performance covered by constitutional guarantees of free speech.

The region’s German-Israeli Society has called for a boycott of the play named after the book which Hitler wrote in prison years before taking power.

The play by Hungarian George Tabori, who died in 2007, is a caricature of Hitler’s youth, according to the theatre.

German political and religious leaders have raised fears about a resurgence of anti-Semitism by far-right groups and some immigrants hostile to Israel.

In the latest case, a viral online video showed a Berlin attack on two young men wearing kippas, traditional Jewish skullcaps, who were assaulted by three young men, at least one of whom spoke Arabic.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Germany “bears a responsibility to protect Jewish life” more than 70 years after the end of the Holocaust in which the Nazis murdered six million European Jews.

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