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In Germany, I understand that openly displaying Nazi symbols is illegal but that is heavily dependent on the context indicating that they are being displayed as a promotion or celebration of Nazism. So, for example, using a swastika in a Buddhist temple would not be an offence. (Related: Is it legal to display Buddhist/Hindu swastikas in Germany?) I assume in this case that using a symbol like the swastika to denounce Nazism (such as if it had an X though it to signify resistance and opposition to fascism), or to denounce something else by likening it to Nazism would also not fall foul of the relevant provisions.

In the U.K. there is the terrorism act which specifically forbids displaying support for specifically enumerated proscribed organisations, though I’m not personally aware of any Nazi organisations being on the relevant proscribed lists. And then there are the racial and religious hatred acts that created aggravated versions of various public order offences.

Communist Ranjeet Brar was today arrested for selling a book that condemns Zionism including by likening it with and drawing historical parallels of it to Nazism. Actually it denounces Zionism by arguing it to be itself antisemitic. And the book has a Star of David superimposed and integrated with a swastika, which anyone would hopefully be able to interpret the intended message of by giving it a brief moment of thought. Based on the cop’s remarks to bystanders challenging them on the grounds of the arrest, it seemed to be on the grounds of racially aggravated public order act offences, presumably that of section 5.

My personal feeling is that such a prosecution given the context and spirit of the use of the Nazi symbol will not hold up in court, or even likely make it to court, and further, that such an arrest would likely not have been done by police prior to the high level political gestures and machinations between Central government and police on the perceived need to further restrict free speech where it may be sent to verge on Antisemitism. It seems to me that this is likely to be a case of low level police constables simplistically and reflexively applying crude or heuristically crafted operational directives telling them to be on the look out for any anti semantic banners or symbols, because these can be argued to breach certain specific laws, and that it is simply a case of nuanced and rigorous understandings of the law not making it down the operational chain of command.

But the real question is what the case laws say about this: is the mere display of Nazi symbology which is not undertaken in a supportive or other genuinely Antisemitic spirit but perhaps liable to misunderstanding by less intelligent or less-than-sincere members of the public by itself enough to constitute an offence?

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Everything I could write is better said in the wikipedia page on the topic. You can see all the links to legal norms, a list of over 100 links to court cases and newspaper articles on the topic.

Summary

Use of signs of unconstitutional and terrorist organizations is forbidden, unless it is an act of civic education, the defense against unconstitutional endeavors, art or science, research or teaching, reporting on current events or history or similar purposes (§ 86a para. 3 in conjunction with § 86 para. 3 StGB).

Even obvious use of those symbols for the opposite purpose (for example a crossed out swastika, or a hand throwing a swastika into a trash can) can land you in court. In recent years and in revisions those cases have been ruled in favor of the defendent, and even before, the punishment was very light if it was obvious that they did not mean to promote those ideologies. But it can still land you in legal trouble and even if you only pay a fine, you probably have to pay your own lawyer, that can easily cost 10-20x as much.

So yes, it depends on context, but you have to prove your context is one of the exceptions. Many if not all institutions and companies will blur, black or remove any display of those symbols, even if depicting history, if they cannot claim without a doubt that they are educational. The most famous depiction is probably the fact that all scale models of WW2 Germany will have red flags with a black circle in the middle, where the white circle with the black swastika would have been. Computer games exist in a "German" version, that does not show swastikas.

So to answer your question:

is the mere display of Nazi symbology which is not undertaken in a supportive or other genuinely Antisemitic spirit but perhaps liable to misunderstanding by less intelligent or less-than-sincere members of the public by itself enough to constitute an offence?

Yes.

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  • Don't forget: If you are found not guilty, the state will pay your lawyer's fees
    – Trish
    Nov 27, 2023 at 9:31
  • Also, computer games are by now allowed to use Swastikas, though not all do. The more common "Black out" in scale models is to glue a white dot over the center circle or not have swastikas to put on the flag.
    – Trish
    Nov 27, 2023 at 9:36
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Does the context of one’s displays of Nazi emblems matter to its legality?

Yes.

There's no blanket ban on the display of Nazi symbols.

Generally they can be used in fact- or fiction-based films, TV programmes, newspapers and news websites, plays, books, videogames, comic books, history lectures etc. There are numerous books lawfully on sale in the UK with covers that show swastikas and/or other Nazi imagery.

But, depending on the circumstances, a person's behaviour in relation to a Nazi symbol might constitute a criminal offence. The behaviour could amount to a (racial or religiously aggravated) public order offence or other criminal offence; incitement to racial hatred; or stirring up religious hatred.

Consider the variety of ways that you could display a symbol. Graffiti, flyposting and stickering, etching/scratching, leafleting, social media posts, direct messages and emails, carrying a sign or wearing clothes that show it, etc. People have even cut swastikas into pigeon corpses.

Consider the criminal offences that could potentially be connected to those - criminal damage, illegal flyposting, harassment, alarm or distress, malicious communications...

For example, spraypainting swastikas on roads and walls near a synagogue may amount to religiously aggravated criminal damage.

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  • Upvoted, but not accepted; I think this could do significantly better at more comprehensively addressing (the other aspects of) the question. Nov 27, 2023 at 18:45
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    @Seekinganswers It seems to me I have answered the question that is written on this page. What specifically have I missed?
    – Lag
    Nov 28, 2023 at 8:57

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