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The art of Hitler salute: German court acquits painter over Nazi gesture

Published time: August 14, 2013 21:57
Edited time: August 15, 2013 09:42
German artist Jonathan Meese (AFP Photo / DPA / Uli Deck / Germany Out)

German artist Jonathan Meese (AFP Photo / DPA / Uli Deck / Germany Out)

A German court acquitted controversial artist Jonathan Meese for performing the outlawed Hitler salute during a performance ruling that it was a form of artistic expression.

The two Nazi salutes, which outraged the German public, were made at the “Megalomania in the Art World” event, which was organized by German Der Spiegel magazine in Kassel University last June.

Meese had been invited there as an expert on both art and megalomania. He was advocating the “dictatorship of art” during the public discussion and used a Nazi greeting to make his point more clear.

The 48-year-old has argued that his use of Nazi symbols and gestures is satirical and aimed to lessen, not to promote their potency.

The judge decided on Wednesday that Meese isn’t guilty as the Nazi gesture isn’t a violation if it’s done “in order to promote art.” 

"It is clear that the defendant doesn’t share sympathies towards the symbols of National Socialism or towards Adolf Hitler. Irony can be rather traced in his actions,” the judge explained his ruling. 

Meese has thanked the court for protecting his freedom of expression, saying: "Art has triumphed. Now I am free."

German artist Jonathan Meese (AFP Photo / DPA / Uli Deck / Germany Out)

"I can paint an apple without ever having eaten an apple. I can do the Hitler salute without having anything to do with it," he added, DPA news agency reports.  

Previously, the artist told Der Spiegel that he’s “innocent” because what he does on stage “is protected by the artistic freedom clause in the German constitution.”

Section 86a of the German Criminal Code prohibits “the use of symbols of unconstitutional organizations,” which includes demonstration of flags and coats of arms of the Third Reich as well use of Nazi greetings. But the scope of the law is restricted with a paragraph, saying that such behavior is not punishable if it involves art.

The prosecutors, who demanded the painter, sculptor and artist to be punished with a 12,000 euro fine, are yet to decide whether they’ll appeal against the court ruling. 

Meese now faces another trail in Mannheim as he displayed Nazi salutes and mannequins, decorated with swastikas, during a show, which took place in the city last year. 

The Hitler salute is nothing new in the German art. In 2009, Ottmar Hörl caused an uproar with his sculpture of garden gnomes, with their arms raised in a Nazi greeting.  

Back then, the public prosecutors decided not to take the artist to court, saying that his exhibition clearly expressed opposition to Nazi ideology.

Comments (10)


media-tation 25.08.2013 04:26

Images and words have power. The infamous "salute" is a logo and logo's sell apparently: "words are images of the thing itself" (William Boroughs). The "salute", burning currency/flags, etc. being blocked should be a democratic decision (not by Press). The heart of the matter is that any democratic civilization must allow the freedom of ART. The Nazi's and many others (Mao) first killed of artists, for good reason. Images and words have power. Art is an active mechanism that reveals social zeitgeists (ala German artist, Joseph Beuys). Both its strengths and frailties. And Meese seemed to do a good job.


Rich Tygart 19.08.2013 14:49

I'm American and I know that we blew it in WW2. Germany,America,Engl and and Russia should have never been enemies.It was and is to this day all because of the Rothschild family and the Bolshevik/Zionists that we have had problems.In America I can give that salute anytime I want.Some folks may not like it but we can march as a Nazi party if we want.It doesn't make since that we can do it but Germany can't.Anyone who thinks that the Jew killing Zionists were any different than Hitler is living in a Zionist fantasy.I am sorry brother Germany,one day we will all rise again globally for the final pogrom.


hawaiiguy 15.08.2013 20:33

The only people against this is the fantasy historians who have duped the whole world, sans the self educated, along with the roaches in the banking, political, entertainment, and war machine industries. If that singles out a "certain" people maybe its time to ask how in the h e l l are the same elitists who destroyed Germany from the late 1800's up to 1930, the same people in power from 1945 until today? Time to pick up the shovels again, I don't see a leader with any national pride though, certainly none as great and well meaning as Hitler. The machine is too big now, until WWIII wipes them away were s crewed.

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