The German far-right Björn Höcke, one of the most extreme figures of his party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), and leader of the party in the state of Thuringia, was sentenced by the German justice system to a fine of 13,000 euros for having used a Nazi motto in a speech.

The trial began on April 18 and was held in the provincial court of Halle, in the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt, because it was in a nearby city, Merseburg, where Höcke first spoke the words during an election rally at the end May 2021.

“Everything for our homeland, everything for Saxony-Anhalt, everything for Germany,” Höcke said. “Everything for Germany” was the motto of the SA (Sturmabteilung), a paramilitary formation of the Nazi party that played a key role in Adolf Hitler’s conquest of power.

Björn Höcke, 52, a history teacher at a high school for fifteen years and leader of the Thuringian AfD since 2013, maintains that he was not aware of that reference to the phrase. His claims that he did not know it was an SA motto “are neither credible nor understandable,” said prosecutor Benedikt Bernzen. The Prosecutor’s Office requested six months in prison for Höcke, commutable to provisional release and a fine of 10,000 euros, while the defense had requested acquittal. The court finds it proven that Höcke used the phrase “Everything for Germany” knowing that it was a prohibited Nazi slogan.

German law prohibits the use of Nazi slogans or the public display of symbols of the Third Reich, and punishes this crime with up to three years in prison. However, Judge Jan Stengel said already at the beginning of the trial that a fine would be a sanction that the court would consider appropriate if he were found guilty. Before the sentencing, Höcke used his right to say a few last words, stating: “I feel politically persecuted.”

Björn Höcke was also to be tried on a second charge. Last December, at an AfD meeting in Gera, a city in Thuringia, he alluded to the same phrase, although without actually uttering it. He said: “Everything for…” and encouraged the attendees to continue, as they did by shouting: “…Germany.” However, the Halle court decided to separate the proceedings on this charge, as the defense alleged lack of sufficient time to prepare.

This process against Hocke has taken place three and a half months before the regional elections in this land of the former communist GDR, where the far-right AfD leads the polls with 30%. The Thuringian AfD is one of three regional branches of the party that are under surveillance by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) as a far-right extremist group.

In January 2017, Höcke called the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin a “monument of shame” during a speech in Dresden, the capital of Saxony, which led the party itself to consider his expulsion. However, a year later, the AfD refused to expel him from its ranks.