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Men fined for wearing East German shirts

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Men fined for wearing East German shirts
The men were fined for wearing blue shirts and rising-sun badges of those of the former communist East German youth league. Photo: DPA
13:06 CEST+02:00
Two men went to court in Berlin on Wednesday to dispute being fined €2,700 each for wearing the blue shirts of the youth group of former communist East Germany.

The defendants - 39-year-old Michael W. from Bochum in North Rhine-Westphalia and 29-year-old German L. from Frankfurt am Main - were seen wearing the bright blue shirts and yellow rising-sun emblem of the Free German Youth (FDJ) at a rally to honour victims of the Berlin Wall in the capital's Bernauer Straße back in August 2012.

They are now being prosecuted under a 1951 constitutional law which bans the displaying of "symbols of anti-constitutional organizations”.

The two were greeted in the courtroom by dozens of sympathizers and they raised a chant of "friendship, friendship" which their supporters echoed until the judge called for silence, BZ newspaper reported on Thursday.

They both attended the trial in bright blue shirts, apparently in protest at the nature of the charges levelled against them.

The FDJ was a compulsory youth organization for teenagers in the former Communist East Germany, similar to the Young Pioneers in the Soviet Union.

Members wore bright blue shirts with blue and yellow rising-sun patches sewn on.

While some question whether the rising-sun symbols worn by the defendants can be definitively proven to be the FDJ emblem, the law also bans symbols similar enough to be confused with symbols deemed "anti-constitutional", which could harm the defence, BZ reported.

But the case still promises to be complex, since the public and private displaying of materials and symbols from former East Germany (GDR) is widespread.

"Ostalgie" (or nostalgia for the [former] East) is a major topic in German culture, and GDR memorabilia such as FDJ and East German military uniforms, medals and badges can be found for sale, making prosecuting citizens for wearing such symbols a complicated matter.

The presiding judge Andreas Rische acknowledged it would be a complex case.

"It is a difficult state of affairs and a difficult legal situation," he said.

The case will reconvene to hear witnesses on April 15th.

SEE ALSO: East German propaganda in pictures

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