Post–World War II legality of Nazi flags

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3:5 Flag of the Nazi Party (1920–45)
With centred circle and swastika, the National flag of Germany (1933–45)
3:5 The former national flag from 1867 to 1918. Used jointly with the swastika flag (1933–35), then banned by the regime as "reactionary". In Germany, neo-Nazis use the flag alongside its Iron Cross and Reich Service Eagle as a substitute for the banned Nazi flag.

The use of flags from the German Third Reich (1933–1945) is currently subject to legal restrictions in a number of countries.[1][2]

While legal in the majority of countries,[3][4] in several European countries the display of flags associated with the Nazi government (see: Nazi flags) is subject to restriction or an outright ban.

Many Nazi flags make use of the swastika symbol;[5] however, the swastika is not always used in connection with the National Socialist German Workers' Party movement or of the German Third Reich or the combined German military of 1933–1945. Outside of Nazism, use of swastikas pre-dates the German Third Reich by some 3,000 years.[6][7] It is possible to display certain non-Nazi swastikas even in areas where Nazi swastikas are prohibited.



The use of Nazi symbols is legal in Israel. Legislation regarding such symbols was initiated in early 2012 but no law was passed.[8]

North America[edit]


Canada has no legislation specifically restricting the ownership, display, purchase, import or export of Nazi flags. However, sections 318–320 of the Criminal Code,[9] adopted by Canada's parliament in 1970 and based in large part on the 1965 Cohen Committee recommendations,[10] provide law enforcement agencies with broad scope to intervene if such flags are used to communicate hatred in a public place (particularly sections 319(1), 319(2), and 319(7).[10]

United States[edit]

The public display of Nazi flags is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution which, affirmed by the Supreme Court case Texas v. Johnson, guarantees the right to freedom of speech.[11][12]



Austria strictly prohibits the public display and/or proliferation of all insignia/symbols, emblems, uniforms (full or partial), flags, etc., clearly associated with the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP, commonly known as the Nazi Party). There are legal exceptions for works of art (including books, films, theatre performances, computer games, and educational/memorial public exhibitions, etc.), these however do not apply if the respective work promotes National Socialism (as this is generally prohibited in Austria). The law has been amended to include commonly recognised replacements or slightly modified depictions of Nazi symbols. Violations of the Badges Act 1960 (Abzeichengesetz 1960), which prohibits the public display of Nazi symbols, are punishable by up to € 4000.- fine and up to 1 month imprisonment. However, if the violation is deemed an attempt to promote National Socialism, the Prohibition Act 1947 (Verbotsgesetz 1947) is applied, which allows for up to 10 years imprisonment.

Trading medals, uniforms or other memorabilia however isn't illegal in Austria.

Czech Republic[edit]

The Czech Republic has no legislation restricting ownership, display, purchase, import or export of Nazi flags; indeed Czech legislation makes even the banning of protests involving such flags very difficult.[13]

In 1991, in Czechoslovakia the criminal code was amended with 260 which banned propaganda of movements which restricted human rights and freedoms, citing Nazism and Communism. Later the specific mentions of these were removed citing their lack of clear legal definition. However, the law itself was recognised as constitutional.[14]

The police may cancel such events only once it becomes clear that protesters are inciting hate, which is deemed illegal in the Czech Republic. Legal regulation of hate crimes in the Czech Republic is contained in Act 140/1961 The Criminal Act[15] (amended by Act 175/1990).


Cyprus has no legislation designed to restrict the ownership, display, purchase, import or export of Nazi flags, nor does the Criminal Code of Cyprus expressly allow for racist or other bias motives to be taken into account when sentencing.[16]

However, use of Nazi flags in a manner likely to cause discrimination, hatred, or violence may be dealt with under Cyprus' ratification of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. This allows for the prosecution of anyone who expresses an idea (in public, using almost any medium including flags) which insults another person's race, religion or ethnicity.[citation needed]


In early 2007 the Riigikogu was proceeding a draft bill amending the Penal Code to make the public use of Soviet and Nazi symbols punishable if used in a manner disturbing the public peace or inciting hatred.[17] The bill did not come into effect as it passed only the first reading in the Riigikogu.[18]


Finland has no specific legislation aimed at controlling ownership, display, purchase, import or export of Nazi flags, however the Criminal Code (39/1889)[19] (especially Chapter 11 'War crimes and offences against humanity' Section 8)[19] may be applied where an offence has been directed at a person belonging to a national, racial, ethnic or other population group due to his/her membership in such a group. [20]

Finland also has a history of swastikas for government and military flags. Flags containing the symbol can be found in the Finnish Air Force,[21][22] Defence Forces, certain regiments of the army and flight schools.


In France, it is illegal to display Nazi flags, uniforms and insignia in public, unless for the purpose of a historical film, show, filmmaking or spectacle.[23]

In April 2000, the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism and Union des étudiants juifs de France (the Union of French Jewish Students) brought a case against Yahoo! which objected to the auctioning of Nazi memorabilia, in France, via Yahoo!'s website on the basis that it contravened Article R645-1.[24] A French judge did initially order Yahoo! to take measures to make it impossible for users in France to reach any Nazi memorabilia through the Yahoo! site.[25]


After World War Two, the penal code of the Federal Republic of Germany was amended to prohibit propaganda material and symbols of forbidden parties and other organisations (StGB 86 and 86a). This explicitly includes material in the tradition of a former national socialist organization. The production and distribution of such material is prohibited, as is the public display of the related symbols. Legal consequences can be a fine or a prison term of up to three years.

Examples are Nazi symbols, such as the swastika and the SS logo. It is legal to use the symbols for educational and artistic purposes.


Section 335 of the Act C of 2012 on the Criminal Code of Hungary regulates the "use of symbols of totalitarianism", including the swastika, the insignia of the SS, the arrow cross, the hammer and sickle, and the five-pointed red star.[26]


In June 2013, the Latvian parliament approved a ban on the display of Nazi symbols at all public events. The ban involves flags, anthems, uniforms, and the Nazi swastika.[27][28]


Lithuania banned Nazi symbols in 2008 (Article 18818 of the Code of Administrative Offences) under the threat of a fine.[29] Article 5 of the Law on Meetings prohibits meetings involving Nazist and Soviet imagery.[30] As of 2015, the laws were in effect.[31]


In 2009, in Poland § 2 to 4 were added to Article 256, which bans fascist symbols unless used "as part of artistic, educational, collecting or academic activity."[citation needed]


Russian administrative code prohibits propaganda, production and dissemination of Nazi symbols and lookalikes with fines up to 100,000 rubles.[32]


In 2009, Serbia passed a law prohibiting "manifestations of Neo-nazi or Fascist organizations and associations, and use of the Neo-nazi or Fascist symbols and insignia".[33]


In 2015 the Parliament of Ukraine passed a law outlawing the use of Nazi and communist symbols in Ukraine. The use of such symbols is prohibited and punished by imprisonment.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Banned flags of Nazi inspiration". Flags of the World. 2001-01-12. Retrieved 2009-06-24.
  2. ^ "§ 86a Verwenden von Kennzeichen verfassungswidriger Organisationen". Allgemeiner Teil. 1999-01-01. Retrieved 2009-06-24.
  3. ^ "Display of Nazi flag in the Four Seasons Arena". City Attorney’s Office. City of Great Falls, Montana. 1996-05-28. Retrieved 2009-06-24.
  4. ^ "Ordering Nazi Flags". Retrieved 2011-07-15.
  5. ^ "Third Reich 1933-1945 (Germany)". Flags of the World. 2006-08-19. Retrieved 2009-06-24.
  6. ^ "The History of the Swastika". 20th Century History. Retrieved 2009-06-24.
  7. ^ "Symbol 15:1". Online Encyclopedia of Western Signs and Ideograms. Archived from the original on 2009-06-21. Retrieved 2009-06-24.
  8. ^ "Israel moves to outlaw use of Nazi symbols". News. reuters. 2011-01-11. Retrieved 2013-05-15.
  9. ^ "Hate Provisions Summary". Criminal Code of Canada. Media Awareness Network. Archived from the original on 2009-08-13. Retrieved 2009-06-24.
  10. ^ a b "Hate Propaganda". Library of Parliament. 2000-01-24. Retrieved 2009-06-24.
  11. ^ Shuster, Simon (14 August 2017). "How the Nazi Flags in Charlottesville Look to a German". Time. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  12. ^ Schofield, Matthew (July 30, 2015). "How Germany dealt with its symbols of hate". McClatchy DC Bureau. Retrieved August 18, 2017. It’s notable that when Ku Klux Klan members recently rallied in South Carolina, they carried both the battle flag and the Nazi swastika. The two flags in recent years have been commonly seen together at white supremacist groups and gatherings.
  13. ^ "Czech court overturns ban on neo-Nazi march past city synagogue". News. Haaretz. 2008-02-01. Retrieved 2009-06-24.
  15. ^ Múka, Ondřej; Krutina, Miroslav; Rameš, Filip; Špaček, Jan (2003). Combating hate crime in Latvia and the Czech republic (Paper) (in English and Czech). Český helsinský výbor. ISBN 978-80-86436-22-7.
  16. ^ "Hate Crime Report Card - Cyprus". Fighting Discrimination. Human Rights First. Retrieved 2009-06-23.
  17. ^ "Sitting reviews". Riigikogu. 24 January 2007. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  18. ^ "Ants Erm: Erinevalt venelaste ajaloost on Venemaa ajalugu Eestis vaid vägivald, küüditamine ja kommunistlik diktatuur" (in Estonian). Eesti Päevaleht. 28 November 2014. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  19. ^ a b "The Criminal Code of Finland (Unofficial Translation)" (PDF). Legislation Database. FINLEX. 2004. Retrieved 2009-06-24.
  20. ^ "Criminal Code (39/1889)". The Criminal Code of Finland (Excerpts). Legislation Online. Retrieved 2009-06-24.
  21. ^ "Air Force Academy - Ilmavoimat". Retrieved 2019-06-17.
  22. ^ "Lentosotakoulun Perinneyhdistys ry - Historiaa". Retrieved 2019-06-17.
  23. ^ Penal code, article R645-1; beware that this article is in the "regulations" part of the code (R articles) and that some editions may include only the "statutes" part (L articles).
  24. ^ "LICRA v. Yahoo! Inc., No. RG 00/05308". Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris. American Society of International Law. 2000-11-20. Retrieved 2009-06-26.
  25. ^ Klosek, Jacqueline (2003). The Legal Guide To E-Business (Hardcover). Praeger Publishers. ISBN 978-1-56720-403-2.
  26. ^ qian, xiaoping. "Criminal Code of Hungary 2012". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  27. ^ "Latvia bans the use of USSR symbols during public events". Baltic News Network. April 11, 2013. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  28. ^ "Latvia Bans Soviet Symbols". The Moscow Times. June 23, 2013. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  29. ^ "Lithuanian ban on Soviet symbols". BBC News. 2008-06-17.
  30. ^ Joint amicus curiae brief, p. 11
  31. ^ "Audi featuring Soviet symbols banned from entering Lithuania". The Baltic Times. November 4, 2015. Retrieved August 17, 2017.
  32. ^
  33. ^ "Zakon o zabrani manifestacija neonacističkih ili fašističkih organizacija i udruženja i zabrani upotrebe neonacističkih ili fašističkih simbola i obeležja". (in Serbian). Retrieved 2020-08-01.

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