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The Verbotsgesetz 1947 (Prohibition Act 1947), abbreviated VerbotsG, is an Austrian constitutional law passed on 8 May 1945, which banned the Nazi Party and provided the legal grounds for the process of denazification in Austria, as well as aiming to suppress any potential revival of Nazism.
The present version became applicable on 18 February 1947. The law, which was updated in 1992, prohibits Holocaust denial as well as the deliberate belittlement of any Nazi atrocities. Before 1992, some courts had interpreted the clampdown on reviving Nazi ideology as prohibiting Holocaust denial in particular, but since the law didn't explicitly prohibit such denials, there was considerable debate over the matter until the amendment.
According to Article I VerbotsG, the Nazi Party, its paramilitary organisations such as SS, SA, the National Socialist Motor Corps and National Socialist Flyers Corps, as well as all affiliated associations were dissolved and banned; any restructuring is forbidden. To underpin the prohibition, the Verbotsgesetz itself, though constitutional law, comprises several penal provisions classifying any act of (re-)engagement in National Socialist activities (Wiederbetätigung) as a punishable offense. Section 3 h VerbotsG included in 1992 states that
- whoever in a printed work, on broadcasting or in any other media,
or whoever otherwise publicly in a matter that it makes it accessible to many people,
denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity
shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years, in the case of special perilousness of the offender or the engagement up to twenty years. All cases are to be tried by jury.
The provisions concerning the denazification in Austria have been rendered inoperative by a 1957 amnesty. Former members of Nazi organisations were banned from the 1945 legislative election. The initial death penalty was abolished in 1950.
In 1985 the Austrian Constitutional Court ruled that the remaining regulations are directly applicable in the country's legal system, binding every court and every administrative agency of Austria. Upon the 1992 amendment, the Austrian Supreme Court stated that any reasoning or argumentation concerning the Nazi genocide and the Nazi crimes against humanity is no admissible evidence.
Up to today numeorus verdicts are handed down by Austrian courts based on the Verbotsgesetz, most notably the conviction of David Irving at the Vienna Landesgericht für Strafsachen on 20 February 2006.
- Austrian state law gazette, 6 June 1945 (German)
- Brigitte Bailer-Galanda (1997). "'Revisionism' in Germany and Austria: The Evolution of a Doctrine". In Hermann Kurthen; Werner Bergmann; Rainer Erb. Antisemitism and Xenophobia in Germany After Unification. Oxford University Press. p. 188. ISBN 0-19-510485-4.
- Verbotsgesetz 1947 (German), current version of the legal text, offered by the Rechtsinformationssystem (Legal Information System) of the Austrian Bundeskanzleramt (Federal Chancellery)
- Verbotsgesetz 1947 (Prohibition Act 1947) (English), English translation of the legal text, offered by the Rechtsinformationssystem (Legal Information System) of the Austrian Bundeskanzleramt (Federal Chancellery)
- Christian Anderle, Learning from Sophie Scholl, Why Austria’s anti-Nazi Legislation Ought to Be Amended, June 16, 2014. Brief History and Legal Critique of the Prohibition Act 1947. Published on October 4, 2015.