Neo-Nazi who was focus of film is sentenced to prison

BONN — A neo-Nazi leader whose life was the subject of a documentary has been sentenced by a Berlin court to 3-1/2 years in jail.

Bela Ewald Althans, 29, was convicted of racist incitement, defamation and Holocaust denial in connection with the film, "Profession: Neo-Nazi."

"The accused is not a violent man, but he is still just as dangerous to the community," Judge Hans-Juergen Bruening said last week.

Althans' speeches fueled violent acts, the court said, but Bruening added, "Judicial officials in Germany have been astonishingly reluctant to prosecute agitation like this."

The film, a chronicle of Althans' activities, consists of a series of interviews with him and other neo-Nazis.

In the film, Althans tells an American visitor to the former Auschwitz death camp that the Holocaust was a myth, claiming that it was technically impossible to gas the Jews and cremate them. Althans also praises Adolf Hitler in the documentary.

When the film was released in 1993, Germany banned it because Holocaust denial is a criminal act here.

In his testimony before the Berlin court, Althans rejected the charges, describing himself as a non-Nazi, who had long given up his ultra-nationalist views.

Althans described himself as a victim of state prosecution. He charged that Winfrid Bonengel, the director of the documentary, "manipulated" the footage to paint a negative image of its protagonist.

When the documentary was released, the producers claimed they merely wanted to show the young generation of neo-Nazis as they were.

But critics of the 83-minute film said it was propagandistic, serving the causes of the neo-Nazi movement, such as spreading Holocaust denial, called the "Auschwitz lie" in Germany.

The court dismissed Althans' claim that he had agreed to take part in the movie to "draw an end line to his neo-Nazi past."

Althans had many opportunities to disassociate himself from his neo-Nazi past besides the film — if he really wanted to, said the court.

Last year, Althans was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment by the Munich state court for having distributed racist propaganda, including anti-Semitic video clips produced during World War II.

Althans can serve the two sentences concurrently.