German police are investigating the sale of beer with a Nazi-style label, seen as scandalous in Germany as the world remembers Holocaust victims.
Photos of the “German Reich Brewery” beer were posted on Facebook by Götz Ulrich, a district chief in eastern Germany, who expressed outrage.
“I feel so ashamed,” he said, accusing neo-Nazis of staging a provocation exactly 75 years after Soviet troops liberated the Auschwitz death camp.
Nazi symbols are banned in Germany.
Their use is illegal if there is a clear link to Nazi or other far-right ideology. In some cultural contexts, however, their use is tolerated.
Commemorations are being held at the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau in southern Poland, where Nazi Germany murdered about 1.1 million people – nearly a million of them Jews.
Mr Ulrich said the Deutsches Reichsbräu beer was being sold on Friday in Bad Bibra, his home town, and “the worst thing is that the beer has been flying off the shelves and is sold out!”
The label is brown – reminiscent of the Nazis’ brown uniforms – and the Nazi eagle symbol is reproduced, except that the Iron Cross is shown inside a wreath, instead of a swastika.
The Gothic script lettering – harking back to German tradition – is also standard for neo-Nazi propaganda.
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The shop selling the beer was part of the retail chain Getränke-Quelle, but the chain has now distanced itself from the sale, saying it was an independent franchisee’s decision. Getränke-Quelle told the local manager to withdraw the beer and said it would remove its branding from the shop.
German media report that the beer first went on sale earlier this month via the internet, advertised by Tommy Frenck, a known neo-Nazi activist. He runs a pub near Themar, a small town south-west of Jena, and Themar is the venue for an annual neo-Nazi festival.
German media note that neo-Nazi “code” numbers were used for the price of a crate of Deutsches Reichsbräu: €18.88.
Neo-Nazis find the number 18 significant: they treat the first and eighth letters of the alphabet, AH, as code for Adolf Hitler. And 88, for them, stands for “Heil Hitler”.
German law does not ban use of the Reich eagle or Iron Cross if they are not combined with a swastika and if there is no obvious neo-Nazi connection.
The beer was on sale in one town in Saxony-Anhalt state where, as in neighbouring Saxony state, far-right extremist groups are especially active.