One of Germany’s most notorious Third Reich sympathizers, who went into hiding last month to avoid execution of a prison sentence for Holocaust denial and related offenses, has resurfaced in Hungary, with media reporting he will seek asylum there.
Horst Mahler, a disgraced attorney who used to represent the neo-Nazi party NPD, fled Germany and asked Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to grant him political asylum, regional daily Mitteldeutsche Zeitung reported on Sunday. According to the report, Mr. Mahler published an online statement saying, “On May 12, 2017, I asked the leader of the Hungarian nation, Viktor Orbán, to grant me asylum in Hungary as a politically persecuted person.”
In the statement, Mr. Mahler, 81, employed the historically charged German word for leader, “Führer.” The term was Adolf Hitler’s title and has remained a favorite among enthusiasts of the Third Reich.
“Hungarian law enforcement have not taken any measures against Horst Mahler.”
“I trust in the freedom-loving Hungarian people and lay my fate in the hands of its government,” Mr. Mahler added in his statement, suggesting that Hungary’s strongman leader, a right-wing politician whose nationalist policies frequently attract criticism from Berlin and elsewhere in the EU, would be sympathetic to his plea.
German daily Die Tageszeitung reported Monday that Mr. Mahler was arrested by Hungarian authorities upon his arrival. “According to the information available to us, Horst Mahler was arrested in Hungary,” Ken Heidenreich, the spokesman of the prosecutor’s office in Munich, told the newspaper, adding that the detention had recently happened.
But a later report by news magazine Der Spiegel disputed this. “Hungarian law enforcement has not taken any measures against Horst Mahler as of Monday noon and has not taken him into custody,” Zoltán Kovacs, the government spokesman, told the publication. “We have no knowledge of a detention demanded by a court order.”
In 2009, a Munich court sentenced Mr. Mahler, a high-profile far-right activist, to six years in jail for repeated counts of giving a Hitler salute, a punishable offense in Germany. The same year, another court condemned him to an additional five years in jail for Holocaust denial and banalization of Nazi war crimes. He was released two years ago on humanitarian reasons due to ill health. But he recovered and was supposed to report back to prison last month. Instead of this, he chose to flee and his whereabouts have been unclear ever since.
Jean-Michel Hauteville is an editor with Handelsblatt Global in Berlin. To contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org.