Once again, case law currently treats the public wearing of the runic textile favored by neo-Nazis differently from region to region
Over a relatively short period of time, Thor Steinar has become the most important fashion brand in right-wing extremist circles. According to the Antifaschist Infoblat (AIB), the brand with the rune logo associated with it at the time was only registered internationally in October 2002. In the spring of 2003, the Brandenburg protagonists with demonstrable contacts to the right-wing extremist scene founded MediaTex GmbH with a share capital of 25.000 euros. Almost simultaneously, under the legal responsibility of MediaTex, a corresponding Thor Steinar website was put on the Internet. The advertisement for clothes with Thor Steinar and/or DIVISION Thor Steinar was besides clear. For example, the well-known magazine RockNord advertised "patriotic clothing" with a "Nordic attitude". According to the Berliner Zeitung, the jackets and sweaters of the Thor Steinar brand are manufactured in Turkey.
Thor Steinar gained widespread recognition and identification in right-wing extremist circles primarily through two runes combined in the company logo: "Each of them was misused in the Nazi era as a symbol of SS sub-organizations" (Verfangsschutzbericht Brandenburg 2004). In connection Tyr and Sig rune were ultimately show the double Sig rune of the former Waffen SS, judged later the Neuruppin district court. Furthermore, the choice of the company name Thor Steinar – with an obvious reference to the General of the Waffen-SS Felix Steiner – can be considered as not exactly coincidental. Probably only the nationwide known neo-Nazi Thomas "Steiner" Wulff with his self-chosen name extension.
Old Thor Steinar rune
In the course of time, the educational work on Thor Steinar succeeded in raising awareness among a broader public. In March 2004 first criminal proceedings were initiated against the use of the Thor-Steinar runes. This approach received its first confirmation in August 2004 when the Prenzlau district court ordered the payment of 300 euros for wearing a Thor Steinar sweater. A short time later, at the end of October 2004, Thor Steinar textiles were confiscated in a trendy Hennigsdorf store – and returned because of the ambiguous legal situation.
The legal decision was then made in November 2004 by the Neuruppin Regional Court, which rejected the complaint about the seizure of a Thor Steinar shirt as unfounded. According to the ruling, the Thor Steinar company logo "has no other purpose than to look confusingly similar to the emblems of former National Socialist organizations and thus to represent a corresponding anti-constitutional avowal". In conclusion, the public wearing of Thor Steinar clothing was punishable by law as the use of symbols of unlawful organizations.
This was immediately followed by an order of the Konigs Wusterhausen District Court against the manufacturing company to confiscate Thor Steinar symbols and the clothing marked with them. The so-called Deutsche Rechtsburo (self-help group for the protection of the basic rights of national Germans) in Birkenwerder, Brandenburg, then asked in its monthly news: "Do not wear clothing with the ‘Thor Steinar logo’ in public and do not keep it in stock – only the private possession of a single such piece is permitted."Also in November 2004, the Czech Republic banned the sale of Thor Steinar clothing. In December, the district court of Neuruppin sentenced the wearer of a Thor Steinar hooded jacket, in addition to other offenses, to four months imprisonment without probation.
The new company symbol
With the beginning of the year 2005 MediaTex presented a new company symbol, which replaced the forbidden rune logo. "The new logo resembles the St. Andrew’s cross, the cross on the railroad crossing", dear MediaTex announce. This sign has also been "examined by the public prosecutor’s office and has not been objected to". In the following February, the Potsdam Regional Court again ruled that the seizure of Thor Steinar’s rune symbols was legal.
A good six months later, the Brandenburg Higher Regional Court again ruled that the Thor Steinar runes were not unlawful. Although the court did not fail to recognize in its judgment "that the textiles of the brand by their color design and used inscriptions precisely persons of the right-wing extremist scene" were addressed. However, at present "it is still to be amed that the trademark logo – similar to the association of the number ’88’ with the grub ‘Heil Hitler!’ – is only known in right-wing extremist circles or in police or legal circles.". Thus, Thor Steinar proceedings for the use of unlawful symbols were actually null and void and the wearing of any Thor Steinar clothing – at least in the Mark Brandenburg – generally exempt from punishment again.
But it seems to be quite remarkable for neo-Nazis, in which geographical areas they pose with Thor Steiner runes in an – at least according to the opinion of the Brandenburg Higher Regional Court – uneducated public. At the end of February 2006, the Berlin district court in Tiergarten handed down a sentence of seven months’ imprisonment for wearing Thor Steinar runes, combined with 150 hours’ work against the owner of the hooded shirt. In the state of Brandenburg this would not have happened to him. However, even in the federal capital the case law is not compliant. The appeal at the Berlin Court of Appeal by the public prosecutor’s office against a judicial acquittal in a similar Thor Steinar case has not yet been decided. A federal court jurisdiction concerning the Thor Steinar runes does not exist so far. Moreover, MediaTex is still facing the prospect of a multimillion-dollar claim for damages against the state of Brandenburg.
The Agency for Social Perspectives (ASP) summed up the situation in the latest edition of its brochure Versteckspiel (Lichtstrahl in den Code-Dschungel der Neonazi-Szene): "Thor Steinar continues to be available in many non-right-wing stores and clothing chains, although a right-wing background has become more than clear in the course of the legal disputes surrounding this brand."Moreover, as is well known, the deeper sense or nonsense of state bans on right-wing extremist symbolism can be discussed. However, this does not change the mindset of the right-wing extremists. But legends with a – for the time being still vague – martyr’s breath like Thor Steinar connect. Legends can sometimes live on for a long time.