Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the "Z" has been regarded as a punitive symbol of support for the war of aggression in violation of international law when it is shown in public. Therefore, a Russian-born German must now transfer 1500 euros to the non-profit initiative "Deutschland hilft". He had worn a black T-shirt with a big white "Z" at his workplace in a town near Wiesbaden.

Oliver Bock

Correspondent of the Rhein-Main-Zeitung for the Rheingau-Taunus-Kreis and for Wiesbaden.

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According to district judge Carina Steinhauser, there are still no higher court rulings on this, but in the judicial district of Wiesbaden, the display of the "Z" in public is considered a criminal offense because, according to criminal law, it is "likely to disturb the public peace". This also applies to a company with five dozen employees. Against the payment of the fine, the district judge has discontinued the proceedings with the consent of the prosecutor and defense lawyer.

T-shirt in response to Ukrainian flag

The 49-year-old from Wiesbaden, who works as an electrician at an electronics company in Walluf, has lived in Germany since 1992 and is a German citizen. However, he obtained his information about the world and current developments mainly from Russian media. He therefore believed that Nazis had come to power in Ukraine, said the confessed defendant in the courtroom.

The T-shirt with the "Z" had been brought to him by a Russian friend, and at work he wore it as a counterpoint to the Ukrainian flag, which his employer had demonstratively hoisted at the company building in the Walluf industrial park after the outbreak of war. He was not aware of committing a crime, said the man, who regrets not only the choice of clothing, but also his media selection.

Setting changed

Now that the son of one of his close friends has been killed in the war, the father of a 15-year-old son also wants to have changed his own attitude and watch more German news. At the beginning of the war, he still thought that – as with the annexation of Crimea – no shot would be fired. He banished the T-shirt to the closet after his boss asked him about it. He would never have dreamed that he would be on trial for this reason.

"It does not necessarily have to be a verdict," said Judge Steinhauser after a hearing of evidence in a rush and resorted to the instrument of the monetary requirement, which is expressly provided for in the Code of Criminal Procedure in the event that the guilt of the perpetrator is to be regarded as minor and there is no public interest in the prosecution. If the man, who has not yet been convicted, transfers his five installments of 300 euros each on time, the procedure is completed.

The money will go to "Deutschland hilft", an alliance of several aid organizations that collect donations for the earthquake victims in Syria and Turkey, but also for the war victims in Ukraine.