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Philipp Ruch. Photo: Wikipedia.
Philipp Ruch. Photo: Wikipedia.

German Prosecutor Investigates Artist Behind Holocaust Memorial Replica

Artist Philipp Ruch, the founder and head of the artist collective the Center for Political Beauty who made headlines in November 2017 when he built a replica of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin next to the home of the far-right politician Björn Höcke, is under investigation. According to the New York Times, the state prosecutor’s office in Thuringia, Germany, is investigating the artist on suspicion of “forming a criminal association.” The move has raised concerns over whether right-wing sympathizers are using the law for political gain.  

The investigation was officially launched in 2017 and is still open, meaning the state can surveil the artist under the legal provision Paragraph 129, which is typically applied to criminal groups and terrorist organizations. Left Party lawmaker Steffen Dittes told the New York Times that grouping the artist collective with terrorists and extremists “sends a devastating signal.”

Martin Zschächner, the prosecutor leading the investigation, denied that it was politically motivated and said that it was prompted by the suspicion that Ruch had rented the property neighboring Höcke’s home to spy on the far-right Alternative for Germany party member. The allegations were most likely sparked by several performative actions carried out by the Center for Political Beauty, such as their dressing up as spies, filming Höcke’s house, and setting up a fake spy room.

The state’s domestic intelligence service, however, has dismissed the office’s views. Stephan Kramer, the president of the state agency, told the New York Times that the service has determined that Ruch’s actions are political art and not extremism.

Ruch, who conceived of the idea for the replica after Höcke had referred to the Holocaust Memorial as a “monument of shame” at a rally in Dresden in January 2017, only learned that he was being investigated earlier this year after he was disinvited to a government-sponsored conference. Höcke has unsuccessfully tried to sue the artist and have him evicted from the premises.

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