Hans Schmidt Arrest: Unpleasant Impact on Travelers to Germany
(adapted from a report by Tanya Solovejko)
Concourses at American Airports Subject to First Amendment Rights
At present, two Americans languish in German jails for having spoken
out in "politically incorrect" ways - Hans Schmidt, a publicist
from Pensacola, Florida, and Gerhard Lauck, a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi
from Nebraska. No charges have been filed, and no date is set for the trials.
A bail request for either prisoner has been denied. According to Schmidt's
arrest warrant, there is no possibility of probation or parole.
A few days ago, two uniformed port authority of NY and NJ policemen were
summoned to a Lufthansa departure area at the New York International Airport
and began to interfere with the distribution of leaflets by a group calling
itself the "Hans Schmidt Defense Committee" (HSDC) protesting
the arrest of an American who had, in a newsletter written last November,
used an inflammatory phrase - ". . . Jew- and Freemason-infested.
. . " referring in derogatory ways to German press and current political
establishment authorities. The penalty for any "speech crime"
of this sort in Germany is a minimum of three months to a maximum of five
years in prison.
During the tense confrontation that followed, the officers were politely
reminded by the picketers demanding Free Speech privileges that a 1993
Supreme Court decision established that all concourses at American airports
are subject to First Amendment rights.
Two weeks earlier, two airport security supervisors, Sergeant M. Murphy
at the JFK Airport and Lieutenant M. Delano at the Newark International
Airport, expressed no objections and had respected the HSDC's right to
leaflet these transportation and tourist centers with what they called
a "Traveler's Alert."
Over the walkie-talkie, these two security officers assured other colleagues
that police interference would be inappropriate during the distribution
of another 400 copies of the "Traveler's Alert" to passengers
departing from the Terminal C, Gate 104, on the Continental Flight to Frankfort
90 minutes later. At the Continental gate, one young man with a distinct
Brooklyn accent and wearing a blue yarmulke appeared shocked and displeased
when he returned the leaflets to the picketers.
On Saturday, October 14, an unidentified middle-aged German Lufthansa flight
supervisor bolted out of her aircraft ten minutes before its afternoon
departure for Frankfurt and lashed out at two young members of the HSDC
who handed out leaflets again. The supervisor exclaimed in her heavily
"The passengers on board are very disturbed and are asking questions
about the recent arrests of American tourists at the German airports for
alleged 'speech crimes'".
The Lufthansa flight supervisor was concerned that some 350 passengers
had accepted the "Travelers Alert" published by HSDC. This "Traveler's
Alert" is systematically distributed on weekends at the New York City
area international airports by supporters of the First Amendment and Free
Speech. The Alert warns travelers to watch out for arrests for things they
might have said or written while on American soil.
In the latest case, Hans Schmidt, 68, from Pensacola, Florida, an ardent
advocate of political non-violence, was arrested on just such a charge
at the Frankfurt Airport in August of this year and accused of mailing
a copy of a newsletter to Germany last November. This newsletter, published
in German, characterizing the German press and the current political establishment
as being unduly influenced by special interests.
Adventurous passengers distribute "Travelers Alert" in Germany.
The HSDC advises Lufthansa and Continental passengers to destroy the
"Travelers Alert" while on board of the aircraft since it contains
". . . the illegal 'J' words." Tourists are forewarned not to
take the leaflets into Germany for fear of arrest in that country. Sources
reported that some of the more adventurous passengers disregarded that
warning and have distributed the "Travelers Alert" in their hometowns,
perhaps to warn others to be careful what they say and write in Germany
or about Germany.
Free Speech restrictions bewilder German tourist industry
The chief representative of the German tourist industry in the United
States, Mr. Henschke of the "German National Tourist Office in New
York (Tel: 212-661-7200) and Mr. Hanel at the German Embassy in Washington
(Tel: 202-289-4000) appeared bewildered when contacted last week and asked
for ". . . a list of forbidden words, literature and ideas in Germany."
They replied that such list is still not available.
This situation gives a free hand to prosecutorial zealotry in Germany.
It also interferes with tourism, the fourth largest industry in this European
Hillary Clinton remains silent . . . or silenced
HSDC reports that leafleting at American airports with flights to Germany
will continue for as long as American citizens remain in German prisons
for speech violations, and as long as Hillary Clinton, who spoke out in
Beijing on behalf of M r. Harry Wu, remains silent.
The Committee will also continue to place the "Traveler's Alert"
as a large display ad in the mainstream press, primarily in the New Hampshire
newspapers - particularly prior to the Presidential Primary.