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 accented English:

"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 democracy.

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.