Duke, 61, is one of the United State’s most prominent racists, who has served in the Louisiana state legislature and is a former leader in the Ku Klux Klan. He has gained a huge following on the internet, where he promotes “white nationalism” and anti-Semitism.
He is said to have been living off and on for the last two years in Austria, which he has used as a base for his regular speaking appearances before extremist gatherings in Europe, including in Germany.
But according to the daily Die Welt newspaper, Duke was picked up by German police last Friday while trying to speak at a neo-Nazi gathering just outside Cologne. He was later released and has remained in Germany while authorities here institute deportation proceedings.
According to Die Welt, Duke was trying to talk to a gathering of about 60 extremists. But police had advance knowledge of the event and conducted extensive identity checks on attendees in order to disrupt it.
Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, said Wednesday the move “sends an important signal that firm action against those who advocate hate must remain central to Germany’s moral and legal agenda.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that tracks hate groups and fights discrimination cases, describes Duke as the “most recognizable figure of the American radical right, a neo-Nazi, longtime Klan leader and now international spokesman for Holocaust denial.” […]
In Germany and several other European countries, laws prohibit hate speech that may incite violence against any racial or religious group and speech that denies or minimizes the Holocaust perpetrated under the Nazis. He was arrested in Prague in 2009 on suspicion of denying the Holocaust and promoting the neo-Nazi movement, and expelled from the country hours later. Duke denied the charges, saying he was there to lecture about Israeli control of U.S. foreign policy.
Duke served as grand wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. He gave the organization a make-over — shedding the white robes for business suits and arguing that the organization was “not anti-black” but “pro-white” and pro-Christian.” Duke was elected to the Louisiana Legislature, where he served from 1990-1992 before making an unsuccessful run for U.S. president in 1992.
In 2002, he served 15 months in prison term and paid a fine of $10,000 after being convicted of federal tax fraud.
He now travels regularly to Europe touting his books espousing white separatism and opposition to what he views as Jewish control of media, government and financial institutions.