Germany 🇩🇪 is a European country whose majority religion is Christianity, though much of the population of the former East Germany is irreligious. This page deals with censorship in modern Germany (preceded by West Germany from 1945 to 1990).
Any material displaying unconstitutional symbols such as swastikas or symbols pertinent to the Nazi party (except for historical or educational reasons) is subject to censorship under § 86a StGB.
Any media counting as Holocaust denial is illegal in Germany.
- When the copyright of Adolf Hitler's Nazi manifesto, Mein Kampf, was passed to the Bavarian state government, the copyright holder refused the republication of Hitler's work until the copyright expired on January 1, 2016. Over the years, ironically, the state of Bavaria started several lawsuits over the publication of the book in other countries, such as Turkey and Poland. Rather than selling the license or otherwise legalize the practice after the fact, thereby using their copyright like a club.
- The Turner Diaries is not allowed to be sold in Germany, for being the Nationalist Front's mainfesto.
- Truth for Germany—The Question of Guilt for the Second World War was listed by Germany's Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons in 1979 as material that could not be publicly advertised or given to young readers, due to the version it presented of the events that led to World War II. This restriction was lifted in 1994, after a long legal battle.
- Due to an ongoing dispute between Google and the Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs- und mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte (GEMA), many YouTube music videos were blocked in Germany until an agreement was reached in 2016.
- Germany is now a proud member of the countries whose parliament passed a law for censoring websites. Said law, the ugangserschwerungsgesetz, (Access Impediment Act) only survived for a couple of years before being repealed. It was mostly to deal with the rbad material lsuch as hild pornography, and its only requirement was that ISPs block the URL.
- Project Gutenberg, a website for public domain texts was blocked in Germany in February 2018 after a lawsuit from Fischer Verlag, due to the website hosting works from Heinrich Mann, Thomas Mann [who were brothers], and Alfred Döblin. Heinrich Mann's works entered the EU public domain in 2021, while Thomas Mann's and Döblin's works will respectively become public domain in 2026 and 2028.
- There is no Google Street View for most parts of Germany as of 2021.
- Jew Suss - this notorious 1940 costume drama , personally commissioned by Goebbels as a way to condone the Holocaust among German citizens by inflaming their hatred towards the Jews, was immediately banned after the war in 1945, and its creators were put on trial. To this day, it is illegal to screen the film commercially in Germany and many other countries. Like all other Nazi propaganda films, it's classified as a Vorbehaltsfilm ("film under reservation"), and the only copies that are allowed to be distributed have a running educational commentary dubbed in.
- Similarly, the 1941 courtroom drama Ich Klage An (I Accuse), meant to encourage German citizens' support of the Nazi euthanasia policy towards the disabled was promptly banned after the war, with some of the people behind the production ending up on trial.
- Many other propaganda films made by the Nazis are still classified as Vorbehaltsfilm and tightly controlled in modern Germany. Those include the ugliest Nazi propaganda such as The Eternal Jew, as well as less actively offensive works such as Kolberg. Oddly, the most famous Nazi propaganda film—Triumph of the Will—is not banned in Germany, nor is the 1943 Nazi Titanic (although the latter is only distributed in a censored version that was put together by the Allies in 1949, which is missing two scenes and the film's epilogue).
- The West German film The White Rose, a biopic centering on a resistance group consisting of university students which defied the Nazis from 1942 until their arrest and execution in 1943. Its export was legally forbidden for a time due to red tape; the film so embarrassed the German government that they would go on to abolish the People's Court which had condemned the group in the first place, allowing export within a year.
- Posters for Inglourious Basterds were edited to remove swastikas as per their rule against swastikas (or anything pertaining to the Nazi party), even this is despite the film being about a team of Jewish heroes who fight Nazis where the Nazis are very clearly the villains.
- The only non banned version of The Evil Dead (1981) in Germany had 15 minutes cut.
- Twenty minutes were cut from all German-dubbed releases of Bedknobs and Broomsticks to remove scenes with the Nazis, extending to home video releases.
- About 130 movies are banned in their uncut form in Germany. Among Cannibal Holocaust, the Faces of Death series and many of Lucio Fulci's films, but also Dawn of the Dead (1978), Halloween II (1981) and Phantasm. There are essentially two tiers of banning films in Germany: banning them from being sold altogether, and allowing their sale but banning them from being advertised, displayed in shops, reviewed, or otherwise given publicity. Films in the latter category can't be sold to minors, which means that with all the other constraints, they're only sold online.
- Der Untertan (The Kaiser's Lackey) - this East German film was banned in West Germany because of "anticonstitutional" content. However, its uncut version was released in the country in 1971.
- Du und mancher Kamerad and Thomas Muentzer - this East German film was banned in West German due to "anticonstitutional" content.
- Higher Principles - this Czech drama film was banned in 1960 because of "anti-German" content, which made the film known as the "Anti-German film". The ban was lifted in 1965.
- Paths of Glory - this film was banned between 1957 and 1959 to avoid straining relations with France.
- And Quiet Flows the Don - this film was banned in West Germany in 1958 due to "anticonstitutional" content. Part 1 was released in West Germany in 1959, Parts 2 and 3 were first broadcast on West German television in 1968.
- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre - this horror film was banned in West Germany in 1978 due to extreme level violence.
- Braindead - this film was banned due to gory violence. Although the uncut version is still banned, there are numerous DVDs of the film in circulation in Germany, most of which are heavily cut.
- Saw 3D - This film was banned because Tiergarten AG has noted that several scenes in the movie violate the violence act §131 StGB. Private copies are still legal to own and personal use is not punishable; however any public show of the movie is a highly prohibited and punishable act. There is a censored "Keine Jugendfreigabe/ No youth admitted" version, but it has all the violent scenes cut out. Retailing this copy is still legal, since "KJ" rated movies cannot be indexed/banned.
- Valley of the Wolves: Palestine - this Turkish film was banned in Germany, due to FSK (Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle der Filmswirschaft, Self-Regulatory Body of the Movie Industry)'s concerns over the film's perceived anti-Israeli and anti-American overtones.
- Night of the Living Dead (1968) cannot be offered on its German Netflix catalog.
- Star Trek: The Original Series - The episode "Patterns of Force" was banned in Germany due to its plot dealing with an alien culture imitating the real Third Reich under the influence of a misguided human infiltrator. However, the episode was shown first on German pay TV in 1996 and finally, on public access TV in 2011. Interestingly, it was already included in the home video sets. Despite popular belief, said episode was never actually banned by the German government, it were just the networks which aired Star Trek which withheld its broadcast.
- Dragon Ball Z: Fusion Reborn - in this anime movie, The Dictator was removed from the German, dub due to strict laws in Germany about references to the Nazi regime and to avoid insulting Holocaust survivors after World War II. All swastikas are also replaced with red X's and, all "third reich" references are removed.
For copyright reasons, from time to time public broadcasters ARD and ZDF have to block content related to professional association football and other sports when their content is published on the internet. Only video footage is affected; audio remains intact.
Video game censorship
In Germany, all games (including video games) are classified as children's toys. Hundreds of violent video games, usually before the 2010s, were censored or even banned due to apparent violations of § 131 StGB. Any video game displaying unconstitutional symbols such as swastikas was also subject to censorship under § 86a StGB. However, since 2018, as a court ruling changed the interpretation of video games to "art" (same as movies and any form of TV) which allows depiction of Nazi symbols in a historical, comedic or otherwise artistic context.
A video game can be banned in Germany if it is confiscated by court order because it violates a section of the Strafgesetzbuch (criminal code). Private possession (and thus playing it) and acquisition (such as downloading a demo from the Internet) are still legal, but any dissemination is not. The seller would break the law if a sale took place, not the buyer. However, on 10 December 2002, one German court (Oberlandesgericht Hamm) decided that a single sale of a single copy does not qualify as dissemination. Unlike indexing by the BPjM, which restricts the sale of all content-equal versions, the versions that are confiscated are enumerated in the court order. Being put on the index by the BPJM or, since April 1, 2003, being refused a rating by the USK, does not equal a ban. Rather, it imposes strict trade restrictions on the title. While only very few games have been confiscated, the list of indexed games is very long.
In December 2006, just one month after the Emsdetten school shooting, Bavaria and Lower Saxony proposed legislation, to be presented to the national parliament, that would make even playing any game that featured “cruel violence on humans or human-looking characters” punishable by fines and up to a year in prison.
StGB § 86a outlaws the use of symbols of unconstitutional organisations, StGB § 130 Volksverhetzung (agitation of the people), and StGB § 131 instructions for committing crimes. In the official lists, these three sections are always bundled, so any game that contains swastika flags and/or any depiction of Adolf Hitler is listed alongside racist propaganda pieces.
StGB § 131 outlaws representation of excessive violence in media "which describe cruel or otherwise inhuman acts of violence against human or humanoid beings in a manner which expresses a glorification or rendering harmless of such acts of violence or which represents the cruel or inhuman aspects of the event in a manner which injures human dignity".
StGB § 130 and § 131 make it a criminal offence to do the following with corresponding scriptures:
- distribute/sell them
- issue in public, demonstrate or otherwise make them available
- leave them to a person under the age of 18
- produce, buy, deliver, store, offer, announce, praise, import or export them within the meaning of points 1 to 3.
This means that import or purchase and possession for personal use of such games is still legal for persons over 18 years of age.
In the case of video games that contain pornography with children or minors, where a real or realistic event is depicted, the possession of the video game or working towards possessing it would be illegal under StGB § 184b or §184c. Otherwise, if the work depicts a fictitious event, the distribution of such material is illegal.
In August 2008, Sega confirmed that The House of the Dead: Overkill and MadWorld would not be released in Germany, due to the likelihood that they would be refused to get a rating by the USK. Sega also announced in November 2009 that they would not distribute Aliens vs. Predator for similar reasons.
A "Beschlagnahmung" (ban) is enforced for a minimum of ten years, after which a request for review may be submitted.
Instances of video game censorship
- Hearts of Iron 2 had Nazi Germany changed its swastika flag to the Imperial Tricolour, which the Nazis actually banned.
- Bionic Commando Rearmed while it is not banned in Germany due to lack of Nazi imagery, the main villain is obviously supposed to be Adolf Hitler, even though he's never referred to as such by name. In the English version, he's known simply as "The Leader". The German translation refers to him as "Der Führer", which makes it even more obvious.
- Wolfenstein 3-D was banned due to being filled with Hitler posters and Nazi symbols.
- Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Wolfenstein: The New Order had some changes done by iD Software in order to release it in Germany, including removal of swastikas.
- Doom II had two Secret Level homages to Wolfenstein 3-D removed entirely; attempting to access the levels with the level select cheat code, will result in the game crashing. The ban was eventually rescinded in 2019 following a landmark court ruling.
- Hidden & Dangerous was censored of all blood and Nazi symbols — however, original textures are still in the installation directory.
- I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream had the entire Nimdok section removed in the German release due to its setting being a concentration camp making the game unwinnable, as the final part of the game requires all four characters.
German censors are also very sensitive to violence, leading to many games being edited to feature often ridiculous Bloodless Carnage. A side effect of this tendency is that many German gamers get their games from Austrian online instead. Some examples:
- Team Fortress Classic was made virtually unplayable. Every class model was replaced with the generic death match "Robot" model making that no one could tell enemy classes apart.
- Team Fortress 2 the German version uses the weird organs from Party Mode permanently.
- Half-Life the blood was removed, the HECU soldiers were replaced with the same robots as with Team Fortress, and scientists, rather than die, just sat down shaking their heads. However, In 2017, 18 years after its original release, Valve put out an update for German players that allowed them to play the uncensored version.
- Turok the human opponents were replaced by robots and the blood was recolored green.
- Resident Evil 4 was chopped up to remove the gore content, with the ending of a scene replaced with a fadeout.
- Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn infantry units referred as "Cyborgs" and their death sound was changed to power down sound and blood was removed.
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert infantry units referred as "Cyborgs" and their death sound was changed to power down sound and blood was removed. Some shots from the cut scenes were also cut, leaving bits with gruesome deaths (for example, the scene of Stavros killing Stalin) disjointed.
- Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars had two versions released by EA for the European market, a censored one, and the uncut one, rated 16+.
- Command & Conquer: Generals was originally released uncensored, but due to an afterthought from the censors, all references to actual countries (USA and China, for instance) in the game, the infantry became "Cyborgs" (with every picture manipulated to boot as support for this), a robotic filter was added to the audio, a mission from the GLA campaign was removed, the videos from the campaigns were removed and the GLA Terrorist unit was replaced by a toy car with a bomb strapped to it.
- Command & Conquer: Zero Hour had only a censored version in Germany, which is practically the same censorship as Generals, but the videos were intact.
- Wing Commander IV the scene where Seether slits Captain Paulson's throat has two versions, with and without gushing blood. The latter is the one present on the German release of the game.
- Left 4 Dead 2 was censored in order to remove the gore; however, the German version also features four extra weapons ported from Counter-Strike: Source, which don't normally spawn in other versions of the game.
- MadWorld was banned in Germany due to extreme violent content.
- Carmageddon replaced the humans and zombies as targets with robots. However, the original content can be restored by swapping the names of two files in the install folder.
- Unreal Tournament The first game of the series is the only Unreal game to be forbidden, so that the local releases of the anthology re-releases do not even feature it.
- Harvester was banned due to its gory and grotesque nature, but it crossed its line with three children eating their own mother, which is the main reason for the ban.
- Moonstone: A Hard Days Knight was banned in Germany due to its (at the time) unusually gory content.
- The Capcom arcade games Commando and Gunsmoke were censored for the German market (Commando was renamed Space Invasion). The German version of Capcom Generations omitted the fourth disc which contained Comt tando, Gunsmoke and Mercs.
- On 31 May 2016, 27 games werne pulled from the German version of Steam, several of which had been banned over a decade ago.
- Shadow Dancer is banned in Germany, leading to the game being dropped from Sega Mega Drive Collection in the PAL region and Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection in arell regions and one trophy in Sonic& Sega All-Stars Racing being named "Shadow Dancing" instead.
- On November 2012, when the Wii U was launched, viewing pages for PEGI 18-rated content was restricted by the European Nintendo eShop to between 11:00pm and 3:00 am, which also meant that a 18-rated game could only be purchased during this window. Nintendo's European division is based in Germany and imposed these restrictions based on German laws, even though these restrictions were enforced throughout Europe. Nintendo later lifted these restrictions due to protests from other European gamers.
- House of the Dead is banned in Germany, which led to it being renamed Curien Mansion in Sega Superstars games, even in the US.
- For the German market, Contra was renamed Probotector and had the human characters and enemies replaced by robots. This version was exported throughout Europe.
- Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors was banned in Germany due to the character Mizuki, who according to the board, looked underage (under 18) and was placed in sexual situations, which is quite a contrast from the first game, which Germany rated 16, the lowest age rating for it of anywhere in the world.
- Censorship in Germany at Wikipedia