Germans stamp out 'heil-hitler' domain

Controversy over 'heil-hitler.de' makes domain name registration an instant issue in Germany

German prosecutors are currently investigating who registered the domain name "heil-hitler.de" -- and a soldier is the lead suspect.

The URL was registered last week through Strato, a Berlin-based Internet service provider, but was deleted Monday by Denic, Germany's central domain registrar, after it was highlighted by media reports. Now the public prosecutor of Schwerin is investigating a sergeant in the German Federal Armed Forces, who's possibly the initiator of the domain. "So far we cannot say, however, whether the soldier really reserved this domain or whether perhaps someone abused his name and address," said senior public prosecutor Hans Christoph Pick.

Nazi literature and flags are unconstitutional under German law. The use of Nazi flags is punishable by fines and imprisonment of up to three years.

Pick said that the case would be revisited if suspicions against the soldier were confirmed. A spokesman for Germany's Federal Ministry of Defence told ZDNet a preliminary investigation has also been initiated against the soldier.

Denic spokesman Klaus Herzig said the registrar actually had to delete "heil-hitler.de" twice on Monday.

"Shortly after we had the domain heil-hitler.de deleted [it was registered again]," Herzig said. "The second owner then called here and was completely frightened that the domain was entered in his name. We believe that the second registrant used a false name."

Since then, Denic has registered heil-hitler.de a third time to stymie future attempts to register the domain name. "With a domain there are only two statuses -- either it is reserved or it is free. For this reason we entered the address temporarily in our name," said Herzig.

Denic and Germany's Federal Department of Justice will meet in the next week to discuss how similar domain name incidents should be handled in the future.

Meanwhile, Strato has issued a media release, stating that it had stopped hosting three Web sites with right-wing extremist domains.

Strato spokesman Soeren Heinze told ZDNet the ISP did not delete the extremist URLs because that can only be done by Denic. "We removed the stored Internet pages immediately, however, although they did not contain right-wing extremist texts," Heinze said.

Strato has also called for Denic to start filtering domain name registrations to eliminate offensive URLs. "As host one does have a certain responsibility and may use anything to prevent right-wing, extremist or paedophile Web pages," Heinze said.

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