Archive for Sunday, March 4, 2001

Germans unite against extremism

March 4, 2001

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— Thousands of people across Germany rallied against intolerance and far-right extremism Saturday, forming a human "band of solidarity" in one city as neo-Nazis staged their own march just blocks away.

The protests came a day after the government released figures that show a nearly 60 percent surge nationwide in violent crimes with a far-right, anti-Semitic or anti-foreigner motivation the highest level since World War II.

Germany's interior minister has promised to extinguish the far right, but Jewish leaders accuse the government for failing to recognize the seriousness of the problem.

"If this doesn't make it clear that racism has grown like a cancerous tumor in Germany into a structural problem, then I don't know what else needs to happen to make politicians understand that it has become one of the country's largest domestic problems," Michel Friedman, vice chairman of the Central of Council Jews, told the Berliner Morgenpost in its Saturday edition.

In Dortmund in northwestern Germany, about 3,500 people from church, school and political groups protested against extremism, linking arms in solidarity.

Three blocks away, roughly 300 neo-Nazis marched along a predetermined route. Police had prohibited the far-right marchers from wearing jackboots and leather bomber jackets. Four people were arrested, police said without elaborating.

In the eastern city of Sonneberg, some 200 neo-Nazis marched in the streets against what they called repression by the government of nationalists. Police arrested six people for displaying signs from illegal organizations.

Under German law, displaying swastikas and circulating Nazi material is forbidden by law. The country's highest court is also considering a government request to ban the far-right National Democratic Party. Opposition lawmakers have argued that the strategy may only embolden extremists.

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