Berlin, the final battlefield of WWII, is planning a "Day of Democracy" filled with activities designed to keep neo-Nazis from making an appearance. A high court ruling on Friday helped its cause.
Not this Sunday
Germany's neo-Nazis have been hungrily eyeing May 8 for months now, hoping to grab the spotlight of the planned peaceful festivities around Berlin's Brandenburg Gate with a display of jack boots and shaved heads.
So great was the fear that the NPD, Germany's right wing party, would succeed in marching passed the Holocaust Memorial -- which is to be officially unveiled next week -- near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin's Mitte district on May 8, that German politicians changed the country's constitution in order to eliminate the possibility.
A youth organization affiliated with the NPD then filed a motion with the Germany's Constitutional Court this week to overturn a decision by Berlin's police department banning the march near the memorial.
Schily: law helped
An arial shot of the Holocaust Memorial, just down the street from the Brandenburg Gate
On Friday, the court reaffirmed the ban. German Interior Minister Otto Schily said tightening the law to restrict gatherings or parades at WWII monuments, like the Holocaust Memorial, had helped.
"The decision makes clear that neo-Nazis won't be able to disgrace the memory of murdered Jews by yelling slogans at the Holocaust memorial," Schily said.
The NPD will be allowed to march from Berlin's Alexanderplatz in the east of the city to a train station a few blocks from the Brandenburg Gate. Their path will take them past a memorial for victims of the war, but only after politicians lay wreaths at the monument.
Police out in force
The wreath-laying is part of a day of reflection and festivities the city has dubbed the "Day of Democracy."
A two-day street festival beginning May 7 will feature cultural performances, political speeches and the live broadcast of a parliamentary debate on the end of World War II from the Reichstag building nearby. A colorful alliance of churches, leftist radicals, sports stars, celebrity chefs, national politicians and German President Horst Köhler will take part in events during the day on May 8.
The Brandenburg Gate is Berlin's central site for celebrations
"We want to show that we are ready to fight for this democracy together," said Mayor Klaus Wowereit.
To ensure things don't get out of hand, 6,000 police officers will be present. The city's interior secretary said that they will guarantee both the right of neo-Nazis to march peacefully, and the right of others to protest the march.
"With all due understanding for disgust over neo-Nazis, it cannot get violent," Wowereit said.