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German pacifists protest war and refugee policy in Easter marches

Thousands have demonstrated against war and for a more welcoming refugee policy in 60 marches and vigils across Germany. The rallies were first held during the Cold War to protest the buildup of atomic weapons.

Around 60 anti-war Easter marches and vigils were reported from all over Germany, although 80 were planned according to the "Friedenskooperative" network. The participants protested the

deployment of German soldiers in foreign countries

and the use of drones in war, and demanded a withdrawal of all atomic weapons from Europe.

A thousand people marched in the Bavarian capital of Munich under the banner "For a world without war, exploitation and racism."

"Our main focus lies on the deployment of German forces in Syria and the weapons and military sent for support to wars that bring refugees here," Dieter Lachenmayer, head of peace network "Friedensnetz" in Stuttgart, told reporters. Around 1,500 people rallied on the streets in the southern German city.

Another 1,000 participated in the Hessian cities of Wiesbaden, Fulda, Erbach, Bad Hersfeld and Giessen.

Northern Germany also witnessed its fair share of marches. Nearly 500 people in the coastal city of Kiel demonstrated against war and demanded a more humanitarian refugee policy, police said. Nearly 2,000 people participated at a rally in the capital, Berlin, with the motto "War is terror. This must end!"

Easter peace marches were started in 1958 by British philosopher and Nobel literature laureate Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), a committed pacifist and co-founder of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in Britain.

The inaugural march went from London to Britain's Atomic Weapons Research Establishment in Aldermaston. German pacifists and anti-nuclear campaigners adopted the idea, and have kept the tradition going until this day.

Hundreds of thousands of people took part in Easter marches between 1968 and 1983, protesting the

Vietnam War

and the rearmament of NATO.

The number of marches dropped drastically after Germany's reunification, but they still take place every year.

mg/rc (EPD, dpa)

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