Challenging the extreme right in Germany | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 30.04.2012
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Challenging the extreme right in Germany

Neo-Nazis are set to march through the streets of Bonn as part of demonstrations that take place around Germany each year on May 1. But a number of groups, supported by local politicians, are out to block them.

Paula is worried. The 40-year-old Cuban - who doesn't want us to publish her real name - lives in the Bonn suburb of Beuel. On May 1, right-wing extremists from across the region are gathering there to stage a march. "I'm going to stay at home on Tuesday," Paula says. She's worried about the risk of being insulted or even attacked.

But generally Paula likes living in Bonn. Normally, she feels safe here. Beuel is a quiet neighborhood, with lovingly restored art nouveau villas, tree-lined avenues and cafes, in front of which people enjoy sitting in the sun.

The planned right-wing extremist demonstration is unsettling not only for Paula but also for numerous other citizens in Bonn. Many want to show their opposition in public.

Memorial in Bonn-Beuel

The route of the march goes past the ruins of a synagogue

Wolfgang Hürter, the local mayor of the Beuel district is in fighting spirits:

"We must stand up against the right-wing spooks!" he said, sitting in the large hall of the local town hall. With him on the podium are representatives from trade unions, youth organizations and political parties. Around 100 people have shown up to offer their resistance to the right-wing march.

What really angers the locals is that just a few meters away from the planned route of the march is a memorial to the synagogue, which was destroyed by the Nazis in 1938. The demonstration will also pass Dr Weis Square - Max Weis was a Jewish doctor who was murdered in the Holocaust.

Protests converge

A banner reading Nazis out

A number of groups are planning counter demos

For a number of years, Germany's right-wing extremists have used May 1 as a day of protest. This year, events are planned in a number of cities, including Hamburg, Dresden and Mannheim. Some are organized by the right-wing political party, the NPD, others are organized by so-called "independent powers" or "autonomous nationalists."

Their slogans may well appeal to a wider group of people in Germany. The event in Bonn, for example, goes under the motto "Break the financial systems - free yourself from slavery."

Wolfgang Hürter can't understand why the police don't ban the demonstration. He believes that there is a high potential for violence which could pose a risk to local people.

Wolfgang Hürter

Hürter wants to ban the march

Lena Schneider agrees with him. She's spokesperson for the action group "Bonn blocks the way:" "We're really angry," she says. "We believe it's our duty to stand in the way of such people."

Widespread support for counter demos

Around 80 organizations have come together to join the action group, including church representatives and unions. They want to protest against the Neo-Nazi march with solemn vigils, church services and peaceful sit-down protests. The aim of the protesters is to prevent the right-wing extremists from leaving the station. The action group has also got support from the city council. In a resolution released last week, the councilors said "We in Bonn are resolutely against violence, discrimination, social exclusion and racism." Together with the Mayor of Bonn, the City Council is calling on people living in Bonn to take part in the numerous counter-activities against the extreme right.

Author: Nils Naumann / ji
Editor: Neil King

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