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City Scours Law Books to Keep Hotel From Going to Neo-Nazis

DW staff (kjb)
August 16, 2006

The town of Delmenhorst is united: they don't want a neo-Nazi to buy a local hotel as a meeting place for right-extremists. But can they stop a desperate hotel owner from jumping through legal loopholes to give it away?

One town is trying everything to prevent neo-Nazis from taking over a local hotelImage: PA/dpa

A financially hard-up hotel owner in Delmenhorst announced late Tuesday he may give away his 100-room facility as a gift to neo-Nazi Jürgen Rieger.

Rieger, a lawyer who has defended prominent ex-Nazis and is active in the neo-Nazi scene, was planning to purchase the hotel for 3.4 million euros ($4.2 million) and turn it into a conference center for right-extremist gatherings and events.

He has encountered fierce resistance from the residents of the small northern German town of 80,000 people, who have not only staged protests but also raised more than 730,000 euros in an effort to buy back the hotel themselves.

The case, however, is a legal maze.

City adds hotel to redevelopment area

Saufen für das Reich
Rieger has been a speaker at rallies in remembrance of Hitler's deputy Rudolf HessImage: AP

After desperately searching for a solution that was satisfactory to the city's residents and fell with the bounds of the law, the town of Delmenhorst officially enlarged the downtown renovation area. The hotel, located just minutes from the main train station, now falls within space intended for redevelopment.

Redrawing the lines automatically gave the town a preemptive right to purchase the building at price defined by a neutral third party.

Hotel owner Günter Mergel threw a new loophole into the process when he announced that he plans to give the hotel to the Wilhelm Tietjen Foundation for Fertilization. Rieger oversees the organization, which was founded by and named after a wealthy ex-Nazi from Bremen.

Giving away the hotel, in the legal sense, would effectively "annul the city's right to buy first," said the owner of the hotel, which has stood empty for 14 months.

A gift with a price tag

Naturally, Mergel's proposed gift comes with strings attached. According to news reports, the foundation would take over his hefty debts and pay the gift tax on the building. Here's the catch: it would also purchase the hotel's inventory for a convenient 3.4 million euros.

Tagungsstätte für rechte Szene in Delmenhorst geplant
The disputed hotel in DelmenhorstImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Mergel defended this option as a way to avoid drawn-out negotiations with the town, which he accused of consistently not responding to complaints of noise disturbance surrounding his centrally located building, reported the daily Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger.

Some suspect, however, that the hotel owner expects the deal will bring in a great deal more cash than if he gave in to protestors' wishes and sold to Delmenhorst directly.

The town of Delmenhorst is currently looking into the legal ramifications if Mergel does decide to give Rieger and his neo-Nazi foundation the hotel as a gift, which is not yet a certainty.

"I'm thinking about it," he told German news agency DPA.