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Neo-Nazi Marches Meet With Thousands of Protesters

DW staff (sms)August 21, 2006

Neo-Nazis and counter-demonstrators took to the streets across Germany over the weekend, but the Bavarian town of Wunsiedel kept both groups out of town with a "day of democracy."

Wunsiedel made clear its preference for anything but brown shirtsImage: picture alliance /dpa

Some 350 supporters of Germany's far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) marched on the eastern German city Jena over the weekend to mark the anniversary of Adolf Hitler deputy Rudolf Hess' death, while 1,800 others turned up to protest the march.

Other neo-Nazi demonstrations took place in Munich and Berlin, where the demonstration was billed as promoting "freedom of opinion for all" and demonstrators carried banners reading "National Socialism or Downfall."

Counter-demonstrators, carrying "No Nazis" and "Nazis out" banners, outnumbered neo-Nazis in all the German cities where marches took place or were planned. Some 1,400 people protested a scheduled neo-Nazi march in Fulda, which NPD officials cancelled at the last minute. A second march in Altenburg was also called off.

Protests mainly peaceful

Demonstration Rechtsextremismus in Berlin
Riot police stayed between right and left-wing demonstratorsImage: AP

Hundreds of police were on hand to separate the far-right marches and protest actions, which were mainly peaceful. Around 30 people were arrested across the country, according to the police.

Over 400 people took to the streets of Wunsiedel, where Hess is buried, in what residents called a "day of democracy." In the past, thousands of neo-Nazis descended on the town for memorial marches. This year residents celebrated under the slogan "Wunsiedel is colorful, not brown."

The city's mayor Karl Willi Beck said he was pleased Wunsiedel was able to keep "the neo-Nazis and leftist-yahoos from taking over the streets."

Christoph Bergner, a parliamentary secretary for the interior ministry, thanked the citizens of Wunsiedel for their dedication to fighting neo-Nazism and said the city "had become a symbol of democracy and tolerance."

A local law forbidding neo-Nazi marches in honor of Hess was upheld by Germany's Constitutional Court in time for the "day of democracy."

Hess was buried in Wunsiedel after committing suicide in a Berlin prison in 1987. He received a life sentence from the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal at the end of World War II.