Skinheads protest at Auschwitz

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OSWIECIM, Poland (Reuters) - More than 100 extreme Polish nationalists, mostly adolescent skinheads, demonstrated yesterday at Auschwitz, demanding that Jewish organisations should be barred from having a say over the running of the former Nazi death camp.

The demonstrators unfurled banners reading "Poland for Poles" and "Down with Europe and Nato" near the former camp, now a museum overseen by an international council. The protesters, some carrying clubs and wearing Nazi emblems, later entered the camp, to lay a wreath in memory of thousands of Poles at the wall where prisoners were shot.

The fringe group, called the Polish National Union-Polish National Party, said it was also protesting over the authorities' decision to stop the construction of a supermarket near the camp's walls. In the past, the group has staged street protests accusing Jews, Germans and Americans of buying out Poland. Its leader, Boleslaw Tejkowski, was found guilty in 1994 of inciting racial strife and sentenced to a one-year suspended jail term. The development of the supermarket was stopped last month by the central government after protests from Jewish organisations around the world.

The demonstrators later marched to the former death camp of Birkenau, a mile away. They folded up their banners before entering each camp to lay wreaths. City officials refused to allow the march, especially during the Jewish Passover holiday. But the provincial governor over-turned their decision, saying there was no legal basis for banning it.