Gemans fear rising tide of neo-Nazi violence

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of Germans took to the streets on Saturday to protest at neo-Nazi violence as the government considered using border patrol officers and video cameras at train stations to deter mounting racist attacks.

Hundreds of Germans took to the streets on Saturday to protest at neo-Nazi violence as the government considered using border patrol officers and video cameras at train stations to deter mounting racist attacks.

There were several signs yesterday that they will be needed. Police detained around 100 neo-Nazis in the eastern state of Thueringia on their way to a banned rally organised by the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD). Organisers had expected some 300 participants to turn up to show their support for Austrian far-right leader Jörg Haider. Another rally in western Germany, near Bremen, attracted about 250 far-right sympathizers.

About 1,200 people turned out for the anti-Nazi demo in Duesseldorf, where an explosion on 27 July at a railway station injured 10 immigrants, six of them Jewish.

The possibility that the grenade was set off by right-wing extremists has triggered a wave of national soul-searching and demands for action to stop the daily neo-Nazi offences, which have led to three fatal attacks so far this year.

"It's true that Hitler and his followers were beaten militarily 55 years ago, but in the year 2000 they're still not politically defeated," author Ralph Giordano told the crowd.

Elisabeth Debener, an 81-year-old retiree who lived through the Nazi era said: "Sometimes I'm afraid it's already much too late." She says one of her acquaintances was harassed on the street because of his dark skin. "We're in a situation in which one has to be afraid," she said.

In the eastern city of Eisenach, more than 300 people gathered on Friday night to show support for two African men who were kicked, spat at and chased through the town by a gang a week ago.

Nine young neo-Nazis were jailed overnight for threatening to disrupt that demonstration. About 250 young NPD supporters rallied on Saturday in Tostedt, east of Bremen.Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's government is considering having the fringe NPD declared unconstitutional for agitating against foreigners, leftists and other minorities.

But Interior Minister Otto Schily expressed serious reservations about seeking a ban. Such a step runs the risk of sending its members underground and making them even more militant, he said in Der Spiegel newsmagazine.

A poll published in Saturday's Bild newspaper found 89 per cent of Germans say the government and justice system are not tough enough with right-wing extremists.

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