German stars join fight with neo-Nazis

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The Independent Online

The German government and Jewish leaders yesterday enrolled the help of celebrities to forge a broad coalition against a new wave of right-wing extremist violence.

The German government and Jewish leaders yesterday enrolled the help of celebrities to forge a broad coalition against a new wave of right-wing extremist violence.

Uwe-Karsten Heye a federal government spokesman, and two leading figures of the Jewish community, Paul Spiegel and Michel Friedman, announced the nationwide initiative for a star-studded event that would raise public awareness about neo-Nazi activity.

Even as they met, police said a bomb found outside a home in Bavaria may have been planted by neo-Nazis. The father of the family, who died 11 years ago, was Jewish, although the other members of the family are not, police said, but the threat alone added to increasing concern over the threat of neo-Nazi violence in Germany.

As part of the anti-racism project, called "Showing Face", popular figures - especially from the fields of sports and entertainment - were asked to join in discussions about xenophobia and anti-Semitism. The Chancellor's wife, Doris Schröder-Köpf the actress Veronica Ferres and TV journalist Günter Jauch have already pledged their support.

The announcement was made in Düsseldorf, where last month a pipe bomb placed in a train station injured 10 persons, many of them Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union. The anti-racist initiative is an attempt to galvanise the public in the wake of the Düsseldorf bomb and a spate of other neo-Nazi attacks.

Mr Friedman, the vice-president of the Central Council of Jews, issued a strong warning about how dire the situation has become. "It's not one minute to 12. It is 12," he said. Mr Friedman said it was "shameful" that at recent demonstrations against right-wing extremism, fewer people showed up than for protests against new laws restricting aggressive dogs.

The wave of neo-Nazi attacks this summer have claimed at least two lives. In addition to yesterday's bomb alert in Bavaria, two Jewish cemeteries in the western state of Rhineland Palatinate were desecrated at the weekend with swastikas and SS markings.

Officials said that in the first half of this year, suspected neo-Nazi cases under investigation in the state total 398, up 115 from the same period last year.

Eastern German politicians have criticised calls to outlaw the fringe National Democratic party, saying that a ban would only drive right-wing extremists underground, where they are even more difficult to monitor. The party caused an uproar over the weekend by declaring its intention to hold a demonstration in Berlin on 27 January next year, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

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