Germans brace for Hess demos

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The Independent Online

German authorities have banned right-wing demonstrations nationwide this weekend to head off anticipated gatherings on the10th anniversary of Rudolf Hess' death.

Neo-Nazi groups have not announced marches in any specific city in Germany, but the anniversary of Hitler deputy Hess's death on August 17, 1987 is typically marked by right-wing demonstrations.

German neo-Nazis were also expected to join a planned demonstration in neighbouring Denmark. Yesterday, German border police prevented two extremists with baseball bats and stun-guns in their trunk from crossing into Denmark.

Each of Germany's 16 states, meanwhile, has enacted restrictions on neo- Nazi extremist activities this weekend. The south-eastern state of Baden- Wurttemberg is requiring 116 known extreme right-wing activists to check in with the authorities throughout the next two days.

In Bavaria, a demonstration registered in Wunsiedle, where Hess is buried, has been forbidden. Further east in Thueringen, police arrested two neo- Nazis on their way to a memorial gathering for Hess in Nuernberg. They also confiscated over 100 extreme-right flags, flyers, CDs and T-shirts.

"There is also likely to be one main gathering," Erwin Hetger, head of police in the southern state of Baden-Wurttemberg, said.

Hess hanged himself with an electric cord in Berlin's Spandau prison on 17 August , 1987, and the date has become a rallying point for the radical right in Germany and other European countries in recent years.

Last year German police detained 160 right-wing activists on the ninth anniversary, while hundreds of neo-Nazis battled with police in Sweden, Norway and Germany's neighbour Denmark, which permits such rallies.

In Germany, Hess's anniversary provides the occasion for much public soul-searching about the continued presence of right-wing thuggery and the appeal of Nazism within a country still acutely aware of its past. The recent surge in joblessness to levels not seen since Hitler's rise to power has, at a time when Germany has seen new waves of immigrants from eastern Europe, this year added to the concern.