Neo-Nazis Mark Hitler’s Birthday With Violence
BERLIN (AP) _ Neo-Nazis have used Adolf Hitler’s birthday to demonstrate that their small following can create disturbances in cities throughout Germany.
Police reported more than 200 arrests and several attacks on foreigners on Saturday, the 102nd anniversary of the Nazi’s dictator’s birth and the first anniversary since Germany united in October. No serious injuries were reported.
Most of the extreme rightist disturbances were in economically depressed eastern Germany, but neo-Nazi violence also occurred in big western cities.
The head of Germany’s Jewish community, Heinz Galinski, has lamented the ability of the neo-Nazis to demonstrate and attack foreigners and other peaceful citizens.
″Historical experience teaches us that such events can mark the beginning of a road at whose end stands the catastrophic defeat of democracy,″ Galinski said in a Berlin speech last week in memory of the 6 million Jews who died under Nazi oppression.
Galinski urged German society to try to stop the neo-Nazis. ″No one is speaking of censoring free speech, but democracy must be in a position to put up a fight against propaganda attacks by its enemies,″ he said.
German authorities did not ban the weekend marches by the rightists, but police were out in force to try to keep order.
Rightists set fire to a tent used by Kurdish hunger-strikers in Osnabruck, in northwestern Germany, and three firebombs were thrown into a residence for foreign asylum-seekers near Hanover in the north. There were no injuries in either incident, and an 18-year-old was arrested for attacking the Kurds.
Heavy police and troop reinforcements were sent into eastern Germany, where local police have been surprised repeatedly by rightist violence in the formerly Communist-run part of the country.
In recent weeks, a Mozambican man died after he was attacked by neo-Nazis in Dresden and several people were injured in scattered violence in eastern Germany.
About 900 police and border troops surrounded 150 rightists in Dresden, the main focus of neo-Nazi activity on Saturday. Police said 90 people were arrested in the city, including 24 leftists who had taken over a house and had firebombs, clubs and chains in apparent preparation for a clash with the rightists.
Vandals hit an exhibit of modern art in Bad Soden near Frankfurt in central Germany during the night. Police said 32 paintings were slashed or disfigured with swastikas, and ″Foreigners Out″ was painted on the gallery wall.
In the eastern city of Cottbus, more than 100 youths paraded with nationalist flags, blocked a street and threw bottles at cars and streetcars. Police arrested 108 people.
Some authorities say rightists in the east are only a small fringe of society but others say they have considerable potential for growth and are worrisome because of their violence.
Industry in the formerly communist region is collapsing and rightists are trying to recruit disaffected youths who are jobless and see little hope for their future.
″Our impression so far is that the skinhead scene there is very extensive and that they are much more brutal than here in western Germany,″ Hans-Gert Lange, spokesman for the internal security agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, recently told The Associated Press.
Neo-Nazi eruptions often go hand-in-hand with soccer violence, and rightist disturbances were reported before and after soccer matches Saturday in Leipzig and several other eastern cities.
Fifty hooligans were arrested in Leipzig, and police were searching for three youths who invaded a foreigners’ residence there, broke furniture and shouted, ″Do you know it’s Hitler’s birthday today?″