Right-Wing Radicals Claim Mainstream Support; Anti-Nazi Demostrations Rage
FRANKFURT, West Germany (AP) _ Right-wing radicals claim they are winning the allegiance of more mainstream Germans after capturing 11 seats in the West Berlin legislature.
″The Berlin elections show that a psychological barrier has been removed,″ said Michael Kuehnen, the leader of a Nazi-oriented group and a prominent right-wing extremist.
West Germany has been involved in some deep soul-searching ever since Jan. 29, when the far-right Republican Party won 11 seats in the 138-seat legislature and 7.5 percent of the vote.
With their showing, the Republicans also won the right to send two representatives to the federal Bundestag next year. West Berlin is considered a state under the West German system, but its representatives to the national parliament have limited powers.
Though a sweeping rightist trend seems virtually impossible in modern West Germany, a Jewish leader called the elections ″a warning shot.″
″I fear the Republicans have hit upon a mood that’s not just in West Berlin,″ said Frankfurt Jewish Community spokesman Michel Friedman.
He said the strong showing by the Republican Party will make the extreme right ″socially acceptable″ to many West Germans.
The Republicans campaigned on a platform that included a call to oust foreign workers from the city.
Their positions won broader support than pollsters predicted, reflecting the volatile and growing nationalist sentiments stirred by housing and job shortages that are especially acute in West Berlin.
The big, established parties - the conservative Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democratic Party - won most of the rest of the seats in the West Berlin legislature.
The outcome of the West Berlin elections also mobilized activists. An estimated 10,000 people marched through downtown West Berlin on Saturday to protest the right-wing groups.
″Foreigners stay, Nazis away,″ shouted demonstrators, who marched peacefully.
Also Saturday, about 200 right-wing supporters of the Free German Workers Party marched in the northern city of Rotenburg, drawing a counter- demonstration by 1,200 opponents. Four hundred police officers stood by, and one minor injury was reported from a thrown rock.
In Munich, Republican Party chief Franz Schoenhuber said his members would not yield to the ″terror″ of demonstrators.
″On the contrary, it makes us as a law-and-order party stronger and stronger,″ the 66-year-old former Nazi SS soldier told reporters last week.
Both the mainstream right and left have warned that more Republican successes are possible.
″The danger is certainly there, since they’re conducting their campaign with Pied Piper techniques,″ said Gov. Lothar Spaeth of Baden-Wuerttem berg, a Christian Democrat.
Some West Germans point to other troubling signs:
-The Republicans are expected to field candidates in some of the municipal elections this year in five more states.
-Right-wing extremists already are making elaborate plans to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Hitler on April 20. The number of extreme rightists is estimated at about 28,300 by the federal Interior Ministry.
-A flood of asylum-seekers, numbering 103,076 last year alone, has been angering some people in towns and cities across West Germany. Some West Germans say the foreigners contribute to high unemployment and housing shortages.
Since the Berlin elections, a campaign by an openly Nazi-oriented group in the town of Langen outside Frankfurt has been receiving attention nationwide.
The campaign leader is Kuehnen, who was released from prison in March 1988 after a 3 1/2 -year sentence for pro-Nazi activities.
″As individuals we are Nazis,″ said the 33-year-old Kuehnen during an AP interview. He wore a brown shirt and was accompanied by a bodyguard carrying what was described as a tear-gas pistol.
Kuehnen repeatedly insisted his group is not a Nazi organization, which are banned by West German law.
″We are proud of the past. We are proud to be Germans,″ Kuehnen said. ″We want to break taboos. For example, we plan to present a motion to rename the railroad station square ’Adolf Hitler Square.‴