Goose Stepping Rightists and Neo-Nazis March in Halle With AM-Germany-Racism
HALLE, Germany (AP) _ Enrico Bachmann sported a shaved head and a Chicago Bulls basketball jacket as he goose-stepped on Saturday with 400 other neo-Nazis on the twin anniversaries of a vicious Nazi pogrom against Jews and the opening of the Berlin Wall.
″My parents are upset because I’m a rightist radical,″ said Bachmann, 21, a construction apprentice in this industrial east German city of 321,000 people. ″But it is a strong statement.″
The skinhead rally, widely condemned by German politicians and ordinary citizens, was held on anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Nov. 9, 1938 pogrom that ushered in the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were murdered.
It also fell on the second anniversary of the opening of the Berlin Wall, which led to the fall of communism and German unification but also unleashed a wave of extreme nationalism.
With police looking on, the crowd of skinheads marched through a dingy section of Halle near the train station. They chanted the Nazi salute - ″Sieg Heil 3/8″ - and shouted ″Foreigners out 3/8″
The mostly young rightists waved Prussian flags bearing an eagle and iron cross and carried a large banner proclaiming deceased Nazi leader Rudolf Hess a ″Martyr of the Reich.″
The rally came amid a sharp rise in rightist violence against eastern European and Third World refugees living in Germany. Halle, a city beset by high unemployment because of the failing east German chemical industry that once supported it, has been a hotbed of racial attacks and neo-Nazi activity.
Before the skinhead march, several thousand local residents, including a large number of leftist radicals, held a demonstration in another part of town, condemning racism.
Later, bands of leftists and neo-Nazis roamed the streets of the city while police in riot gear scrambled to keep the two rival groups apart. Several people were arrested for weapons violations and vandalism, but complete figures were not immediately available.
The right-wing youths sported camouflage fatigues, jackboots, leather jackets, white shirts with pencil-thin ties, jackets with American sports team logos, and other regalia their movement has adopted.
Despite the racism espoused by the skinheads, Bachmann, told by a reporter that the Chicago Bulls was a predominantly black team, said he was not aware of that. ″It’s just the latest style,″ he said.
Elke and Gerhard Fischer were on their way back from the anti-fascism rally held earlier when their streetcar was stopped by the skinhead rally in the cobblestone square.
Mrs. Fischer, 43, a school teacher, said she was dumbfounded that Germans could hold a right-wing rally on such important anniversaries.
″It is my personal opinion that most of these people are very dumb,″ she said. ″This attracts people who are not intelligent.″
Her husband, a 65-year-old psychologist at Leipzig University, said he believes that such extremist groups, though small, pose a serious threat.
″This is dangerous. Hitler also started small,″ Fischer said.
Subway stations, which are covered with neo-Nazi graffiti and are the scene of frequent assaults against foreigners, were closed for security reasons.
Two young Indian men, apparently unaware that the subways were closed, slipped into a station while about 50 skinheads milled about the area drinking beer.
Several of the skinheads darted into the station and cornered them until nearby riot troops intervened. Protected by a cordon of officers, the young foreigners sat on a bench, listening to the skinheads’ chants.