Rightist Extremists Attack U.S. Luge Athletes
BERLIN (AP) _ German rightist extremists insulted and beat up two members of the American men’s luge team in training at an eastern German winter resort, police said Saturday.
The assault occurred shortly before midnight Friday in the Kurparkklause discotheque in Oberhof, a small town about 150 miles southwest of Berlin.
About 15 known German rightists, all in their 20s, ″told the Americans when they came in to get lost,″ said regional police chief Karl-Heinz Malina in nearby Suhl.
A fistfight broke out after the Germans ″heavily insulted″ two of the Americans in the group who were black, police said in a statement. They did not say what words were used.
Police said a 26-year-old black American, whom they would not identify, sustained facial bruises but was not seriously injured.
Robert Pipkins, who is black, apparently was the target of the attack, said Bob Hughes, the U.S. Luge Association’s marketing director.
Pipkins, the 1992 junior world champion and a student at Drexel University in Philadelphia, pushed one of the assailants, and Duncan Kennedy of Lake Placid, N.Y., stepped in to divert the attackers and took the brunt of the punishment while teammates hustled Pipkins out a back door, Hughes said.
Malina said police were called and five Germans were arrested. He said he believed the Americans were attacked because the Germans, all from Suhl, were ″hostile to foreigners.″
Attacks on foreigners by rightist extremists have become a cause of serious concern in Germany in the three years since unification, and have not been restricted to the formerly communist east.
Americans have not been known to be targeted, and no previous serious case of an American being beaten has been reported. Frustrated by high unemployment, the emotional dislocation of unification and an influx of asylum-seekers, many alienated German youths have turned on foreigners.
Hughes said he thought the attack was racially motivated. He said he was concerned about security for Americans training and competing in Germany - Oberhof especially - in advance of the February Winter Olympics in Norway.
″They didn’t know they were lugers. They do now, and we have to go back there (for a World Cup meet in January),″ he said.
Hughes said he was especially concerned about the U.S. bobsled team, which has several black members and must compete and train in Oberhof, a town of 3,000 people that had been East Germany’s winter sports capital.
Malina, the regional police chief, said in a telephone interview that he did not know what charges the arrested Germans might face.
″This is very upsetting for us,″ said Malina. He said attacks on foreigners by rightist extremists were not a big problem in the area. He would not say whether the five men arrested had been in trouble with the law previously.
The Americans left Oberhof on Saturday afternoon, a day earlier than planned according to Hughes, for training on a track in Igls, Austria.