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Germans Rally Against Unemployment

February 5, 1998

BERLIN (AP) _ At first reluctant to make waves, Germany’s unemployed turned out nationwide today in the first widespread organized rallies since the jobless rate started its steep and steady rise four years ago.

Blowing whistles and chanting, ``Kohl must go!″ more than 300 people rallied outside a Berlin employment office. Similar rallies were held in about 200 cities around the country.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl has staked his re-election chances this September on economic recovery, but the Federal Labor Office reported today that unemployment rose again in January, hitting a new postwar record of 12.6 percent of the work force, or more than 4.8 million people.

Germany’s unemployed were inspired by protesters in France, where the jobless have occupied public buildings for weeks to pressure the government into raising welfare payments.

In a show of solidarity, some French participated in protests in Berlin and the eastern city of Sachsenhausen.

Monika Kuehn lost her job at a scientific research library about a year ago when the staff of 18 was reduced by half.

``Every year it just gets worse and worse,″ she said, holding a protest sign in the crowd on Berlin’s Friedrichstrasse, two blocks from the old border crossing from west to east Berlin.

Like many other protesters in Berlin, she comes from the former east, where unemployment is about twice as high as in the west. Inefficient communist factories were shut down after German reunification in 1990, and the construction that provided jobs after that have since dried up.

Germany’s unemployment association, which organized the protests, said demonstrations will continue monthly until the elections. ``We will not stand still,″ association president Klaus Grehn said today.

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