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Germans Protest Neo-Nazis

August 5, 2000

BERLIN (AP) _ Hundreds of Germans took to the streets Saturday to protest neo-Nazi violence as the government considered using border patrol officers and video cameras at train stations to help deter mounting racist attacks.

The biggest demonstration was held in Duesseldorf, where an explosion July 27 at a rail station injured 10 recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union, six of the Jewish.

Although police have yet to determine a motive, the possibility that the grenade was set off by right-wing extremists has triggered a wave of national soul-searching and demands for action to stop the daily occurrences of neo-Nazi offenses, which range from spray-painting swastikas to three fatal attacks so far this year.

``It’s true that Hitler and his followers were beaten military 55 years ago, but in the year 2000 they’re still not politically defeated,″ author Ralph Giordano told the 1,200 people gathered for the ``Stop the Nazi Terror!″ demo.

In the eastern city of Eisenach, more than 300 people gathered Friday night to show support for two African men who were kicked and spit at and chased through the town by a gang a week ago.

Nine young neo-Nazis were jailed overnight for threatening to disrupt the demonstration. Police said their leader, a member of the extreme-right National Democratic Party, had a banner with an anti-foreigner slogan hidden under his clothing.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s government is considering whether to have the fringe party declared unconstitutional, but Interior Ministry Otto Schily expressed serious reservations about seeking a ban.

Such a step runs the risk of sending its members underground and making them even more militant, he said in Der Spiegel newsmagazine.

Schily also told the magazine he was considering deploying border patrol officers in areas known to be potentially dangerous ``to provide people with visible state protection.″

Federal officials also planned to expand video surveillance at railway stations under the jurisdiction of the border patrol, Der Spiegel reported. Train conductors will also be able to alert border patrol officers by code word when skinheads are on board.

A poll published in Saturday’s Bild newspaper found 89 percent of Germans say the government and justice system don’t treat right-wing extremists hard enough. The poll of 1,100 people provided no margin of error.

Meanwhile, Economics Minister Werner Mueller joined some of Germany’s top corporate chieftains in warning that the recent rise in anti-foreigner and anti-Semitic attacks threatened to scare off foreign investors and harm the German economy.

The depressed, former communist eastern states, where much of the violence has been concentrated, risk falling further behind ``if xenophobia becomes a terrible distinguishing characteristic there,″ Mueller told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

Bosses of several German companies, ranging from Siemens to the Schultheiss brewery in Berlin, warned that racist or neo-Nazi remarks would be grounds for termination.

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