Neo-Nazis protest against monument honouring Holocaust victims

South China Morning Post/January 31, 2000

Hundreds of neo-Nazis marched through Berlin's Brandenburg Gate this weekend for the first time since World War II in a protest against a national monument honouring Jews killed in the Holocaust. Witnesses said about 600 young neo-Nazis walked through the gate on Saturday shouting slogans like "Glory and honour of the Waffen SS", while about another 500 Germans shouting "Nazis out" staged a rival demonstration nearby.

Police briefly detained about 25 of the neo-Nazis but riot police mostly kept the two groups apart and only one scuffle occurred. The rightists gathered on the open tract of land designated for the Holocaust memorial and Udo Voigt, chairman of the fringe neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD), told them that the project was a "an undesirable stain in the Reich capital".

A few Berliners and tourists stared at the march through the gate with apparent bewilderment. One said he would take them to court for displaying illegal Nazi-style emblems.

Germany's 1933-45 Nazi regime conducted many pageantry-soaked parades through the 18th-century triumphal arch, the reigning symbol of German nationhood.

But the gate was shut for the next half-century when Germany was divided by the Cold War and the Berlin Wall sealed off the arch. Berlin police had tried to ban the NPD march the day before it was to be held. But they were overruled by a Berlin court, apparently on grounds of freedom of speech.

In the west German university town of Goettingen, about 2,000 people marched on Saturday to protest against right-wing extremism after local police banned an NPD rally.

Michel Friedman, deputy leader of Germany's remnant Jewish community, in a speech to the demonstrators, called for parents and teachers to teach tolerance to young Germans.

"If some young people gravitate toward Nazis, it's mainly because they haven't been sufficiently enlightened or because the horrors of Nazi tyranny have been belittled," he said.

More than 50 years after World War II, Germany marked its annual Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday by dedicating a plot of land near the Brandenburg Gate to the planned monument.

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