German Neo-Nazis Arrested

Associated Press/August 6, 2000
By Paul Geitner

Berlin -- Police took more than two dozen far-right extremists into custody after a group attacked a dark-skinned man and another gang rampaged through a street festival in separate incidents in western Germany. All were released on Sunday after being held overnight, police said.

The arrests came as Germans struggle to stem a rising wave of neo-Nazi violence against foreigners and other minorities that has claimed at least three lives this year.

Xenophobia has also been cited as a likely motive for a July 27 bombing at a Duesseldorf train station that injured 10 recent immigrants _ an attack that drew about 2,000 people to a "Stop Nazi Terror!" rally in the city on Saturday.

The latest incidents both occurred Saturday night in the Ruhr valley, western Germany's industrial heartland.

Sixteen youths who had been hanging around the city hall in Bochum shouting anti-foreigner slogans and Nazi songs were arrested after witnesses reported they had attacked a dark-skinned man who passed by. The man was able to escape and police were not sure if he had been hurt, so they were forced to release nine of the youths who had been held overnight, a spokesman said.

At a street fair in the neighboring city of Herne, 10 young neo-Nazis were taken into overnight custody after they got drunk and started singing anti-foreigner songs and harassing other visitors at the festival, police said.

To the south, police reported Sunday finding swastikas and Nazi SS symbols spray-painted on nine gravestones at a Jewish cemetery in the town of Rockenhausen.

Parliament leaders said Sunday they would hold a hearing on right-wing extremism in October after lawmakers return from summer break.

Angela Merkel, leader of the conservative opposition Christian Democrats, called Sunday for the creation of a special police unit to investigate anti-foreigner and other politically motivated violence.

Union leaders said Sunday they will organize counter-demonstrations to block a march by the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany on Jan. 27 _ the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz to protest Germany's planned national Holocaust Memorial.

Paul Spiegel, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said in this week's Focus newsmagazine that he was more pessimistic than a year ago, but wasn't ready to give up hope.

"If we ... believed that the situation in Germany was life-threatening for Jews, we wouldn't hesitate to urge our 85,000 community members to emigrate," he said. But he added he was "firmly convinced that the problems can be brought under control.

"Jews want to live in Germany," he said. "We feel good here."

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