Germans cringe at Hitler link in school killings

Reuters/April 22, 1999
By Nikla Gibson

Bonn - Germany's media on Thursday cringed at America's worst school shooting, saying Adolf Hitler was still causing suffering and ruin decades after his death.

"Hitler's murderous Children," splashed Germany's Bild newspaper, reporting the links between the Nazi leader and teenage gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold who shot themselves after taking the lives of 13 others in Littleton, Colorado on Tuesday.

"Adolf Hitler, this horrific dictator, is still causing suffering and ruin decades after his death," the paper said.

The two teenage boys belonged to an outcast group called the "Trench Coat Mafia," so named because of their long black coats reminiscent of the Nazis' feared Gestapo secret police. Their talk was of guns, violence and their hero, Hitler.

"Eric and Dylan, the neo-Nazis: when they met in the garage they spoke German. They worshipped Adolf Hitler like a rockstar," noted the Bonn Express tabloid in disgust.

It was not lost on press commentaries that the day of the massacre, April 20, would have been Hitler's 110th birthday.

The fact that the day passed off quietly in Germany itself, meanwhile, was not wholly accidental.

Strictly enforced laws ban the display of all Nazi paraphernalia in Germany. The two Americans would have been hauled before the authorities merely for giving the Hitler salute, let alone for wearing Nazi insignias.

"The American ideal of freedom of speech and thought meant no one took any notice of the boys wearing the Nazi swastika and listening to neo-Nazi bands," noted one German TV correspondent reporting from the school on state television.

Tapes, pamphlets and CDs with neo-Nazi or racist content are illegal in Germany. The country's internal security service, the Federal Agency for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), regularly raids publishers suspected of dealing in such material.

Gigs by German skinhead and neo-Nazi bands are meticulously organised to avoid detection by police. Fans are often told to assemble at meeting places far away from the actual venue and only led there when the coast is clear.

Last month a German court jailed the lead singer of a skinhead rock band for two years for songs condoning arson against refugee hostels and encouraging his audience to shout "Heil Hitler."

The BfV says several thousand Germans, particularly in the depressed former Communist east, are drawn to the neo-Nazi rock music scene.

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