BONN (Apr. 24)
Europe’s biggest post-war anti-Nazi rally took place in Cologne on Saturday when about 25,000 demonstrators assembled to demand the dissolution of SS organizations and the banning of “all Nazi activity and propaganda.” Simultaneously, former Chancellor and the current chairman of the ruling Social Democratic Party, Willy Brandt, issued a major statement on the spread of neo-Nazism in Germany, describing the ignorance of young Germans about the Third Reich as “shocking.”
The rally and the Brandt statement followed a government announcement last week that tougher measures would be taken to stop the circulation of Nazi propaganda aimed at young people.
The Cologne rally was attended by groups from throughout Eastern and Western Europe. Observers said about 80 percent of the participants came from West Germany. An Israeli delegation reportedly called off plans to attend after learning of the anti-Zionist leanings of some of the groups involved. But there was spontaneous applause when it was mentioned that Israeli supporters had sent a telegram backing the protest.
RECALL SS ATROCITIES
Although the groups did in fact appear to be mainly left-or Communist-leaning, speakers made a point of avoiding political ideology. They recalled instead the atrocities committed by the SS and expressed concern at increasing activities by former SS members.
Dr. Maurice Goldstein, president of the International Auschwitz Committee, told the predominantly young (under 25) crowds ” We can never accept or tolerate that ex-SS members supported by neo-Nazis revive and spread their lies.” Referring to neo-Nazi propaganda which claimed that the concentration camps were a faction and that the confessions of Nazi criminals were extorted by torture or brainwashing, Goldstein added: “We must ensure that the truth about the camps in Hitler Germany breaks through.”
A declaration adopted by the rally participants described increasing “provocative” meetings of former SS members both in Germany and elsewhere, and international links and activities “encourage neo-Nazi and racist groups which have carried out terror attacks on the offices of resistance movements, desecrated Jewish memorials and cemeteries and slandered former resistance fighters and survivors of Nazi persecution.
CALLS FOR UNYIELDING VIGILANCE
In on article written for “Die Mahnung” (The Warning), a publication of the Federation of Nazi Victims in West Berlin, Brandt said it would “be an exaggeration to talk of an acute and threatening danger of neo-Nazism.” But, “more than in previous years,” it was necessary to be vigilant and unyielding against extreme right-wing activities.
The neo-Nazi revival was “not a matter of a few incurable old Nazis, or the unsatisfied curiosity of young people left alone by parents and teachers,” Brandt stated. It was “more a case of young people seeking an escape in neo-fascism’s glorification of violence.”
Brandt wrote of “inadequate” treatment of the Third Reich in school history lessons, and the “shocking” ignorance of young people about the Hitler era. Teacher training programs and school syllabi should “take account of the bitter experience” of the past. Those who do not know their past are unable to come to terms with themselves in the present,” Brandt stated.