BONN (Dec. 30)
Neither the holiday spirit nor a strong appeal by German President Richard von Weizsacker were able to deter neo-Nazi violence against foreigners during Christmas week, and the ugly phenomenon is likely to spill over into the new year.
The assaults occurred throughout united Germany, although most of them were in former East German territory, near the Polish border and around Berlin.
In Jutterburg, in the federal state of Brandenburg, a dozen neo-Nazis on Christmas Day hurled firebombs and stones into a hostel sheltering asylum-seekers. Police managed to extinguish the fires but made no arrests.
On Christmas Eve, about 30 Skinheads, many of them drunk, attacked a young Turk in downtown Oberhausen, near Dusseldorf. The severely beaten man required hospitalization.
The Skinheads celebrated the holiday earlier by breaking into the lobby of a refugee hostel and smashing windows. A pregnant woman who witnessed the attack was treated for shock.
Police said one 17-year-old neo-Nazi was arrested.
On Christmas Day, neo-Nazis also raided a refugee hostel in Sommerda, a small town in the state of Thuringia, in eastern Germany.
Police in nearby Jena said the material damage was heavy but no one was hurt. Nevertheless, several foreigners living at the hostel spent the night at police headquarters for fear of more attacks.
In a televised address to the nation on Christmas, von Weizsacker warned Germans they were harming themselves by violent behavior toward refugees seeking asylum in the country.
The nation’s self-respect is at stake, he declared, urging fellow Germans to demonstrate solidarity with foreigners on their soil.
TENSION NEAR THE POLISH BORDER
A group calling itself Pro-Asylum has criticized the government for failing to prepare the population to receive more refugees and for promising to close its borders.
Meanwhile, hundreds of riot police gathered in Gorlitz, near the Polish border, where a neo-Nazi youth group planned a major demonstration on New Year’s Eve.
The police are allowing that demonstration but, fearing clashes between right- and left-wingers, they have banned a neo-Nazi rally at Landeskrone, a hill on the German-Polish border.
But an extremist group called Deutsches Jugendbildungswerk (Organization for the Promotion of German Youth Activities) has threatened to go to court if its activities are banned.
Meanwhile, an agency that monitors extremist groups estimates there are 500 neo-Nazi Skinheads in Berlin between the ages of 17 and 25.
But neo-Nazi proclivities are not restricted to the young.
The 70-year-old former mayor of Linz, Theo Luck, has been fined 3,000 marks, the equivalent of $1,860, for giving the Nazi salute.
A court in Linz had cleared him on grounds that the incident in 1989 was a one-time gaffe. But a higher court in Koblenz reversed the decision and imposed the fine.