BONN (Dec. 6)
The German government pledged better national coordination in fighting the spread of neo-Nazi violence as police in Bavaria prevented a right-wing extremist rally.
The government over the weekend promised better intelligence gathering on neo- Nazi groups and enhanced exchanges of information about them with Germany’s federal states.
The efforts will be coordinated at the ministerial level by Friedrich Bohl, an official in the chancellory of Helmut Kohl.
Government spokesman Dieter Vogel said Bonn also will undertake education efforts to combat political violence.
Vogel spoke Saturday as large police contingents confiscated banners with neo- Nazi symbols and blocked major roads to Passau to prevent a neo-Nazi march in the Bavarian town.
The turbulence generated by a mounting wave of extremism was reflected in Berlin, where several people were injured in a march against neo-Nazism that turned violent. Demonstrators attacked the police, saying they protect neo-Nazi vandals.
Thousands of Turks marched Saturday in Bonn and Berlin to protest neo-Nazi violence, which last month resulted in the deaths of three ethnic Turks in an arson attack. They laid a wreath to victims of neo-Nazism outside the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of internal security.
In Munich, more than 300,000 Germans held a street vigil Sunday to protest against attacks on foreigners by right-wing gangs.
Police said they will ban planned demonstrations by neo-Nazi groups Jan. 31 and Feb. 27 in Berlin to mark the anniversaries of Hitler’s seizure of power and the Nazi burning of the Reichstag, respectively.
High-level concern was expressed last week over the ramifications of months of racist violence by extremist gangs against foreigners and Jewish memorials.
President Richard von Weizsacker said he had twice telephoned Israeli President Chaim Herzog to express dismay over the ongoing wave of neo-Nazi violence.
He told Israeli journalists in Frankfurt that Germany would protect Jewish life in the country and safeguard non-Germans living in the country.
“Jews in Germany have nothing to fear,” said the president. “The huge majority of Germans and, of course, the government at all levels, share their concerns and support effective action to put an end to racist and anti-Semitic violence.”
The president spoke after addressing a ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the central office of the Jewish community.
Chancellor Kohl told diplomatic heads of missions in Bonn he is ashamed of the attacks against foreigners and said his government would make every effort to put an end to the violence.
In Berlin, meanwhile, a nephew of John F. Kennedy paraphrased a famous remark by his uncle to indicate the late president would today express support for foreigners in Germany.
Visiting Berlin last week on a fact-finding mission to Germany for U.S. President-elect Bill Clinton, Rep. Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.) said his uncle would today say “I am a foreigner” in contrast to his 1963 reassurance to Berliners during the Cold War, “Ich bin ein Berliner.”
Kennedy laid a wreath at the site of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, which neo-Nazis torched recently. He said, “We will never, never forget.”