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Israel denies far- right Germans entry on Kristallnacht anniversary

FRANKFURT, Nov. 10 (JTA) – Israel has refused entry to a group of alleged neo-Nazis traveling on a Lufthansa flight. After a forced landing in Istanbul, Turkey, the group of self-described far-right Germans returned to Frankfurt on Tuesday instead of continuing on to Israel. The group’s trip coincided with the 60th anniversary commemorations of Kristallnacht, the night of Nov. 9-10, 1938, when Nazi thugs ransacked Jewish- owned shops and set synagogues ablaze across Germany and Austria. The trip was planned by a group called the German Conservatives, which said it regularly organizes group travel to Israel to visit holy Christian sites. The organization denied it was planning a deliberate provocation during the commemoration and said the dates for the trip were set by a travel agency in Tel Aviv. The tour was headed by retired politician Heinrich Lummer, who in the past has openly courted the far right. During the flight from Frankfurt to Tel Aviv, Israeli officials informed the airline it would probably deny entry to the group. As a result, the plane made an unscheduled landing in Istanbul, where the group disembarked. On Tuesday, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said it had information that the delegation included the leader of the German Conservatives, Joachim Siegerist, who was convicted in 1994 of inciting racial hatred. When Israeli officials heard that he was not on board, they reconsidered the decision to deny entry to the group. By then, it had decided to return to Germany. A Lufthansa spokesman said the plane made the unscheduled landing in Istanbul to avoid creating political tensions between Germany and Israel. The German Foreign Ministry declined comment on the incident.