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Violence erupts in Germany outside controversial exhibit

FRANKFURT, Feb. 1 (JTA) — A World War II exhibit that has been traveling around Germany for the past four years still manages to generate heated debate – – and worse. Violence erupted Saturday when some 1,000 German neo-Nazis clashed with 500 counter-demonstrators outside the exhibit, currently on display in the northern German city of Kiel. The counter-demonstrators, who came from cities as far away as Copenhagen and Berlin, set up barricades to try to block the right-wing demonstration. Police made 52 arrests after violence between the extremists and police escalated. The clashes resulted in considerable property damage, according to police officials. Similar clashes occurred last year, when the exhibit toured Dresden, and when it appeared in Munich in 1997. The city of Kiel tried to prevent Saturday’s demonstration, but lost its appeal in court. A demonstration called by the left-wing Green Party earlier in the day attracted some 1,000 participants and proceeded peacefully. The exhibit, which includes photographs, letters and other documents from the war, focuses on the role that ordinary German soldiers played in the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes. Opponents claim the exhibit brands all veterans of the World War II German army, the Wehrmacht, as criminals instead of honoring the vast majority for serving their country. Supporters say the exhibit explodes the myth that the Nazi SS was solely responsible for the wartime crimes against humanity.