BERLIN, Oct. 4 (JTA) — For years, observers of the German far-right have documented links between Islamic extremists and German neo-Nazis.
This week, German neo-Nazis made their sympathies clear when they celebrated the Sept. 11 terror attacks against the United States during a demonstration here marking the 11th anniversary of the unification of the former East and West Germany.
In banners and speeches Wednesday, members of the extreme right-wing National Democratic Party called the attacks against the World Trade Center and Pentagon a justified response to American policies, and they protested Germany’s support for a war on terrorism.
Meanwhile, German government leaders toned down the usual festivities marking the anniversary of unification. Instead, they spoke about the need to safeguard freedom and democracy.
During official ceremonies in the city of Mainz, the president of the German Parliament, Wolfgang Thierse, said the “horrific events” of Sept. 11 made it clear that peace and freedom are endangered.
In Berlin, the approximately 1,000 neo-Nazis were countered by an equal number of left-wing protesters who blocked the planned parade route.
Police rerouted the neo-Nazi march to side streets in order to prevent clashes. More than 4,000 police were on duty. No major problems were reported.
During the march, National Democratic Party leader Steffen Hupka called the Sept. 11th attacks a form of resistance to American imperialism and he called for “the death of the United States as a world power.”
A Berlin court had banned the former left-wing terrorist Horst Mahler, now a leader of the far-right group, from speaking at the neo-Nazi rally because of comments he made on the group’s Web site calling the terror attacks “effective” and “justified.”
To protest the neo-Nazis, many shops and theaters lining the parade route along Berlin’s Kurfurstendamm rolled down their shutters and draped their signboards with black.
A shoe store had a sign in its windows reading, “Anyone may enter, if they stand up as we do for the basic values of our society: democracy, tolerance and cultural pluralism. To all those who tread on these values, we will show the cold shoulder.”
The largest group of counter demonstrators gathered under the nonpartisan umbrella of “Europe Against Racism.”
At that rally, Michel Friedman, vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, urged that the National Democratic Party be banned.
In fact, the federal government is considering the legality of banning the party on the grounds that it promotes violence and is undemocratic.
According to German officials, the party has about 6,000 members nationwide. The party recruits its members from skinhead groups around Germany.
None of the extreme-right parties have had any significant political successes in recent years, with the exception of the German People’s Union, which won nearly 13 percent in state elections in Saxony-Anhalt more than three years ago.