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Germany fights extremism

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BERLIN, Oct. 24 (JTA) — Jewish leaders are welcoming announcements that Germany will continue to finance programs aimed at combating right-wing extremism. The decision to provide an additional $6.3 million, announced last Friday by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, “does not solve the problems of right-wing extremism in Germany,” said Salomon Korn, a vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. “But the successful and important work of, for example, mobile advisory teams and victims counseling, will now continue.” The government’s decision sent a “clear signal” that “democratic parties recognize the seriousness of the situation,” Korn said. According to new crime statistics, 8,000 right-wing hate crimes were reported in the first eight months of 2006, up from 6,605 for the same period in 2005. There were 452 violent anti-Semitic crimes reported in this period, up from 363 for the same period in 2005. Several recent incidents have drawn particular attention, including the burning of copies of Anne Frank’s diary by neo-Nazis earlier this year. In another case, teens in the town of Parey in the former East German state of Saxony-Anhalt recently forced a schoolmate to wear a sign saying, “I am the biggest pig of all because I hang around with Jews.” Police reportedly have identified three suspects. In late September, a Maccabi soccer team recently left the field after fans of the opposing German team, Altglienicke, threatened the Jewish athletes. Anti-Semitic slogans are typical in some of Germany’s lower soccer leagues. Perhaps most ominously, right-wing extremist parties won just enough votes in September elections to qualify for seats in the state Parliament of Mecklenburg West-Pomerania, making it the fourth state in the country with far-right parties in the legislature. According to Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, of some 40,000 members of neo-Nazi groups here, about 10,000 are considered violent. Charlotte Knobloch, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said that “the aggressiveness we’re experiencing is reminiscent of 1933,” the year that Hitler came to power and began enacting anti-Jewish measures. Korn didn’t go as far, but he did call recent election gains by right-wing parties a “warning signal. The Weimar Republic did not fail because of too many Nazis, but because of too few committed Democrats,” he said. Meanwhile, Germany’s Interior Ministry agreed in Oct. 19 meetings with the Anti-Defamation League to consider cooperation on training programs for law enforcement and nongovernmental organizations. Further meetings are planned, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman told JTA in Berlin. The ADL recently signed a two-year contract with the Austrian administration to provide a similar program there, Foxman said.

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