Jewish leaders protest “unbearable” Berlin march plans

November 30, 2001


Jewish leaders protest 'unbearable' Berlin march plans
Associated Press
November 30, 2001

Jewish leaders yesterday urged Berlin authorities to thwart "unbearable" plans for thousands of right-wing extremists to march through the capital's former Jewish quarter this weekend.

A far-right political party has permission for some 4,000 marchers to protest an exhibition on Nazi-era crimes by the German army described as the biggest extreme-right rally in Berlin since the end of World War II.

The organizers want to march past an art gallery where the exhibit, which they denounce as "anti-German," opened Wednesday. But the route takes them close to the restored synagogue in the heart of the former Jewish district.

"It's an unbearable thought that, on the Sabbath of all days, right-wing extremists could march through this Jewish-influence area," Michel Friedman, the deputy leader of Germany's Jewish community, told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

He called for tomorrow's march to be rerouted.

Letting the far-right protest go ahead would be "ill-advised," Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles said in a letter to the German ambassador in Washington released yesterday.

Berlin's interior ministry insists it cannot prevent the march and has not imposed an alternative route, though it has insisted that the far-right protesters not carry flags or drums and has banned three planned speakers from addressing the rally.

Mainstream political parties, churches and labor unions have announced counter-demonstrations, and militant left-wing groups are also calling for a big turnout to block the march.

Police plan to deploy about 3,500 officers to protect the demonstrators and prevent the violent clashes between anarchists and neo-Nazis that regularly accompany demonstrations by Germany's resurgent far-right scene.

The exhibition showing how regular German troops not just the Nazi SS or special commandos were involved in wartime atrocities against Jews, civilians and prisoners of war reopened this week after a two-year pause.


(Note by TG - This was a follow-up article sent out on the email list two days later)


Thousands of neo-Nazis protest war crimes exhibit in Berlin
By Geir Moulson,
The Associated Press
December 2, 2001

More than 3,000 neo-Nazis marched through central Berlin Saturday to protest an exhibition on Nazi-era crimes committed by the German army, but police kept them well away from the capital's former Jewish quarter after the proposed route drew outraged objections from the German government and Jewish groups at home and abroad.

Ahead of one of the biggest far-right marches in Berlin since World War II - police estimated 3,300 people participated stone-throwing counter-demonstrators who tried to put up barricades clashed with police nearby.

Police responded with water cannons and tear gas, and said some 30 people were detained and eight officers slightly injured.

Brandishing banners including "My grandfather was no criminal," the neo-Nazis chanted slogans such as "German soldiers heroic deeds" and "Glory and honor to German soldiers" as they marched from Berlin's Friedrichstrasse station.

But police with riot shields and armored cars blocked off streets leading to the former Jewish quarter, where the gallery hosting the army exhibition is situated a block away from Berlin's restored synagogue. Several downtown streets were closed.

The prospect of a march through that area on the Sabbath outraged Jewish groups. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, in a statement issued in Los Angeles, called it "intolerable."

"Far-right extremists marching past monuments or in centers of Jewish life is a provocation of outrageous proportions," Germany's main Jewish leader, Paul Spiegel, wrote in the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper. The German government condemned the plan and backed peaceful protests.

The march was organized by the National Democratic Party, which the government has asked the country's highest court to ban, blaming it for encouraging a big increase last year in hate crimes.

City authorities insisted they couldn't ban the march outright. While demonstrations can be banned over fears of potential violence, the National Democratic Party has kept protests orderly with skinheads listening to rhetoric that skirts a fine line avoiding openly pro-Nazi epithets that are banned in Germany. Saturday's march ended without incidents, police said.

Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit pointedly visited the army exhibition during the march, and organizers said severa thousand people followed suit.

"It's outrageous for neo-Nazis to demonstrate here," Wowereit said. But, he stressed, "we must make our point peacefully."

"They should have a look at the exhibit," added gallery director Klaus Biesenbach. "I don't think any of them have been here. They don't even know what it's about."

About 4,000 police officers were in place to prevent violent clashes between anarchists and neo-Nazis that regularly accompany far-right demonstrations.

Some 1,500 people, carrying placards such as "No tolerance for Nazis," earlier gathered for a counter-demonstration organized by left-wing groups to protest the march.

That ended with police forcibly dispersing demonstrators who had tried to break through police lines, spokesman Uwe Kozelnik said, adding that "people were throwing stones and police were attacked." Three police cars were overturned and some shop windows broken.

The exhibition showing how regular German troops not just the Nazi SS or special commandos were involved in wartime atrocities against Jews, civilians and prisoners of war has been reopened after a two-year pause.

Historians complained that the original was inaccurate and superficial, though they supported its premise. The exhibit has been extensively overhauled.

Waiting outside, Berlin resident Ernst Sachse, 43, said he and his wife had made a point of visiting during Saturday's protest because "it's important that others turn out and show that, thank God, they're just a minority."

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.