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Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Move to revoke licence of neo-Nazi chimney sweep (Germany)

As a chimney sweep and part-time soccer coach, Lutz Battke is a familiar face in the eastern German town of Laucha, near Erfurt.

The 52-year-old is a town councillor for the neo-Nazi NPD party and is under investigation after a 17-year-old Israeli player on his soccer team was beaten last April by a young man, allegedly a fellow team member, shouting “Judenschwein” (Jewish pig).

Because the football club, BSC 99, has declined to dismiss him, state authorities are determined to revoke his chimney sweep licence.

Extremism experts as well as some locals have expressed concern about whether Mr Battke, one of two NPD councillors, is well placed as coach to recruit new members. “Sports clubs are like an extension of home for young people,” said Gisela Goblirsch, who owns a youth club in Laucha. “The man doesn’t just switch off his own views and attitudes.”

With 13.5 per cent support in Laucha, the NPD polled its highest state-wide result here in local elections. The town is in the state of Saxony Anhalt which, surveys show, has one of Germany’s highest concentration of neo-Nazis. The April attack has made authorities in Saxony-Anhalt step up a two-year campaign against Mr Battke. Attempts to have him banned from working as a chimney sweep have so far failed, after several courts ruled that Mr Battke fulfilled his job obligations adequately.

After their latest court defeat yesterday, state economics minister Reiner Haseloff said the state would appeal once more.

“As a chimney sweep, the man has permission to enter apartments, with police help,” said Mr Haseloff. “Apartments in which perhaps migrants live. That’s something that would make me feel threatened.”

Over at BSC 99, team president Steffen Reisbach has said his hands are tied. Sport regulations stipulate he can dismiss his trainer only if, for instance, allegations of sexual abuse were made. “If we got rid of the Nazis in the football clubs here in the region,” he told a local paper, “many would just close down.”

Irish Times