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Monday, 17 January 2011

German neo-Nazi parties merge amid demonstrations

Berlin Jews joined hundreds of demonstrators to protest a meeting marking the merger of two neo-Nazi parties.

Police estimated fewer than 80 right-wing extremists showed up to the Jan. 15 meeting where the National Democratic Party of Germany and the German People's Party formally announced their merger. Meanwhile, nearly 100 times that number demonstrated in the streets outside the public school where the party meeting was held, in the Berlin district of Lichtenberg.

Berlin's Jewish community and others had criticized the Max-Taut school for allowing the neo-Nazis to meet there. But courts upheld the party's right of assembly. Their right was protected, with about 300 police in the assembly hall. Reportedly, protesters in the hall tried to disrupt the proceedings by clapping at inappropriate moments.

However, the neo-Nazis were obviously not welcomed, either by neighbors or by the school's pupil, Judith Kessler, editor in chief of the Berlin Jewish community's monthly magazine, juedisches berlin, told JTA.

Pupils had put anti-Nazi posters up on the walls of the Max-Taut school, and neighbors had signs in their windows making it clear the ultra-right-wingers were "not wanted here," Kessler said. She said she understood the party had a legal right to meet, but they should have been given "a barn or a field," not a public school, she commented.
She called the turnout "ludicrous."

Both parties blame "foreigners" for Germany's economic and social problems, and relativize the Holocaust, claiming it was not so bad and that the suffering of "Germans" has been ignored. Holocaust denial is illegal in Germany, but both parties come close to that, critics say.

Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit and the newly elected chair of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dieter Graumann, both have called for banning the NPD as a threat to democracy.

Meanwhile, the NPD, with an estimated 7,000 members nationwide and 14 representatives in state-level parliaments, mostly in former East Germany, recently announced it would merge with the smaller DVU to form the "NPD - The People's Union." Their goal was to present a stronger force in local elections, of which there are many in 2011.

"The opposition finds this OK," Kessler said, "because it is easier tofight against only one party."