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The BBC's Peter Morgan in Berlin
"62 years ago tonight the Nazis embarked upon an orgy of violence against the Jews."
 real 56k

The BBC's Rob Broomby in Berlin
"The crowd heard President Johannes Rau declare Germany a land of tolerance and freedom"
 real 28k

Daniel Barenboim, celebration conductor
"9 November is a symbol of all that is best and worst in German history"
 real 28k

Friday, 10 November, 2000, 05:04 GMT
German far-right ban tops agenda
Berliners remember slain Jews
The march coincided with an anniversary of Nazi violence against Jews
The upper house of the German parliament meets on Friday to debate a government move to ban the extreme right-wing party, the NPD.

The government holds the NPD responsible for inciting attacks against foreigners which have left six people dead this year.

More than 200,000 people - twice as many as organisers had expected - rallied in Berlin on Thursday to protest against racism.

Leading politicians, including Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and President Johannes Rau, joined Jewish leaders, opposition figures and celebrities such as tennis star Steffi Graf for the march, which the Chancellor called a "revolt of the decent".

anti-fascists
More than twice as many as expected turned out
The issue of racism and anti-Semitism has risen to the top of Germany's political agenda after a series of violent attacks on foreigners and synagogues.

President Rau told the assembled crowd that Germany was "a nation of tolerance and freedom" that would not tolerate barbarism and violence.

Mr Schroeder laid a wreath at a synagogue and the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, was sung.

The demonstration culminated in a performance of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony conducted by Jewish conductor Daniel Barenboim.

Symbolic date

The date of Thursday's demonstration had historic significance.

Sixty-two years ago on that date, the Nazis unleashed Kristallnacht, a night of violence in which synagogues and Jewish shops and homes were destroyed and thousands rounded up for deportation to concentration camps.

The same date, 9 November, marks the anniversaries of the establishment of German democracy, Hitler's first attempt to gain power and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Summer violence

Though today's far rightists are much fewer in number than in the 1930s, their opponents are anxious to demonstrate that the vast majority of Germans abhor racist violence.

The demonstration followed a decision by the German cabinet to press ahead with a ban on the far-right wing party which it holds responsible for the attacks.
Gerhard Schroder
Schroeder's government is trying to ban the NPD

The government backed the move against the National Democratic Party (NPD) because of the increased public focus in recent months on the far right.

Germany is acutely sensitive to racist and anti-Semitic violence as a result of its Nazi past.

Tiny movement

The NPD, which favours policies benefiting ethnic Germans and an end to new immigration, is a tiny fringe movement on the political scene with just 6,000 members.

It has become associated in recent years with young skinheads.

To make the ban effective, the government needs to demonstrate to the constitutional court that the NPD poses a threat to democracy in Germany.

It is important to show in Germany and to those abroad that we will not tolerate such a force

Otto Schily

Interior Minister Otto Schily believes he has that proof. He said the NPD "clearly sought in words, colours and programme to resemble" the Nazis.

Accusing the party of inciting racial violence, Mr Schily said it was impossible to tolerate organised anti-Semitism in a land where there had been gas chambers for the murder of millions of Jews.

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See also:

09 Nov 00 | Europe
In pictures: German rally
14 Sep 00 | Europe
Germany bans neo-Nazi group
12 Aug 00 | Europe
German alert over Nazi marches
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