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Rupert Scholz, an opposition CDU MP
"They are a lot of very young people involved"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 21 February, 2001, 12:03 GMT
Germany sets up neo-Nazi hotline
anti-nazi rally in Hamburg
People protest in Hamburg at the rise of the right
Germany's Interior Minister Otto Schily has announced plans to help young people quit neo-Nazi and far-right groups.

The programme includes a telephone hotline, help finding work and housing and financial support.

"The point is to weaken and destabilise the far-right scene," said Mr Schily.

NPD demonstration
The constitutional court is considering a ban on the NPD
But critics say the programme is naive and doubt that there will be much take-up.

The initiative is two-pronged, targeting leading figures in the far-right scene and young people who get caught up in it against their will.

An existing witness protection programme is to be stepped up and, in extreme cases, repentant neo-Nazis would be offered new identities to prevent recriminations.

Subsidising the far-right

But Mr Schily rejected reports that security officials would be allowed to spend up to 100,000DM ($50,000) per neo-Nazi to encourage them to leave far-right groups.

The head of Germany's Jewish community, Paul Spiegel, spoke up in support of the scheme.

"If it succeeds in turning young people away from extreme right-wing and anti-Semitic thinking in time, it must be supported," he told the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper.

But the opposition spokesman on home affairs, Erwin Marschewski, remained sceptical.

"The possibility cannot be dismissed that financial help for leaving the far right scene may also make joining it more attractive," he said.

Earlier this month, Mr Schily announced a steep rise in the number of racially-motivated attacks reported as well as an increase in racist attitudes amongst young people.

The government is considering a number of measures to stem the rise of the far right including a ban on the extremist NPD party, currently under consideration in the constitutional court.

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See also:

08 Feb 01 | Europe
German racist attacks soar
10 Nov 00 | Europe
German Senate backs neo-Nazi ban
03 Sep 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Race hate in Germany
30 Aug 00 | Europe
German racist killers jailed
07 Aug 00 | Europe
Germany agonises over neo-Nazis
30 Jul 00 | Media reports
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