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The BBC's Sue Lloyd Roberts
"They say their support is growing"
 real 56k

Monday, 30 April, 2001, 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK
Neo-Nazis on the rise in Germany
Neo-Nazi demonstrators
Germany has seen a rise in racism in recent years
By Sue Lloyd-Roberts in Ludwigslust, eastern Germany

There is increasing concern in Germany at the rise of support for extreme right-wing groups, especially among east German youth.

Figures just published show that racist crimes, including attacks on foreigners, have increased by more than 50% from 10,000 in 1999 to 16,000 last year.


The marches are really upsetting, especially for the older generation

Juergen Zimmermann, Mayor of Ludwigslust

On the weekend of 20 April, the anniversary of Hitler's birthday, neo-Nazis marched past the 18th century castle of Ludwigslust demanding "truth and democracy".

This means the right to proclaim openly their xenophobic and anti-Semitic sentiments. forbidden by laws introduced in Germany after the war.

Meanwhile, they settle for calling for national solidarity, a halt to immigration and for houses and jobs to be reserved for Germans alone.

Powerless

So long as they keep within legal limits, there is nothing to stop these marches - and they are taking place with increasing frequency and hostility.

A march is planned in Berlin on 1 May, and the anniversary of the liberation of Berlin on 2 May - which right-wing groups remember as a disaster for Germany - is another date they like to mark.

Neo-Nazi
The militaristic style is frightening, especially to older Germans
Meanwhile, the mainstream parties get on with the business of preparing for next month's local elections.

Mayor Juergen Zimmermann says he hates the neo-Nazis, but can not stop them.

"The marches are really upsetting, especially for the older generation", he says. "The demonstrators' military appearance makes people afraid."

Mr Zimmermann says the town has failed twice to have the marches banned.

When the allies liberated the nearby concentration camp 50 years ago, the townspeople were forced to watch as 200 of its victims were buried in Ludwigslust's central park.

The neo-Nazis say Germans should commemorate their heroic soldiers and not the Jews.

The government is increasingly alarmed and is asking ordinary Germans to take a stand.

Young minds

Eisenhuttenstadt is a typical East German industrial town and with its high unemployment, foreigners are not popular.


The right has great appeal for the young because it looks rebellious and exciting, and children often don't realise what it's about

Lise Ebert, social worker
Among the young, right-wing extremism has become part of the mainstream culture.

Children as young as 13 are expected to decide whether they are going to follow the right or the left.

Sometimes, from first appearances, it is hard to tell. But one young man, Joern Kohl, wears his anti-Nazi insignia with pride.

He estimates that about 40% of the young people in the town share the sympathies of the far-right.

Social worker Lise Ebert says young people are warned that Nazi behaviour can result in criminal prosecution, but often the messages come too late.

"The right has great appeal for the young because it looks rebellious and exciting and children often don't realise what it's about", she says. "It is our responsibility to tell them about the dangers."

Culture of racism

At the one industry left in town - the giant Eko Steel works - they know that they have to stamp out the culture of racism if they are to survive.

Anti-Nazi logo
Anti-Nazis are fighting a rising tide of racism
They have been taken over by a French company and as a multi-national can not afford xenophobic sentiment in the plant.

They have a policy of not employing skinheads or those with avowed extreme right-wing views, and between shifts staff have lessons in democracy and history.

One trainee says: "We're taught what happened in the past and to appreciate the damage that violent views can do to everyone involved.

"If we say 'foreigners out', how can we deal with our partners? This is what is important for Germany."

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See also:

21 Feb 01 | Europe
Germany sets up neo-Nazi hotline
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
Germany agonises over bomb attack
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