Neo-Nazis March in Berlin

Berlin police clashed with protestors who were trying to stop a neo-Nazi march in the German city on Saturday.

Hana Levi Julian,

Neo-Nazis salute (archive)
Neo-Nazis salute (archive)
Israel News Photo: (archive)

Some 600 neo-Nazis were protected from hundreds of angry protesters Saturday by 1,600 police officers as they marched through the streets of Lichtenberg borough in eastern Berlin. The right-wing extremists were demonstrating over their demand to set up a “nationalist” youth center.

Under the German Constitution, both the neo-Nazis and the protesters had the legal right to demonstrate.

Police attempted to minimize conflict by scheduling the two demonstrations for different times and in different places, and deployed the troops to enforce the separate routes. But the protesters managed to make their way toward the neo-Nazi group anyway.

Some 40 protesters were arrested in the ensuing melee and demonstrators on both sides were wounded, as was a police officer.

Among the protesters were several who carried Israeli flags. “I am holding a flag because I am ashamed that Jews in Germany today still fear neo-Nazi violence,” declared one person, who requested anonymity.

Water cannons mounted on special police trucks were turned on the protesters after a number of warnings failed to persuade them to move from their positions as they sat on the road attempting to block the march.

Police also used violence to stop the protests, which became violent as demonstrators hurled rocks at the marchers. The neo-Nazis responded by throwing beer bottles back at the protesters, said eyewitnesses quoted by the DPA news agency.

Public display of Nazi symbols is illegal in Germany, other than for limited use in art and education.

Exactly one year ago this week, the deputy chairwoman of the German Left party Die Linke filed a criminal complaint over the presence and frequency of use of Nazi symbols in Wikipedia.

Katina Schubert was subsequently pressured into withdrawing the complaint and issued an apology to the worldwide online encyclopedia, but expressed a concern about easy access to Nazi images on the internet.

The European Jewish Congress expressed concern last month about the growth of the neo-Nazi movement on the continent.

There are more neo-Nazis than there are Jews in Europe, creating a situation "worse than it was 60 years ago,"  European Jewish Congress president Moshe Cantor warned European leaders at a mid-November news conference in Brussels. "We feel worse than after World War II," Kantor said.

Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme said, "We must be wakeful for a new anti-Semitism sometimes too easy trivilialized, and for a new anti-Zionism that is a hidden anti-Semitism that in reality has not accepted the existence of the state of Israel even 60 years after its foundation."