Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

German Crackdown Signals Commitment to End Violence

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

German Crackdown Signals Commitment to End Violence

Article excerpt

THE Germans are tightening the screws on right-wing extremists, albeit belatedly.

Yesterday, the Interior Ministry banned the neo-Nazi group German Alternative, freezing assets and searching apartments. With membership of about 300, it was the second neo-Nazi organization in two weeks to be banned. On Nov. 27, the government outlawed the Nationalistic Front, confiscating weapons, explosives, and propaganda.

Yesterday's ban was announced by Interior Minister Rudolf Seiters during a parliamentary debate on right-wing extremism in Germany. The debate was used as a forum to show broad political commitment to stamp out neo-Nazism here.

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl began the debate by calling on all Germans to fight growing right-wing extremism. He strongly condemned xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Germany and said that extremist violence would be met with the full force of the law. "There is no justification for violence," he said.

The statement was welcomed, but "if Kohl's statement had taken place two weeks sooner, it wouldn't have been a mistake," said Werner Hoyer, a Bundestag member of the Free Democrats, Kohl's coalition partners.

Ignatz Bubis, chairman of the German Jewish Council, said Wednesday he thought the government had finally woken up to the seriousness of right-wing extremism, but also criticized it for its "late" response.

In recent weeks the government has announced a special commission and special police units to counter right-wing extremism.

On Wednesday, the government said it was petitioning the country's highest court to deprive two rightist extremists, Heinz Reisz and Thomas Dienel, of their rights to express their views, vote, or engage in politics.

On Wednesday Mr. Dienel, a neo-Nazi, was convicted in the east German city of Rudolstadt and sentenced to two years, eight months in prison for violating Germany's anti-Nazi laws. It was considered an unusually harsh sentence.

In July, Dienel left pigs' heads and insulting notes in a Jewish synagogue in the eastern city of Erfurt. He was convicted for delivering a speech to extremists in which he said that "unfortunately" young Germans have "not yet killed any Jews. …

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