Berlin marks WWII end, NPD march cancelled
9 May 2005, BERLIN - Berlin marked the 60th anniversary of the Nazi capitulation peacefully, with a planned neo-Nazi march being called off due to fears of violence.
9 May 2005
BERLIN - Berlin marked the 60th anniversary of the Nazi capitulation peacefully, with a planned neo-Nazi march being called off due to fears of violence.
Anti-Nazi rallies in the German capital on Sunday vastly outnumbered a demonstration by right-wing extremists which was barred from marching in downtown Berlin due to fears of violent clashes.
Police said 3,300 neo-Nazis - fewer than expected - took part in a protest near Alexanderplatz in the city centre.
The rightists were outnumbered by an earlier anti-Nazi march as part of ceremonies marking the Third Reich's capitulation 60 years ago in Berlin.
"We cannot have Nazis marching through the city on this day," said Alexander Lux, aged 17, who joined the anti-rightist demonstration which police said drew about 6,500 participants. Organisers said 15,000 took part.
This followed the 25,000 people who made a 33-km long candlelit 'Lichterkette' (chain of lights) through Berlin on Saturday night and thousands more who turned out for ceremonies at the Brandenburg Gate on Sunday despite a mixture of rain, hail and sunshine.
A police spokesman said that by early evening there had been no serious problems but that more than 40 people had been arrested.
Berlin's World War Two commemorations took place amid a major security operation with over 8,000 police in riot gear backed up by water cannons and armoured cars.
In an address to parliament, President Horst Koehler said that Germany stood to its past and could never draw a line under the Holocaust and other crimes of Adolf Hitler's regime.
"We have the responsibility to keep awake the memory of this suffering and its causes and we must ensure it never happens again," he told a special session in the Reichstag building.
President Koehler said Germans looked back on the Third Reich with "horror and shame" and on the Holocaust as a complete "break with civilization."
But Germany, he stressed, had been transformed in the 60 years since its defeat.
"Germany is a stable democracy ... and more open to the world than ever before," said Koehler, a former International Monetary Fund chief who serves as Berlin's mainly ceremonial head of state.
Koehler dismissed the country's small but growing neo-Nazi movement.
"They don't have a chance because the overwhelming majority of citizens are responsible and politically mature - this is what our fortified democracy stands for," he said.
Germany, with about 82 million people, has just over 40,000 active neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists, according to the country's domestic security agency.
Sunday's neo-Nazi protest was called by the anti-foreigner National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) under the slogan 'End the Cult of Guilt - 60 Years of Liberation Lies.'
"8 May 1945 is not a day to celebrate - it's the greatest catastrophe of the German nation," said Holger Apfel, an NPD member of Saxony's state parliament in which the rightists won seats last year.
But NPD hopes of making a big splash in Berlin fizzled after just over half the number of rightists turned up in the German capital as took part in a rally in Dresden last February to mark the 1945 firebombing of the city by Allied aircraft at the end of the war.
Dresden, where well over 5,000 neo-Nazis were allowed to march, was the biggest far-right protest seen in Germany since the 1950s.
Berlin police surrounded the rightists at their rally and then refused to let them go ahead with their march for several hours. Furious NPD leaders finally gave in and called off the demonstration.
The neo-Nazis, flying iron cross flags and banners bearing the black, red and white colours of old imperial and Nazi Germany, were herded by police to the Alexanderplatz train station and all but told to get aboard trains and leave the city.
Subject: German news