German neo-Nazi party boycotts Holocaust tribute

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder condemned on Monday a far-right party whose members refused to observe a minute’s silence for the victims of the Nazis, marring Auschwitz anniversary commemorations.

“This attitude hurts us and is not the image of Germany we want to project—namely that of a country which has learned from its history and where xenophobia and anti-Semitism do not stand a chance,” he said.

National Democratic Party (NPD) representatives in the eastern state of Saxony created a furore on Friday when they walked out of the assembly in Dresden while members of other parties stayed to pay tribute.

The state Parliament had earlier rejected a motion brought by the NPD asking that the minute’s silence be restricted only to commemorate the victims of the Allied bombing of Dresden in February 1945.

The party described the fire-bombing as a “Holocaust of bombs”.

“It is extremely important to fight these people politically, and clearly demonstrate the dangers they pose for peace here and Germany’s image abroad,” Schröder said at a news conference with Chilean President Ricardo Lagos.

“It is the clear duty of every democrat,” he said.

Earlier, a government spokesperson said that any new attempt by Berlin to try to ban the NPD will have to be “very, very carefully examined”, as legal authorities in Saxony said they will not be taking action.

“After close examination, we see no grounds for prosecution,” Saxony state prosecutor Andreas Feron said.

Germany’s highest court threw out in March 2003 a government and Parliament request to ban the neo-Nazi party for inciting racist violence, after a two-year legal wrangle.

The Constitutional Court’s decision came after it heard that some NPD members who gave evidence were police informers.

The NPD is politically minor in terms of the support it has within Germany, but for the ruling Social Democrats (SPD) it is highly symbolic.

It also shocked the mainstream parties when it won 9,2% of the votes in Saxony in September, winning seats in a German state assembly for the first time since 1968.

The SPD said on Monday that it will try to block an annual NPD rally at Berlin’s landmark Brandenburg Gate on May 8, the day World War II ended in Europe.

The NPD is the smallest and most radical of Germany’s three far-right parties, and the centre-left SPD made banning it a question of principle when it launched its legal action at the beginning of 2001.

Schröder led the charge to have it outlawed following a bomb attack in Düsseldorf, western Germany, in July 2000, in which 10 Russian nationals were injured. The crime was never solved.

The row has come to light on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp in southern Poland by the Red Army on January 27 1945, an indelible historic symbol of Nazi Germany.

“All of us democrats must rise up, and particularly at this moment, because this week the entire world is commemorating the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp,” said the government spokesperson, Hans-Herman Langguth.

About 1,1-million to 1,5-million people are estimated to have been killed at Auschwitz from 1940 to 1945. The majority of them died in the gas chambers.—Sapa-AFP