Counter-protesters gear up ahead of Berlin neo-Nazi rally


By dpa | Berlin

Thousands of counter-demonstrators are expected to gather in the German capital on Saturday to protest a neo-Nazi rally called to mark the 30th anniversary of the suicide in a Berlin prison of Hitler’s former deputy. About 500 neo-Nazis are expected to turn up for the rally in Berlin’s Spandau district and police fear clashes.

However, in line with German law, the neo-Nazis attending Saturday’s rally are not permitted to glorify Rudolf Hess in word or image. Leftist extremist groups have said they plan to “use all means” to block the march in memory of Hess, who was held in prison after making a dramatic solo flight in 1941 from Nazi Germany to Scotland with the aim of ending World War II. Hess was in prison in Berlin-Spandau and took his own life in August 1987 at the age of 93.

Attempts by German politicians to have the right-wing rally banned were unsuccessful, and a spokeswoman for Berlin’s local governing authority stressed the fundamental importance of freedom of assembly. The authorities have issued permits for at least four counter-demonstrations which have the support of the centre-left Social Democrats, the environmentalist Greens and the hard-left Die Linke, as well as trade unions and anti-fascist groups.


Kai Wegner, the local parliamentarian for Spandau, warned about the risk of street battles between neo-Nazis and left-wing extremists, saying “Spandau must not be a second Hamburg,” referring to the violence that swept the northern port city during last month’s Group of 20 summit.

Hess is idolized by many in the German neo-Nazi scene for remaining faithful to the original National Socialist ideals of the 1920s and early 1930s. These ideals paved the way for the Hitler regime that ruled Germany from 1933 before its collapse in 1945 as the allied forces closed in on Berlin. After his flight to Scotland to negotiate with the allies to end the war, Hess was taken prisoner before his eventual conviction for war crimes. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in the allies’ former wartime prison.

The prison that was Hess’ home for 30 years has also been demolished out of fear that it could become a shrine to him. Hess’ body was eventually interned and cremated after his original grave at the family plot in Bavaria become the focus of regular pilgrimages by neo-Nazis.


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