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Neo-Nazi attack shocks Germany

By STEFAN NICOLA, UPI Germany Correspondent   |   Dec. 23, 2008 at 2:45 PM   |   Comments

BERLIN, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- German police are hunting a suspected neo-Nazi who tried to murder a police officer committed to fighting the far-right scene.

Over Christmas, at least, Alois Mannichl will be at home with his family. The police chief from Passau, in Bavaria, left the hospital Friday after recovering from near-fatal stab wounds.

On Dec. 13 a shaven-headed tattooed man knifed Mannichl on his doorstep; the 52-year-old survived after emergency surgery.

Mannichl, who is known in traditionally conservative Bavaria for his committed stance against the neo-Nazi scene, said the man who stabbed him yelled racist abuse.

The case has unsettled Germany, a country that continues to battle with the leftovers from its Nazi past.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the attack was directed at the entire country.

"If right-wing extremists attack a representative of our state but also other people, then this is an attack on all of us," Merkel told a local newspaper. The chancellor added that the neo-Nazi threat needs to be taken seriously and vowed that she would push for a committed fight against the far-right scene all over the country.

Mannichl has already done so. He personally intervened when neo-Nazis staged illegal demonstrations and has acted tough on discrimination and other far-right abuses. The neo-Nazi scene has long seen in him the archenemy provoking their movement.

This summer Mannichl ordered to open the grave of Friedhelm Busse, a notorious SS soldier idolized by neo-Nazis, because one man placed a flag with a swastika (an illegal symbol in Germany) on top of the coffin. Observers say this prompted the attack on Mannichl.

Police have arrested four suspects but released them all because of a lack of evidence. Police are basing their search on Mannichl's remarks, who said the main suspect has a large snake tattoo behind his ear.

The main far-right party in Germany, the NPD, has not officially "endorsed" the attack, but observers know very well that Mannichl has long been a thorn in the side of NPD party leaders.

The case has revived calls to ban the far-right NPD, which openly campaigns on an anti-foreigner platform and is the party of choice for Germany's neo-Nazis.

Horst Seehofer, Bavaria's state premier, has vowed to raise the issue with the upper house of Parliament to explore a possible ban because of anti-constitutional activities.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he supported such a move.

"The events in Passau provide new reasons for a ban," he said.

The former government also tried banning the NPD and failed. Germany's Supreme Court in Karlsruhe 2003 threw out the case, arguing that police informers who had infiltrated the party possibly tainted testimony against the NPD.

German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said the government needs to be sure about its case this time.

"We cannot apply for a ban of the NPD unless we are absolutely sure we can win one," he told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. "We would do our goal of defending our open society against its enemies a great service if we were to fail in Karlsruhe again."

On Friday, when Mannichl left the hospital, he looked thin and pale, but his message was nevertheless strong. "We will not waver in our fight against right-wing extremism," he said.

On Monday, despite rain and temperatures only slightly above freezing, nearly 700 people took to the streets in Mannichl's small hometown of Fuerstenzell, marching against neo-Nazism and for their police chief.

© 2008 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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