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Big crowd commemorates death of Nazi pilot

MUNICH, West Germany -- Some 2,000 people showed up Sunday to commemorate the death of Nazi Germany's most successful Stuka bomber pilot, Hans-Ulrich Rudel.

The meeting, organized by the extreme right-wing German People's Union in a beer hall, drew supporters from all over Germany and Austria, police said.

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Rudel, who died Dec. 18 at the age of 66, was the most highly decorated Nazi bomber pilot. He was credited with knocking out 519 Soviet tanks, three warships and some 70 landing craft.

After the war he became notorious for his right-wing views and support of Adolf Hitler and his funeral was marked by mourners singing all three verses of the national song 'Deutschland, Deutschland ueber alles,' with some raising their arms in the Nazi salute.

A major controversy developed after reports that pilots of the West German air force disobeyed instructions and flew low over the grave in Rudel's honor. The reports are disputed by the Defense Ministry.

Those addressing Sunday's commemorative gathering included Gerhard Frey, the editor of the right-wing 'National Newspaper,' and British historian David Irving who paid tribute to Rudel's military achievements.

Police, posted in force to watch the proceedings, said the meeting passed without incident.

The German People's Union, which is not a political party though it is ideologically related to Hitler's Nazis, seeks to defend the Nazi era and denies that the Nazis committed any major crimes, Bavarian officials said.

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