Merkel calls for 'more courage' in fight against German extremism

Aug. 20, 2013 at 12:02 AM
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BERLIN, Aug. 20 (UPI) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel, running for re-election, last weekend called for "more courage" in the fight against right-wing and neo-Nazi extremism.

Speaking Saturday in her weekly video podcast, Merkel said bigotry and hatred cannot be tolerated in free societies, which are "always threatened" by anti-Semitism and racism.

"We must never accept that such ideas have a place in our democratic Europe," she said.

The German people today live in a democracy, but, she warned, "we also know that this democracy is always at risk" from the current strain of right-wing extremism present in the country, such as those who deny the World War II Holocaust.

Therefore, Merkel said, the fight against the right requires courage from all citizens, whom she urged to make certain in their everyday lives that "falsification of history has no place and that false slogans have no place" in political discussions, so that they have "no chance" of spreading.

The German leader said she would visit the site of the Dachau concentration camp Tuesday with a sense of "shame and dismay," because "what was happening in the concentration camps themselves is and remains incomprehensible."

The fact that Jewish institutions need to be guarded by police in Germany today is "shameful," she added, but said there was a "common European consensus" to battle "very intense right-wing extremist tendencies" in member states.

Merkel's call for vigilance against extremism came less than a week after she officially launched the final leg of her campaign for a third term as chancellor, with elections set for Sept. 22.

Polls show her with wide a popularity advantage, but her opponents, including the Green and Social Democratic parties, have hit her with charges of hypocrisy on the topic right-wing extremism.

While inveighing against anti-Semitism, Merkel's actions in funding efforts to fight extremism have been lacking, Green Party member of Parliament and Bundestag vice president Katrin Goring-Eckardt told the German weekly Die Zeit.

She accused the chancellor of "years of inaction in the fight against right" and demanded, among other things, that the federal government must do more to promote democracy.

The commitment, Goring-Eckardt said, is "an ongoing task and must have a solid future financial basis," promising that a Green-SPD government would provide $67 million for the promotion of democracy and the fight against right-wing and other forms of group-focused hatred.

Even as Merkel released her podcast, Germany saw at least two weekend incidences of right-wing activity.

In the northern city of Schwerin, two unknown assailants Saturday attacked a man who was born in Afghanistan, inflicting severe injuries. Before the attack, a group of six young men in his entourage had been insulted with xenophobic remarks, the Bavarian broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk reported.

And in the central city of Erfurt, 300 members of an anti-Nazi group held a counter-demonstration Saturday after the right-wing National Democratic Party announced it would march in front of an Islamic-owned butcher shop to protest what it called cruelty to animals inherent in the production of halal meats.

Participants in the counter-demonstration unfurled wide banners in an effort to block the efforts of about 20 NDP members in a largely peaceful event, the Thuringen Journal reported.

Two police officers were slightly injured by kicks and two counter-demonstrators were arrested, the newspaper said.

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