Germany: 750 neo-Nazis celebrate Hitler's birthday, police confiscate their materials
Yesterday German Police confiscated banners, posters, and t-shirts with banned messages at an extensive festival held by neo-Nazis in the eastern community of Ostritz. Law enforcement also regularly checked whether the approximately 750 people in attendance were following a court-ordered ban on alcohol consumption during the event.
For the time being the two-day festival, during which the right-wing extremists are celebrating the birth of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, has not experienced any larger problems. This is apparently thanks to the presence of roughly 1 000 police officers.
Some organizers of the event in the small town on the border with both northern Czech Republic and Poland were wearing black t-shirts reading "Security Service of the Aryan Brotherhood" and featuring the image of two hand grenades forming a cross. The State Prosecutor in the nearby town of Görlitz arrived at the conclusion that the t-shirts and posters with similar designs were obviously reminiscent of the insignia of a Waffen-SS division and therefore are illegal.
The court decided to instruct police to confiscate them and officers informed the public of the operation by Twitter. The persons who wore the t-shirts are also now under investigation.
Others attending the "Schild und Schwert" (Shield and Sword) event - or "SS" for short - are decidedly not hiding their political convictions - some are wearing t-shirts with messages such as "Adolf was the best" or "I [heart] HTLR". As of yesterday, according to the authorities, the town of 2 300 was officially estimated to have been visited by approximately 750 festival-goers.
Neo-Nazis from Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland and Switzerland are among them. For two days local residents and people from the surrounding area have been protesting against the radicals, most of whom are hiding out on the grounds of a hotel.
The protesters number in the hundreds. Clear support has been shown for them by politicians from practically all parties.
The Conservatives, the Greens, the Left and the Social Democrats held a joint press conference to make it clear they reject the neo-Nazi gathering. The only nationally-significant party to not join the condemnation was the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which did not attend and did not give a reason for its lack of involvement.
Although the right-wing radicals' event has not yet experienced any clashes, some local residents said they were concerned that an escalation could still happen. On Friday a young woman at a peace demonstration, who gave her name as Fanny, told the Czech News Agency: "Today it still looks innocent, but it could be absolutely different on Saturday."
The ban on alcohol consumption that the neo-Nazis have had to conform to may be contributing to the calm so far. Originally the ban applied just to part of the event, but later it was expanded to apply to all of it.
Some in attendance, according to the MDR radio and television stations, are addressing the ban by buying their own beer and other alcoholic beverages in a nearby supermarket. Before entering the festival area they must either drink up their purchases or hand them over to police.
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