Residents of the northern Bavarian town of Wunsiedel temporarily stopped a neo-Nazi march to commemorate the 17th anniversary of the death of Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy, who had been jailed for life in 1946.
Carrying colorful balloons that read: “Wunsiedel is colorful, not brown,” several hundred people opposed to the march had gathered on Saturday to show neo-Nazis that they were not welcome in their town. Brown is a color associated with the Nazis in Germany because of the brown shirts they wore as part of their uniforms.
“We can’t stick our heads in the sand,” said Wunsiedel’s mayor, Karl-Willi Beck, according to the online service of Der Spiegel newsmagazine. “We can’t allow this city to be dragged into brown dirt.”
According to police estimates, more than 2,000 neo-Nazis had gathered in Wunsiedel for an annual march to honor Rudolf Hess (photo), who hanged himself aged 93 in a Berlin prison on Aug. 17, 1987.
Hess had been captured in 1941 after parachuting into Scotland to allegedly start peace negotiations with Britain.
He was sentenced to life in prison in 1946 by the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal for helping to plan World War II, but was found innocent of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Hess is buried in Wunsiedel and neo-Nazis see him as a martyr.
By early Saturday evening, 105 people had been arrested for carrying guns and illegal symbols such as swastikas. No violent clashes between neo-Nazis and left-wing demonstrators had taken place.
Calls to limit Germany’s right of assembly
City officials had tried to prevent the march but the Bavarian Administrative Court had ruled against a ban.
Last year, Germany’s consitutional court had also allowed the march to go ahead, saying that a demonstration could not be stopped merely because the event could get violent.
As a result, Bavarian Interior Minister Günther Beckstein, a member of the conservative Christian Social Union party, has appealed to the federal government to support Bavaria’s plan to change Germany’s right of assembly.