Germany reminded of neo-Nazi peril on Holocaust day

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 27, 2012 9:53 AM
Germany reminded of neo-Nazi peril on Holocaust day

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany marked the 67th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp on Friday facing serious doubt about how well its institutions are dealing with right-wing extremism.

An opinion poll published by Forsa institute this week suggested as many as one in five Germans aged 18-30 did not know what happened at Auschwitz, while a new report suggested one fifth of Germans harbored anti-Semitic sentiments.

"That is precisely 20 percent too many for Germany," Norbert Lammert, speaker of the Bundestag (lower house of parliament), told a ceremony where 91-year-old Marcel Reich-Ranicki, an eminent literary critic, told how he survived the Warsaw Ghetto.

Half a million Polish Jews were rounded up in the ghetto by the Nazis and most were later deported to Auschwitz in German-occupied southern Poland, near the city of Krakow. Up to 1.5 million people, most of them Jewish, died in the camp.

Charlotte Knobloch, a Jewish leader from Munich - birthplace of Adolf Hitler's Nazi movement - and a deputy head of the World Jewish Congress, wrote in a newspaper that the poll on knowledge about the Holocaust and the anti-Semitism study highlighted "woeful shortcomings" in the political and education systems.

The effectiveness of German security agencies' efforts to combat right-wing extremism has been under scrutiny since police in November uncovered evidence linking a small neo-Nazi cell in the former East German town of Zwickau to the murders of nine Turkish and Greek immigrants and a policewoman from 2000-2007.

Lammert told the Holocaust ceremony that "the discovery of an unprecedented murder series in recent weeks and months shows we have not yet reached the goal" of making Germany free from racial hatred.

Knobloch wrote in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung that despite Germany's commitment to atoning for its Nazi past, the Zwickau case showed that right-wing extremists "can still spread discord, hate and fear in this country unimpeded".

(Additional reporting by Hans-Edzard Busemann; Reporting by Stephen Brown; Editing by Myra MacDonald)