Archive/File: fascism/germany cologne.0193 Last-Modified: 1995/06/03 Source: Globe & Mail, Jan. 11, 1993 (A9) Handicapped Germans join neo-Nazi fight Reuters News Agency BONN, Germany -- Handicapped Germans, fearing they could be the next victims of neo-Nazi attacks, have joined the fight against intolerance by organizing a "chain of light" to illuminate the Rhine River in Cologne. Up to 50,000 people, their candles and sparklers reflected in the murky water, formed an 11-kilometer chain Saturday night from the city's cathedral along both banks of the river and over four bridges, organizers said. "We want to stand up for tolerance, against discrimination and anti-Semitism, and for a society where the able and disabled, foreigners and Germans, can live together in peace," said Club 68, a group of handicapped people and their supporters. Four Vietnamese refuges in the east German town of Erfurt were beaten up by a gang of thugs in the most recent attack of a wave against foreigners, police said yesterday. Fears have grown among Germany's five million disabled that extremists who have killed 17 people in such attacks since unification in 1990 could turn on them next. Adolf Hitler's Nazis, the idols of many of today's extremists, persecuted not only Jews but the handicapped, sick, Slavs, gypsies, communists and anyone who disagreed with them. Some Germans in wheelchairs say they have already been spat at in the streets by young thugs, beaten up and told: "Under Hitler you would have been gassed." Wheelchair-bound people joined in the Cologne rally, the first major protest organized by disabled people, which eneded with a peal of bells from the city's vast Gothic cathedral. Hundreds of thousands of Germans have taken part in anti-racist marches in recent months to protest firebombings and violent attacks, which have mainly been aimed at refugees, immigrant workers and Jewish monuments. The rallies have transformed the mood of a country horrified by the parallels with Nazi brutality. Depressed east Germany has been the most fertile recruiting ground for right-wing extremists, who have exploited a void left by the disappearance of authoritarian communism -- and jobs. Chancellow Helmut Kohl chose onec-divided Berlin for the first big protest march in November, when he led 350,000 people. But it was not until three Turks were killed by neo-Nazi firebombers later that month in west Germany that grassroots protests spread across the country. Huge crowds of young and old, many of whom have never marched for or against anything before, took to the streets. Two neo-Nazi groups were banned, and the frequency of attacks seems to have diminished. But the problem is in no way over. A Cologne newspaper said passers-by had stood watching as a skinhead viciously beat a 16-year-old Turkish girl on a city street last week. An old man eventually came to her rescue. Hans-Ludwig Zachert, head of the federal crime office, said rising German crime had been characterized by an "enormous burst of aggression." In Berlin, police said more than 40,000 people took part in a traditional rally yesterday, commemorating German communist pioneers murdered in 1919. This year the rally was dedicated to fighting rascism and intolerance. =30=
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