German neo-Nazis rally in Berlin on anniversary of Rudolph Hess’s death
Some 500 far-right members marched in Berlin yesterday in honour of the 30th anniversary of the death of top Nazi Rudolf Hess.
About 500 counter-demonstrators gathered nearby the parade in the Spandau district, separated by hundreds of heavily armoured police.
Berlin police spokesman Carsten Mueller said authorities had imposed a number of restrictions on the marchers to ensure the rally was peaceful.
Police told organisers they could march, but they were not allowed to glorify Hess, who died in Spandau prison.
The neo-Nazis were allowed to take banners: but only one for every 50 participants.
On a website created by a neo-Nazi group for the march, the organisers advised their followers to avoid the euphemism “freedom flyer”, a reference to Hess’s solo flight to Scotland in an attempt to negotiate peace with the Duke of Hamilton.
Such restrictions are common in Germany and rooted in the experience of the pre-war Weimar Republic, when opposing political groups would try to forcibly interrupt their rivals’ rallies, resulting in frequent bloody street violence.
The exact rules differ according to the circumstances, but police said they generally try to balance protesters’ rights to free speech and free assembly against the rights of counter-demonstrators and residents.
The rules mean that shields, helmets and batons carried by white supremacists – and some counter-protesters – in Charlottesville last weekend would not be allowed at German marches.
Openly anti-Semitic chants would prompt the police to intervene, although efforts would be made to detain specific individuals rather than to stop an entire rally, police said.
Left-wing groups expected about 1,000 people to attend the counter-protests.
Hess, who received a life sentence at the Nuremberg trials for his role in planning the second world war, died on August 17, 1987. Allied authorities ruled his death a suicide, but many Nazi sympathisers have long claimed he was killed and organise annual marches in his honour.
The marches used to take place in the Bavarian town of Wunsiedel, where Hess was buried until authorities removed his remains.
Additional reporting by The Guardian