Crackdown fails to halt violence by German right Refugee center is firebombed

Israelis protest

November 30, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

BERLIN -- With a sense of mounting urgency, German leader considered new measures yesterday to more effectively combat the revival of right-wing extremism in the country. But, as they talked, attacks continued unabated -- with police reporting fire-bombings on a refugee center and physical assaults against foreigners in six cities.

There were no deaths in any of yesterday's attacks.

The incidents occurred as international pressure intensified against Germany in the wake of the recent violence. Israel demanded tough measures to counter violent racism and anti-Semitism. In Turkey,mourners burned German flags at the funeral of three Turkish nationals killed in northern Germany last week.

In a television interview yesterday, Interior Minister Rudolf Seiters said that he has proposed forming an emergency coordinating committee made up of federal, state and local law enforcement officials to strengthen the fight against right-wing extremism.

"We did this against left-wing extremists in the 1970s, and I am proposing a similar committee now," Mr. Seiters said.

The Interior Ministry group that supported and coordinated police operations against terrorist groups, such as the infamous Red Army Faction, was considered a key factor in the government's success in crushing the leftist extremist violence.

In recent weeks, critics have repeatedly questioned Chancellor Helmut Kohl's failure to react to the threat of rightist extremism with a similar coordinated effort.

Indeed, aside from trying to cut off the influx of foreigners entering the country to claim political asylum, the government had done virtually nothing prior to Friday, when Mr. Seiters announced a ban on a small neo-Nazi group called the National Front.

The violence and the prolonged government paralysis that accompanied it has left a nervous international community wondering whether Germans have the political will to defend their democracy from the extremist threat.

In a radio interview yesterday, Mr. Kohl reminded Germans that the level of their economic prosperity would not be possible without the help of the country's 6 million foreign residents and that the attacks against foreigners and Jews must stop. "We have to do everything to put the right-wing rabble . . . in their place and hit these people with the full force of the law," he said.

But as Mr. Kohl spoke, the president of Germany's Constitutional Court, Roman Herzog, rejected an idea floated by Interior Ministry officials that certain constitutional wording could be used to ban right-wing extremists from voting or making public statements.

"Such a step cannot be made on its own," said Mr. Herzog, adding that what he termed "the first line of defense" against those who engage in such violence must be the political will to invoke the criminal law statutes.

His comment appeared to be directed at the country's judiciary, which has handed down a series of unusually light sentences in cases where young Germans have been convicted of attacking foreigners.

In a formal statement issued after a Cabinet meeting yesterday, the Israeli government expressed "grave concern" about the violence and demanded that German officials fight right-wing extremism with "the full force of the law."

"We take a grave view of this phenomenon and therefore see ourselves as obligated, as the government of the Jewish state, to demand action," said Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

But even as he spoke, police in six German communities reported violent attacks against foreigners.

The worst incident occurred in Eberswalde, where an apartment building housing 60 Bulgarian and Romanian asylum-seekers was fire-bombed. Those inside escaped.

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