Thousands of people crowded the streets of the western German city of Bielefeld on Saturday to take part in a counterprotest against a neo-Nazi demonstration.
Officials estimated that over 10,000 people took part in the counterprotest, organized by Bielefeld’s “Alliance against the right” and which took place under the motto: “Fascism is not an opinion, it’s a crime.”
Some 230 people took part in the neo-Nazi march, which was organized by the extremist The Right (“Die Rechte”) party, to call for the release of Ursula Haverbeck, a 91-year-old Holocaust denier who has been sentenced several times.
Human chain around synagogue
The neo-Nazi demonstration sparked further anger from counterprotesters, as it took place on the 81st anniversary of Kristallnacht or the Night of Broken Glass, when Nazi Germany launched an anti-Jewish pogrom.
“Holocaust denial is a crime. Approving a Nazi demonstration on November 9 is, too!” wrote one counterprotester.
The event, which took place from November 9–10 in 1938, was the start of the systematic mass murder of European Jews in the Holocaust.
Counterprotesters harshly criticized officials for granting the neo-Nazi group permission to demonstrate on the anniversary.
Demonstrators formed a human chain around Bielefeld’s synagogue and held a vigil there while the right-wing extremist protesters marched through the city.
Remembering Nazi crimes
Andrew Kuper, the president of the state parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia, said that the counterprotesters understood that November 9 is a day in Germany where “our entire nation remembers the crimes of the Nazis, shocked and ashamed.”
Over 1,000 police officers were present to keep the neo-Nazi protesters and counterdemonstrators separated
“That’s why we are standing on the side of our fellow Jewish citizens — and not on the side of those who think perhaps that the crimes of the Nazis are a ‘speck of bird shit’ or who would completely deny them,” Kuper said.
The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has come under fire over remarks about the Holocaust, including from AfD co-leader Alexander Gauland, who dismissed Adolf Hitler and the Nazis’ rule as “bird shit in 1,000 years of successful German history.”
The march also comes after a gunman killed two people after trying to force his way into a synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle in early October.
Memorials to honor the victims of the anti-Jewish pogroms are taking place across Germany, while the country also celebrates the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which took place on November 9, 1989.
rs/tj (dpa, epd)