German town battles Neo-Nazis
Every month, the small quiet German town of Grafenberg becomes a battleground.
Crowds are protesting against Neo-Nazis who take over the town on a regular basis, and the memorial to the dead of the first and the second world wars has become a focal point.
It all started ten years ago when a far-right organisation that supported Nazi ideology gathered at the memorial for Remembrance Day.
To prevent a repeat, the mayor of the town designated the memorial as private property. However, this only lit the fuse of the conflict and the annual gatherings have now become monthly protests.
The monument is now on private land and is out of bounds to the far-right nationalists. But they are demanding access, saying the city authorities are violating their human rights.
“Right now I can guess they’re happy, thinking that we’re not going to appear here anymore and that today’s meeting in Grafenberg is the last one. But I promise you, it’s not,” says Matthias Fischer, leader of the German National Democratic Party (NPD).
However, the nationalists promise their demonstrations will stop if they get access to the memorial.
Businessman Ralf Pfortner, of Citizen’s Forum and one of the organisers of the citizens’ counter-protests, believes their active resistance is the only way to stop the Neo-Nazis.
“We have installed a huge bell in one of the cottages down there. When they arrived and started their speech, we started ringing that bell. It was loud, overwhelming, no one could understand what they wanted to say,” says Pfortner.
Ralf has virtually unanimous support from the town’s people. However some have sympathy for the other side.
“I prefer the Nazis to the other ones. The Nazis only march through and don’t do anything. The others break things. They are not good,” one of the town’s inhabitants says.
Flower-shop owner Angela Muller is confused. First she backed the counter-protests, but now she thinks that ignoring the nationalists would perhaps be better.
One thing she’s sure about is that her business is suffering.
“The police block all the roads on a Saturday morning at 9am. No one comes here by car and business is very bad!” Angela says.
The towns mayor whos banned access to the monument says he’s been threatened by the Neo-Nazis.
“They threw bags filled with paint ato the walls of my house. That of course places a lot of pressure on me and my whole family,” says Grafenberg Mayor, Werner Wolf.
But he says that it’s not going to stop him and he’s determined to fight for as long as it takes, hoping that one day not only his town but the whole country – will be free of Neo-Nazis.