A Berlin newspaper has joined the recent German campaign against right-wing extremism by publishing the photographs of 22 far-right leaders. The initiative has been welcomed by many Germans, but has also run into criticism. RFE/RL correspondent Roland Eggleston reports from Munich.
Munich, 22 August 2000 (RFE/RL) -- The Berlin newspaper, the "Tageszeitung," says it published the 22 photographs in an effort to shame the leaders of the German extreme right and make them recognizable to people on the streets.
The initiative by the left-leaning daily is one of many individual efforts by German newspapers, public institutions, and private groups to distance the majority of the population from recent racist violence that in some cases has led to the death of immigrants. The "Tageszeitung" -- familiarly known as the "Taz" -- said it wanted "put a face on those who deny the [Nazi] Holocaust [of millions of Jews] and share responsibility for the evil in this country."
Many Germans welcomed the decision as a public gesture. But some have criticized the action as half-hearted, while others condemn it for allegedly arousing public anger that could be misdirected into new violence. The allegation refers to a recent campaign by a popular London tabloid that printed the names and photographs of men who had allegedly molested children. It led to several instances of violence against those named and an apparent attempt to kill one of them. In some cases, attacks were made on men who had been wrongly identified.
The "Tageszeitung" denies it modeled its initiative on the British campaign. The paper says its model was four Swedish dailies which last December published the names, photographs, and personal details of 62 leading Swedish right-wing extremists. It said: "People should be able to recognize right-wingers on the street and to know whether our neighbor or co-worker is among those denying the Holocaust."
Those who accuse the "Taz" of a half-hearted initiative say most of those named are already well-known. They also say that the newspaper should have provided photographs of those who have recently made public speeches attacking immigrants or have been accused of violence.
The published photographs include such well-known personalities as Gerhard Frey, the Munich-based publisher of extreme-right newspapers and head of the political movement known as the German People's Union. The movement campaigned vigorously -- but unsuccessfully -- in eastern Germany in the 1998 federal elections. Most of the recent extreme-right violence has taken place in eastern Germany.
Another photograph published was that of Manfred Roeder, who in 1982 was sentenced to 13 years in jail as the leader of a terrorist association that set off several bombs at political asylum homes and cost the lives of two Vietnamese immigrants in Hamburg. Roeder is also notorious for addressing groups of far-right military groups.
Still another well-known extreme-right personality identified by the newspaper was Udo Voigt, the head of the National Democratic Party, or NPD, which the German government is now considering banning. Most of the other photographs were of low-ranking members of the NPD or other far-right groups. The most prominent was Horst Mahler, a founding member of the old neo-communist terrorist group, the Red Army Faction, who is now associated with the NPD
This and next week, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is making a tour of eastern Germany. At a meeting in Wittenberge in Brandenburg province, where Nazi swastikas had been sprayed on the city hall, Schroeder called on local authorities to be what he called "rock hard" in responding to far-right terrorism and neo-Nazi incidents. But he made no comment on the "Tageszeitung" initiative.
Schroeder says he personally supports efforts to ban the NPD party if that is possible under the German Constitution. Only two political parties have been banned in Germany since World War II -- the neo-Nazi Socialist Reich party in 1952, and the Communist Party in 1956. Public -opinion polls suggest that nearly two-thirds of the population support a ban on the NPD. But some politicians fear that a ban would work in favor of the NPD by giving it more publicity.