2,500 Neo-Nazis March in Germany on Hess Anniversary

Wunsiedel - Some 2,500 neo-Nazis marched through the streets of the Bavarian town of Wunsiedel on Saturday to mark the 15th anniversary of the death of Adolf Hitler's one-time deputy Rudolf Hess.

About 500 leftists protested against the marchers, but riot police kept them apart and reported no clashes between the rival groups.

Authorities said 34 arrests were made among the marchers for arms possession and Nazi emblems, the public display of which is banned in Germany. Hess is viewed as a martyr by German neo-Nazis because he was the last Nazi war-crimes inmate at Spandau prison.

Following his death in 1987, neo-Nazis converged on a yearly basis at his hometown of Wunsiedel to hold marches until 1991 when they were banned. The ban was lifted last year following a court battle.

Again this year a judge permitted the march to go ahead, saying it did not in itself represent a glorification of Nazism. Prior to the march, some 500 local residents held a prayer vigil, with Mayor Karl Willi Beck saying they objected to their community being viewed as a pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis.

Beck called the judge's ruling a scandal. "What is happening here is not the free expression of speech but rather the glorification of a Nazi henchman."