Czech Groups Gear Up to Counter neo-Nazi Demonstration in Prague

Czech citizens' groups aim to confront a planned neo-Nazi march through Prague's historic Jewish Quarter on Saturday, the anniversary of Kristallnacht. The police are preparing in case the confrontation becomes violent.

President Vaclav Klaus, meanwhile, has called on Prague to ban the march and announced his own willingness to personally confront the marchers if they flout the ban.

The neo-Nazi group, known as Young National Democrats, says it plans to protest Czech involvement in the military operations in Iraq.

Jewish community leaders have called for a mass prayer service at the site of the march. Several Jewish youth movements, joined by other youth organizations and anarchists, will take part in the effort to keep the marchers from entering the Jewish Quarter. Legislators, Prague city council members and President Klaus have promised to join the counterprotest.

"Expressions of neo-Nazism in the Czech Republic are marginal; this is a small group," the Czech ambassador to Israel, Michael Zantovsky, told Haaretz. "However, history teaches not to disregard even the smallest such phenomenon."

The neo-Nazis allegedly plan to bring outside reinforcements on the day of the march, including from Hungary, Germany and Slovakia. Zantovsky noted that Czech law allows the authorities to refuse entry to foreigners deemed likely to violate local laws.

Prague police have said they plan to station 1,400 officers in the area to maintain order and turn back the neo-Nazis. Should the marchers reach the Jewish Quarter, they will encounter the counterprotesters who have received permits for their events.