Hundreds of neo-Nazis March in Berlin on Anniversary of Hitler Aide's Suicide

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A man attends a demonstration commemorating the 31st death anniversary Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess in Berlin, Aug 18, 2018.
A man attends a demonstration commemorating the 31st death anniversary Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess in Berlin, Aug 18, 2018.Credit: Christoph Soeder,AP

Around 500 neo-Nazis waving flags with the colors of the German Reich marched through central Berlin Saturday, marking the 31st anniversary of the prison suicide of Nazi convict Rudolf Hess. 

Police in riot gear held back an equal number of counter-protesters, many of whom shouted "Nazis out." Nevertheless, violence broke out, inuring at least one police officer.

Many of the neo-Nazis, clad in red and white, hoisted the red, white and black flag of Hitler's Third Reich. One group carried a sign that proclaimed, "I regret nothing: National Socialists Berlin." 

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"There were reports of injuries when some stones and bottles were thrown by counter demonstrators at the far-right demonstrators," Berlin police spokesman Thilo Cablitz told Reuters. "At least one police officer was injured. But the event is still going on and we're still compiling the numbers." 

Protesters hold placards during an anti-Nazi demonstration, Berlin, Germany, August 18, 2018.Credit: AFP

About 2,300 police officers were on duty to prevent violence at the Berlin event and a separate march by less than 50 people in the Berlin suburb of Spandau, where Hess, a former deputy of Germany's wartime dictator Adolf Hitler, served a life sentence handed down at the Nuremberg war crimes trials. 

A broad mix of counter demonstrators staged non-violent sit-ins at intersections along the march route in the Berlin neighborhood of Lichtenberg, while others gathered to shout at the neo-Nazi demonstrators.

Germany has tough laws that ban use of symbols of the Nazi regime, such as the swastika flag, but the far-right has grown stronger in recent years after the arrival of more than a million mostly Muslim migrants beginning in 2015. 

While far-right activity remains a fringe phenomenon in Germany, it has been behind high-profile crimes, most recently 10 murders committed by the so-called National Socialist Underground (NSU), whose sole surviving leader was sentenced to life in prison in July. 

The clashes took place about 65 kilometers (40 miles) south of the town of Meseberg, where Chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday evening. 

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