BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s top security official pledged Friday to act against far-right extremists after a neo-Nazi march in the eastern town of Plauen prompted outrage from mainstream politicians and Jewish groups.
“There shouldn’t be the slightest doubt that we don’t want to see such images, that we condemn them and that we will do everything that’s possible in a free and democratic state to fight right-wing radicalism,” the dpa news agency quoted Interior Minister Horst Seehofer saying.
Seehofer declined to criticize authorities in Saxony state, where Plauen is located, for allowing the march to take place unhindered Wednesday, dpa reported.
Several hundred people took part in the march organized by a fringe political party, The Third Way. Participants wore uniform-like clothes, swung flags and marched to the beat of drums made to look like those used by the Hitler Youth in the 1930s.
The head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, said Thursday the march brought back “memories of the darkest chapter in German history.”
Authorities in Saxony defended the decision not to intervene, saying the neo-Nazis hadn’t intimidated anyone. Police have opened criminal investigations against nine counter-protesters over illegal face coverings and one more for allegedly insulting an officer.
Saxony has long been a hotbed of far-right extremism, but the ideology isn’t confined to the state. Authorities estimate there are about 24,000 far-right extremists in Germany, with more than half considered “violence prone.”
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned against underestimating the potential for far-right terrorism in the country.
“We mustn’t leave the streets or the internet to the radical right,” he wrote on Twitter.