Three skins sentenced in hate slaying
Saxony-Anhalt District Court sentenced three skinheads convicted in the June murder of a Mozambiquan man to long prison terms, saying it had found evidence that the crimes were motivated by "racial hatred."
The three skinheads viciously beat the man in a Dessau park, and he later succumbed to his injuries in hospital. The victim, a father of three, had lived in Germany for 12 years with his German wife.
The 24-year-old ring-leader of the slaying was sentenced to a life term, while his two 16-year-old accomplices each received nine year sentences, one year less than the legal maximum for youth offenders.
Politicians and other public personalities welcomed the severe punishment as sending "the right signal" to increasingly violent extremist forces, saying the state legal system would no longer tolerate capital crimes against foreigners.
Offenders in several similar incidents in recent years received comparatively light sentences, ostensibly because of their youth. The judgement portends a generally tougher penal court line against the neo-Nazi scene which may, in turn, lead the groups to recruit more members from the under 18-year-old age bracket.
Catholic compensation for slave labourers
The Catholic Conference of German Bishops has drawn up its own compensation scheme for persons who worked for it as forced labourers during the Second World War. The statement came in response to the publication of several documents that showed at least "several dozen" persons, most from Eastern Europe, had laboured on premises belonging to the Church.
The Conference has earmarked a sum of DEM five million (EUR 2.5 million) for direct payments to former forced labourers, and another DEM five million for the general "reconciliation work" of the Church's own social organisations.
As did the Protestant Church earlier in August, the bishops refused to join the parliamentary-based "Remembrance, Responsibility and Future" fund which is to pay out an aggregate sum of DEM ten billion (EUR five billion) in compensation payments to former forced or "slave" labourers. The churches argued that the fund's definition of "slave labour" as "not only the withholding of due payment for labour, but also the deprival of freedom and ill-treatment" did not apply to the "generally good working conditions" provided forced labourers by then-Church authorities.
Regardless, the fund is intended to compensate labourers in "public and industrial works," and did not include work on church premises.
Moreover, the bishops criticised the centralised structure envisaged for the fund and the foundation under which it is to be managed. As there is no guarantee that money paid into the fund by a given party will go precisely to the persons who had worked for that party, the Church said it as not prepared to indirectly pay the bills of corporations that had greatly profited from slave labour during the war.
Instead, the Church has said it will administer its payments independently. Many large companies have, to date, failed to join the foundation despite public scolding by Parliament.
Schröder's eastern tour
Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is about to finish a two-week visit to the "new Länder," as the former GDR territory has been commonly known since re-unification. It took Schröder two years into his four-year term of office as Head of Government to make the gesture toward the country's problem-ridden East.
It seems that the Government's current high popularity has helped this important trip. With respect to the renewal of the Länder Solidarity Pact, due in 2004, the Chancellor was comparatively passionate about the continuing mutual obligation of East and West Germans to achieve "inner unity" long after economic, legal and administrative unification has been completed.
Regarding the present wave of right-wing extremism, Schröder underlined that this is "not a problem of East Germans alone" but a truly national challenge. Since he happened to be near to Dessau, the site of the June murder of a Mozambiquan man by neo-Nazi skinheads, the Chancellor laid a wreath at a memorial to the victim on the day his assailants were sentenced.
Fighting in the "off"
Former Chancellor Helmut Kohl will not participate in celebrations marking the ten-year anniversary of German re-unification, which are being organised by the Land of Saxony for 3 October 2000. After revelations about Kohl's usage of a system of "black party coffers," his arch-rival in the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Saxony's Minister President Kurt Biedenkopf, struck Kohl from the speakers' list.
Kohl was to have been one of two keynote speakers, and Biedenkopf, as head of the Bundesrat (federal chamber of Parliament), is the official host for the anniversary events.
The former Chancellor has consequently declined to attend the ceremony altogether. There will now be two separate events: two days before the official gathering in Dresden, the CDU will host its own memorial event at which Kohl will be the guest of honour. Meanwhile, the sole speaker at the official anniversary celebrations in Dresden will be Lothar de Maizière, the last GDR minister president and Kohl's most senior East German partner in the 1990 unification process.
Former CDU party Chairman Wolfgang Schäuble, who recently declared finished his personal friendship with Kohl, and his successor, Angela Merkel, have both underlined Kohl's pivotal role in re-unification. Both said Kohl will remain the "Chancellor of Unity" (Kanzler der Einheit).
Merkel also stated that she was not going to "leave the anniversary to the Reds and Greens," which is why she will attend the Dresden meeting on behalf of the party steering board.
At the same time, the CDU's inner-party haggling about guilt and innocence regarding the "black coffers" continued in soap-opera style. Earlier this week, Schäuble and former party Treasurer Brigitte Baumeister exchanged accusations in front of the Parliamentary Committee in charge of investigating the scandal.
Nothing could more clearly underline the Christian Democrats' present position at the sideline of national politics.
Jens Boysen, 2 September 2000
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