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Neo-Nazi Hitler party shocks French village

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Neo-Nazi Hitler party shocks French village
Scores of neo-Nazis descended on a tranquil French village. The local mayor had no idea what he had let himself in for. Photo: Scott Olsen/AFP
13:47 CEST+02:00
The mayor of a small village in eastern France was forced to explain this week how he ended up giving the green light for a neo-Nazi party commemorating the 125th anniversiary of Hitler's birth. The mayor said he presumed it was just going to be an ordinary birthday party.

When André Sherrer, the mayor of the tiny village of Oltingue, in the Alsace region of Eastern France, gave the go-ahead for a function in a municipal building he had no idea the outrage it would provoke.

Sherrer, who is in charge of the village of 700 residents thought he was renting the room out for an ordinary birthday party but little did he know that 150 to 200 neo-Nazis would be turning up to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Hitler’s birth on April 20th 1889.

“Two people showed up to book a room. They had all the right papers and insurance. Everything was in order. We had no idea we were being tricked,” said Sherrer.

The party, that was held last Saturday April 19th, was planned months in advance via the internet and saw neo-Nazi sympathizers descend on the village from far and wide, mostly from Germany,  but also some from Italy and France.

Once inside the village hall, locals reported hearing chanting and live music.

When the stunned mayor realized what was going on, he called the local police, who allowed the gathering to continue.

“When we got there the people were already set up inside,” police told local newspaper Les Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace.

Officers kept a presence around the village and outside the venue, but did not carry out any checks on the neo-Nazis.

“From a legal point of view it would have been complicated to cancel the event. The aim was to maintain calm in the village,” police continued.

Mayor Sherrer himself did not go to the venue with police to confront the organizers, who were believed to be from Germany, fearing it would lead to violence.

“I didn’t go because the police were already there. And when you have 50 to 100 neo-Nazis in a room, you are not going to tell them to get out. If you did it would be you who’d be thrown out,” he said.

Mayor Sherrer was inundated with calls the following day from people wanting to know how a neo-Nazi party could have been held in the tiny village.

“We were tricked and I regret it,” he said.

“It hurts because in the eyes of colleagues we look like idiots,” he told Europe1 radio.

But it wasn't just the mayor who was asked to come up with answers as to how the party went ahead.

The deputy leader of France's main opposition party the UMP wrote to the Prime Minister to demand why the police did not intervene.

"How can 200 neo-Nazis get away with celebrating the birth of Hitler in a municipal building in a French village?" wrote an outraged Roger Karoutchi.

"If German authorities had warned their French counterparts about this meeting then why was it allowed to take place?" he added.

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