What the foreign papers are saying.
Jan. 24 1998 3:30 AM

The liberal Guardian of London led its front page Wednesday with the alarming headline "Neo-Nazi tide sweeps through East Germany." The story, by its Berlin correspondent, Ian Traynor, said that "large parts of formerly communist east Germany are becoming virtual no-go areas for foreigners and German 'outsiders' as support for racist, neo-Nazi ideology, backed by violence, intimidation and clandestine propaganda, grows rapidly across the region, say experts, researchers and social workers." The authorities in the worst-affected state, Brandenburg, which forms the hinterland to Berlin, had listed nine towns as neo-Nazi centers, the Guardian reported.


"Nationally there was a 14 per cent increase in extreme rightwing offences last year, with the proportion considerably higher in the east. The German police put the number of active neo-Nazis at 47,000, a 4.5 per cent increase on the previous year and the first rise in four years. But that figure represents only the hard core of those prepared to organise and engage in violence. In the east ... much of the population, young and old, is receptive to neo-Nazi ideas, sympathetic to such views, and often tacitly endorsing violence against the heterodox."

Thursday, the Guardian said in an editorial: "Worse than neo-Nazism proper and the dribble of neo-Nazi incidents in the west is the fact that West Germans who would not consciously embrace racist or far right ideas, seem ready to work themselves up into a hysterical state over immigrants and foreigners, as the recent uproar over Kurds shows. What is happening in both halves of Germany in an election year is that the mainstream political agenda is being affected by racist and extremist ideas." A government that sees itself as a leader in Europe "surely has a duty to curb the growth of racist attitudes whether in the crude protest form they take in the east or the more subtle variants seen in the west," the editorial concluded.

Meanwhile, Corriere della Sera of Milan "deeply offended" (source, the Times of London) Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany by publishing a front-page cartoon of him in the uniform and helmet of a Nazi concentration-camp guard to mark his arrival in Rome for a summit meeting with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi. Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine later reported on the summit under the headline "In Rome Kohl Calms Anti-German Waves," but it also quoted at length from an article in Rome's La Repubblica suggesting that sharp differences between Germany and Italy about the single European currency--the euro--might become "permanent." The article complained that Europe's "war of nerves" over the euro, from which many North Europeans would like to see Italy excluded, had split the continent into three blocs--Franco-German, Anglo-Saxon, and South European.

President Clinton's problem with Monica Lewinsky made the front-page lead in several British newspapers under dramatic headlines but was reported more calmly on inside pages across most of the rest of the world. It didn't, for example, make the front page of either Le Monde or Frankfurter Allgemeine, which led instead with the Middle East peace talks in Washington, with much emphasis on the dispute about Yasser Arafat's proposed visit to the Washington Holocaust Museum.


In Jerusalem, Ha'aretz reported a furor in the Israeli Knesset when this subject came up. When Member of the Knesset Shmuel Halpert (United Torah Judaism) described the invitation to Arafat as "a desecration of the memory of the murdered in the Holocaust, the trampling of Jewish honor and the abuse of the remaining survivors," Saleh Saleem (Hadash) yelled back, "If you had been alive during the Holocaust, you would have been on the side of the Nazis." Rechavam Ze'evi (Moledet) said that the authorities at two Israeli Holocaust museums who had expressed a willingness to receive Arafat were "stoop-backed Jews who were groveling to this scoundrel." But Deputy Knesset Speaker Shevach Weiss (Labor), himself a Holocaust survivor, said he welcomed Arafat's visit to the Washington museum, because it would be "a slap in the face of all Holocaust deniers."

Le Monde's editorial Thursday was titled "The Pope, Fidel, and Uncle Sam," and it blamed the United States embargo for the fact that Cuba was still Communist. "The embargo is one of the mainstays of the Cuban dictatorship," it said. "The White House knows that perfectly well, but till now Bill Clinton hasn't had the courage to face up to the anti-Castro dogmatists in the Congress. It is a sign of the times that the Cuban-American opposition in Miami is beginning to evolve. If the Pope, in his turn, increases the pressure against the embargo, he will participate once again in collapse of a Communist regime."

In the Far East and the Pacific region, newspapers gave prominence to the failure of the latest International Monetary Fund rescue package to restore faith in the economy of Indonesia, where the national currency, the rupiah, had just fallen in value by another 30 percent. The Age of Melbourne reported that, according to an "internal document prepared by a major American investment bank, which was circulating in the financial community," the rupiah is now a " 'gaping black hole, there is no alternative other than the probably violent overthrow of the Government [of President Suharto].' "

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, where another collapsing currency and hyperinflation provoked food riots this week in the capital, Harare, was accused in neighboring South Africa of being the sole cause of his own misfortunes. The Johannesburg Star said that "Mugabe's arrogant disregard for the health of the economy was astonishing," adding that he had failed to consider any of the economic consequences of two politically motivated decisions: 1) ordering his finance minister to "find" the money to pay 50,000 war veterans unbudgeted gratuities and pensions and 2) ordering the seizure of half the country's privately owned farmland, most of which was owned by whites.

While Zimbabwe's Minister of Information Chen Chimutengwende justified the land-seizure plan by saying that "the government was only protecting white farmers from black peasants who, otherwise, would rise up and kill [them]," Mugabe had defiantly stated that he intended to go ahead with the seizures, the Star reported. "Many Zimbabweans, and many friends of this country, hope he will pause and rethink his positions on the land issue, the economy and democracy," it concluded.

In India, the daily Pioneer reported that the 81-year-old, American-born violinist Yehudi Menuhin (now an English lord) had been outraged by hints that his health was responsible for the last-minute cancellation of a concert to be held in New Delhi Jan. 24. He was to have conducted the Lithuanian Symphony Orchestra in the Red Fort as part of the country's 50th-anniversary celebrations, but the organizers announced this week that the concert was being canceled for "unforeseen reasons," while privately hinting that this was because Menuhin was unwell. The real reason, said the Pioneer, was that they had failed to arrange for the Lithuanian orchestra to come. Menuhin had written an angry letter to Delhi saying that he was in perfect health and would still be happy to come if the orchestra did. The organizers were now trying to persuade him to come without the orchestra, the newspaper added, "but the chances of that seem rather remote."

Corriere della Sera reported on its front page the murder in Milan of an American Anglican clergyman, found stabbed to death in his apartment with a collection of gay pornographic magazines at his feet. Police said they "could not exclude" the possibility that the Rev. Gregory Beyhedt from Ohio, the vicar of Milan's All Saints Anglican Episcopal Church, was the latest victim in a series of murders that have shocked the Italian gay community. Earlier this month Enrico Suni Lizi, 67, a member of the pope's household and a known homosexual, was found in Rome with his head smashed in by a candelabrum.