A town of 7,000 in Upper Franconia struggles with the reputation of being a neo-Nazi gathering place. Every year Nazis make a pilgrimage to Wunsiedel to honor Rudolf Hess, who was Adolf Hitler’s deputy and a Nazi party leader. Because of these commemorations, the town has the reputation for extremism.

In truth, there is nothing special about Wunsiedel. Rudolf Hess never lived in the town: it was merely the place where family members were buried. The local minister describes Hess’ 1987 burial as nothing more than an act of mercy. But because of the presence of Hess’ grave, Wunsiedel is forever linked with the neo-Nazi movement.

This year, 3,000 neo-Nazis, both young and old, came to Wunsiedel. The town is powerless to stop the meeting: Bavarian courts have said that the commemorations are legal so long as no symbols of National Socialism are employed. Mayor Karl-Willi Beck and the citizens of the town tried to block the parade of extremists. After the police forced the citizens to give way, they attempted other means to disrupt the gathering. Clowns walked back and forth along the pilgrimage route in order to distract the children. The mayor wants to prove that “Wunsiedel is bright–not brown!”

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