- The Washington Times - Friday, August 18, 2006

BERLIN — The residents of a northern German city have raised almost $1 million with the hope of preventing the sale of an empty hotel to a prominent neo-Nazi who wants to turn it into a venue for rallies, conferences and training seminars.

The owner of the hotel in Delmenhorst, a city of 80,000 near the port city of Bremen, is close to selling the property to Jurgen Rieger, a far-right lawyer who has bid $4.3 million on behalf of the Wilhelm Tietjen Foundation for Fertilization Ltd., a company registered in London.

Mr. Rieger heads the foundation, which manages the estate of Wilhelm Tietjen, a member of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party who made money on stocks after World War II. He died in 2002, stipulating that his estate be used for fertilization research.

Delmenhorst residents alarmed at the prospect of neo-Nazi conferences in the town center have collected more than $950,000 in the past two weeks to mount a counteroffer with the help of the city. Mr. Rieger’s bid is well above the hotel’s estimated value, and the owner has said he has to sell it to the highest bidder to stave off bankruptcy.

“The people of Delmenhorst are united, and we’re confident we’ll win,” said Saskia Renker, 29, who has helped organize the campaign. “We’ve been getting support from around the country and abroad. This is much more than just a local issue.

“We had a demonstration, and an elderly couple behind me said they were afraid just to be standing there. There’s a lot of fear in the city, and we’re getting a lot of e-mails from people who can’t believe that such a well-known neo-Nazi can get away with buying such a property.”

The local newspaper has been printing photos of every business that donates more than $650. People carrying placards reading “Delmenhorst Says No” have been collecting money in the town center, and the conservative Christian Democrats organized a fundraising barbecue. An anti-Nazi rock festival is planned for this weekend.

Donations have been arriving from all over Germany, campaign organizers say.

Mr. Rieger, who belongs to several far-right organizations, frequently speaks at events organized by the National Democratic Party, which the federal government once tried to ban.

He was convicted of sedition for asserting during a trial of a neo-Nazi whom he was defending that the Nazis didn’t kill Jews with Zyklon B gas in the Auschwitz death chambers. Denying the Holocaust is a crime in Germany.

The people of Delmenhorst fear that in addition to attracting right-wingers, the hotel may be used to aid research into Aryan purity, part of the Nazis’ ideology of a master race. However, the foundation’s operations appear confined to buying real estate. Mr. Rieger has bought properties across Germany and in Sweden with the purpose of conducting far-right meetings there.

Mr. Rieger could not be reached for comment.

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