About 150 far-right demonstrators met with five times that number of counter-demonstrators in Berlin on Saturday after a week of protests over an asylum seekers hostel.
The refugees have been housed in an empty apartment block against the wishes of local residents, gifting the NPD and other far-right parties with a cause they can rally round with just a month to go before Germany’s general election.
It is also an opportunity for the left, which looks likely to lose on September 22.
“This is the election campaign of the NPD and other right-wing extremists who are trying to appeal to base feelings and motives and agitate people, at the expense of the lives, health and security of others, and we are countering that with something else – namely Germany, in light of its history, would do well to help people,” said Chairwoman of Alliance 90/Die Grünen Party Group Renate Künast.
A local issue is being dragged onto the national stage in an otherwise tepid election campaign where analysts are wondering if all parties will struggle to get their voters out. Asylum applications to Germany are at their highest since the 1990s.