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Germany kicks off Unity Day celebrations in Hamburg

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Germany kicks off Unity Day celebrations in Hamburg
11:02 CEST+02:00
Germany opend a three-day party in Hamburg on Unity Day on Friday with Chancellor Merkel and President Köhler to mark 18 years of the unification of East and West Germany.

Around 1,200 guests, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Horst Köhler, Hamburg Mayor Ole von Beust and more than 100 ambassadors, are to take part in the official celebrations in Hamburg on Friday.

The festivities will showcase prominent cultural projects around Germany under the motto, “Cultural Nation Germany.” The celebrations kick off with a mass at the Saint Michael Church in Hamburg which is to focus on the integration of immigrants in German society. A three-day festival near the Hamburg harbour, which is open to all visitors, will include food stalls and specialities from all of Germany's 16 federal states.

Some politicians have used the occasion of German Unity Day to warn about the danger posed by right-wing extremism, particularly in eastern Germany.

Sebastian Edathy of the Social Democratic Party warned of a heightened radicalism and a growing readiness to resort to violence among young people in depressed eastern regions. He pointed out that funds for youth work had been slashed in many communities in eastern Germany.

“Far-right parties and groups are using the resulting vacuum to draw young people towards their ideology of hate,” Edathy said.

Germany's Central Council of Jews, however, warned that rising right-wing extremism was no longer just an eastern German problem.

“Right-wing extremism is a danger to all of German society and not just to one or two minorities,” Stephan Kramer, general-secretary of the Council warned.

Some politicians have also used Unity Day to urge schools in eastern Germany to redouble efforts to teach the history of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in classrooms. Several recent surveys have shown that students in eastern Germany know very little of the region's past and often take a benign view of the Communist dictatorship.

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