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'Bash a Berlin kid' fears axe field trips;Briefing

Germany

Some eastern parts of Germany have become no-go areas for visiting Berlin schoolchildren, even though the east has been the most popular destination for schools since the Berlin Wall came down.

Teachers are nervous about field trips amid reports that "bash a Berlin school kid" has become the latest sport among right-wing youths.

Skinhead attacks, particularly on foreigners, have become more brazen and widespread since the victory in April of the neo-Nazi German People's Union party (DVU) in the state of Saxony Anhalt.

The party won 13 per cent of the vote in state elections - the highest by a far-right group since the Second World War. Sixteen DVU members have now taken seats in the state parliament.

Multi-racial schools in Berlin are now fearful of being targeted. In May, two 12-year-olds from the Borsig school in Berlin's Kreuzberg district were attacked by skinheads while on an educational visit to Brandenburg. One black pupil was punched in the face and a Turkish boy was held by the neck and his head banged against a bus. Teachers from the inner-city school hastily aborted what was to have been a two-day trip and alerted the authorities.

Berlin's education authority revealed that 15 attacks on Berlin school groups had already been registered this year, "at least half of which had clear right-wing imprints". Dozens of other school groups have been heckled, threatened or greeted with Nazi-style salutes.

Despite rising concern for pupil safety, a spokeswoman for the Berlin education authority, Rita Hermanns, said: "Our line is: go there!" This was echoed by the teachers' union, the GEW, although its chairman, Erhard Laube, admitted he might think twice if he himself were accompanying a group of pupils "half of whom were of Turkish origin".

The Brandenburg schools authority advised Berlin teachers to check field-trip destinations and "be well prepared". The state also approved a budget for an "anti-racist learning and inter-cultural co-operation" project to teach pupils about different nationalities.

The principal of the Borsig school, Roland Merkel, said trips to the east would continue. Parents representative Christa Mommert said it was absurd to avoid the east. "Berlin was walled in for long enough," she said.

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