BERLIN – Some 2,000 neo-Nazis clashed with police on Saturday outside Germany's largest World War II soldiers cemetery, where the extremists had hoped to stage a demonstration in honor of the Nazi soldiers.
Thousands of police were on hand in Halbe to keep the peace between the roughly 2,000 skinheads who had gathered in the town, 30 miles south of Berlin, and the estimated 1,600 counter-demonstrators.
The two sides nearly came to blows when the neo-Nazis surged the police cordon in an attempt to enter the cemetery, which was blocked by the counter-deomonstrators.
Several officers were injured in skirmishes with the extremists, who were driven back and prevented from entering the cemetery.
Earlier in the day, the counter-demonstrators held a rally in honor of victims of Nazi crimes, in protest against the neo-Nazi march.
"We can not allow Halbe to become a regular place of pilgrimage for neo-Nazis," Joerge Schoenbohm, interior minister of the Brandenburg region where Halbe is located, told the gathering.
Halbe is home to the burial site of about 28,000 soldiers, most of whom died in April 1945 in one of Nazi Germany's last stands against the Soviet army's advance on Berlin. Several SS officers are buried there.
It has become a regular rallying point for neo-Nazis, who gather there annually on the eve of the Day of Mourning, an unofficial holiday on which Germany remembers its war dead and those of other nations.