Witnesses Reluctant to Come Forward Police Hunt Neo-Nazis Who Cut Swastika Into Woman's Hip

Yet another far-right assault in eastern Germany: Police are hunting four men who sliced a swastika into the hip of a 17-year-old woman after she tried to stop them harassing a six-year-old girl. Witnesses have been slow to come forward.

German police say they have received two leads but have made no arrests yet in the case of a 17-year-old girl attacked by four far-right youths who cut a swastika symbol into her hip in the eastern town of Mittweida this month.

The men had been outside a supermarket pushing and harassing a six-year-old girl from the former Soviet Union. The teenager shouted at them to stop and they responded by turning on her. They threw her to the ground, three of them held her and the fourth cut the 5 centimeter (2 inch) Nazi symbol into her thigh with what she said was an "object similar to a scalpel."

He also tried to cut a Germanic symbol into her cheek but she defended herself so violently that they failed, police said. Police have located a 19-year-old suspect but so far none of the people who witnessed the attack have come forward to testify and the local court has refused to issue an arrest warrant against him because of a lack of evidence.

Mittweida's mayor Matthias Damm plans to write to residents living in the area where the attack happened calling on them to testify. The victim said many residents watched the attack from their balconies.

The attack happened on Nov. 3 but the teenager didn't report it until nine days later after she had told her mother who went to the police with her. Police believe her story because a medical examination concluded that she could not have cut the swastika herself, and the six-year-old girl corroborated it.

"A medical examination found that the injuries sustained by the 17-year-old cannot have been self-inflicted," a police spokesman told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

Police said on Sunday they had received two leads from the public after they released photofit pictures of the attackers. The victim said two of the attackers had badges bearing the letters NSDAP, the acronym of Hitler's Nazi party, on their bomber jackets. The mayor of the town of 16,000, located in the eastern state of Saxony, condemned the attacks and called on the inhabitants to work with the police to find the perpetrators.

"The young woman deserves the highest respect for showing such courage," the mayor's office said on the town's official Web site. "We call on the citizens of our town not to look away when such incidents happen, to show courage and to work with the police."

Eastern Germany has become notorious for the high number of racist assaults on minorities there since unification in 1990. The relatively strong support for far-right groups and political parties in the east has been attributed to the region's economic decline and to the failure of the Communist regime to nurture a public sense of responsibility for the crimes of the Nazis.

Several racist assaults have attracted nationwide media coverage this year including one in August when eight Indian men were beaten up and chased by a group shouting "Foreigners out!" in the town of Mügeln.

cro/dpa

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