Neo-Nazi murders: Germany holds minute's silence

Candles are lit during a commemoration for victims of neo-Nazi violence in Berlin (23 Feb 2012) Relatives of neo-Nazi victims lit candles during the ceremony in Berlin

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel has described 10 neo-Nazi murders as a "disgrace for our country" and appealed to victims' families for forgiveness.

Nine men, most of them of Turkish origin, and a policewoman have died since 2000 but the neo-Nazi gang blamed for their deaths emerged only recently.

A ceremony took place in Berlin and a minute's silence was held across the country to remember the victims.

Mrs Merkel told victims' families at the ceremony that "we mourn with you".

She promised to do everything possible to prevent a repeat of the "cold-blooded" murders.

Before she spoke, candles were lit in memory of those killed by a gang based in the eastern city of Zwickau that called itself the National Socialist Underground (NSU).

Start Quote

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (23 Feb 2012)

Ten burning candles, ten lives snuffed out”

End Quote Angela Merkel German Chancellor

Speaking in Berlin's concert hall, the chancellor named all the victims and gave details of their lives. "Ten burning candles, ten lives snuffed out," she said.

Shortly after the ceremony, at noon, a minute's silence was observed throughout Germany. Trains and buses came to a standstill and employers and unions urged people to halt their work.

The NSU had been undetected for years, prompting criticism of police and intelligence services.

Its existence was revealed last November when two suspected founders were found dead in a caravan and another, Beate Zschaepe, blew up her rented flat in Zwickau and gave herself up to police.

The chancellor apologised to the families for the fact that suspicion for the race murders had fallen, in some cases, on the victims' relatives themselves.

The ceremony was also addressed by Semiya Simsek and Gamze Kubasik, daughters of two of the victims.

Ms Simsek's father, a florist, was fatally shot in September 2000. "Not once in 11 years were we allowed to be treated as genuine victims," she said.

Gamze Kubasik, whose father was shot at his Dortmund kiosk in April 2006, expressed her hope of a future marked by greater "togetherness".

The former president, Christian Wulff, had been due to address the ceremony but he was replaced by Mrs Merkel because of his resignation last week.

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