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Germany Marks 60th Anniversary of World War II

Germany is holding a series of ceremonies this weekend commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.

The culmination of the celebrations will be German President Horst Koehler's address of remembrance for the Nazis' victims to a special assembly of both houses of parliament on Sunday. It will also be broadcast on giant screens at the Brandenburg Gate a few hundred meters away.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will travel to Moscow to mark the end of World War II in Europe.

On Saturday night, tens of thousands people took part in a candlelight vigil that stretched across Berlin, protesting against a planned neo-nazi march on Sunday.

"May 8 was a good day for humankind. We want never again the war," a youth holding candles on the June 17 Street told Xinhua.

"May 8, 1945 was a day of liberation for Berlin, Germany and Europe from Nazi dictatorship," said Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit at the start of two days of "festival for democracy" events around the Brandenburg Gate.

"This is our opportunity to take a stand against racism and intolerance. We must remain vigilant," Wowereit said.

After failing to win the approval of marching around the Brandenburg Gate, the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) will stage a rally Sunday around eastern Berlin's main square Alexanderplatz.

Thousands of leftists are also expected to march around Alexanderplatz to protest and block off NPD's march, local media reported.

Some 6,000 riot police are bracing for possible confrontations between leftists and neo-nazis.

Germany's highest court on Friday dismissed an appeal by NPD tomarch around Berlin's Holocaust Memorial, hundred meters away from the Brandenburg Gate, on May 8.

German Interior Minister Otto Schily welcomed the decision, saying it made neo-nazis unable to dishonor the remembrance of the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust.

May 8, which is treated in Germany as a day of liberation, marks the official end of the World War II hostilities in Europe following the signing of the German surrender in the French city of Reims the day before.

(Xinhua News Agency May 8, 2005)

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