BERLIN (Reuters) - A clothing company popular among neo-Nazis has provoked protests in Germany by calling one of its shops “Brevik,” similar to the name of Norwegian mass murderer and anti-immigration militant Anders Behring Breivik.
Mediatex apologized on Wednesday for causing offence, saying the shop was named after a Norwegian town and had nothing to do with Breivik who has admitted responsibility for a bomb and gun massacre in Norway in July.
Activists in the eastern German town of Chemnitz spattered the shop front with red paint after news of its opening last week spread and local politicians organized demonstrations.
“Of all the place names to choose - out of thousands of possible place names, they chose one that bears a resemblance to the mass murderer,” Julian Barlen, an activist against right-wing extremism told Reuters.
The outlet caused particular offence as it is close to a Jewish restaurant “Schalom,” which has been targeted by anti-Semitic attacks in recent years, according to its manager.
“We apologize if this reminds anyone of the massacre of last summer. That was not intended,” said Mediatex in a statement.
The shop’s sign was taken down by Wednesday afternoon and replaced with one spelling out the name of another Norwegian town Tonsberg.
Social Democrat lawmaker Hanka Kliese, who has led the protest against the shop, described the original name as “tasteless, shocking and totally unacceptable.”
“It is a partial victory that the name is being changed. We are pleased to have had some impact. But we will not stop our protest because a company that considered using such a name and with such an ideology has no place here,” Kliese told Reuters.
Thor Steinar’s range includes hooded tops, belts, T-shirts and camouflage jackets. Although the clothes do not show overt Nazi images, which are illegal in Germany, many display military symbols and patterns similar to the runes used by Hitler’s SS.
German intelligence services have said the label is closely associated with the far-right scene.
Although the Mediatex spokesman said the firm rejects violence and extremism, critics argue it has acted differently from other firms popular with neo-Nazis. British clothing firm Londsale has said it does not want neo-Nazis wearing its clothes and has given money to projects fighting extremism.
In the past, left-wing activists have staged protests outside Mediatex’s Thor Steinar shops in Berlin and Hamburg.
Most of its 13 outlets are in the former Communist East, fertile ground for far-right sympathizers.
Germany’s far-right problem shot to the top of the national agenda last year after police stumbled across a neo-Nazi cell they believe killed nine immigrants over a decade.
The find shook Germans and triggered criticism of failures by the police and intelligence agencies in detecting a web of brutal far-right crime.
Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Andrew Heavens