( dpa ) - Seventy-five years after Hitler came to power in Germany the baleful influence of his ideology lives on with increasing numbers of racist attacks reported, particularly in the countries of the former Soviet Union.
In Russia, one of the main hotspots for neo-Nazi activity, human rights activists estimate there are roughly 70,000 skinheads.
Galina Kozhevnikova, deputy head of the Sova centre, an organization which tracks xenophobia and hate crime, said right-wing extremist organizations in Russia were "growing stronger."
According to data from the Sova centre, 68 people were killed last year in racist crimes and 565 were injured in attacks. The number of attacks has increased by 20 to 25 per cent in recent years, the centre said.
African and other foreign students in Russia are regularly warned not to leave their dormitories on key danger dates such as the eve of Hitler's birthday.
Rights advocates complain that the legal penalties are not severe enough to deter hate crimes. They charge that Russian authorities often obfuscate the real motives behind attacks by prosecuting on charges such as hooliganism or alcohol-fulled homicide, which carry much more lenient sentences.
Russia's Interior Ministry released a report on January 19, warning about "an increase in ultranationalist sentiment" in Russia. The report said that over 15 per cent of Russian youth identify with ultranationalist sentiment.
Human rights campaigners accuse the state of tolerating, if not encouraging, extremist nationalists movements. Right-wing extremist groups feel supported by the state and law enforcement bodies, Kozhevnikova said.
"It is not perhaps direct support, but a clear emphasis on patriotic and nationalist rhetoric, which is in fashion right now," she said.
In the Baltic republics of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, neo-Nazi groups are largely marginalized from mainstream politics. They make themselves known at events and parades, such as in March when Latvian right-wingers commemorate Latvian Waffen SS soldiers who fought against the Soviets in World War II.
Right-wingers in the three Baltic countries - EU member states since 2004 - also target gay rights parades. In 2007 skinheads attacked with sticks and stones such a parade in the Estonian capital Tallinn, wounding several.
Ukraine, too, has seen its share of right-wing activity. In November neo-Nazi skinheads and Indian engineering students battled in a mass fist-fight involving hundreds in Zaporizhia in the heart of the country's industrial east.
Racial and xenophobic tensions in Ukraine generally are low. However, extremist nationalist groups are active in most cities of the former Soviet republic. Most members of such groups are unemployed teenagers or young men from low-income families.
Actual violence against ethnic minorities in Ukraine is an infrequent but recurring event. The most common targets are Jews and Muslim Tartars, but in recent years attacks against foreigners from Asia and Africa have increased.
Other new member countries of the European Union have also seen a rising level of right-wing activity and violence.
Last November in the eastern Slovak city of Kosice three right- wing extremists beat up a 16-year-old dark-skinned girl of Slovak and Cuban origin while yelling Nazi slogans.
Racist attacks, mostly against the Roma and foreign students, are not unusual in Slovakia. The police registered 188 racially-motivated crimes, including violent attacks, in 2006, an increase from 121 cases in 2005. Activists add that not all victims report attacks.
The Czech Republic's estimated 3,000 to 5,000 right-wing radicals remain an insignificant fringe group without a strong centralized leadership and political backing, according to Czech counter- intelligence.
"What makes the Czechs different is that they lack a party cover. They are politically isolated," political scientist Miroslav Mares told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
He added that the Czech right-wing scene is "very weak" compared to Germany precisely because there is no National Democratic Party (NPD) in the Czech Republic. A small National Party is still insignificant and unpopular despite attempts to make headlines by provocative populist actions.
However, Czech right-wingers have recently begun trying to gain visibility and promote their political ideas by organizing marches and protests in Czech towns.
"They wanted to get favour with the street following the German example of the NPD as someone who can establish order," Mares said.
"We are against this system. We are against this establishment," one 28-year-old ultra-nationalist said of the reasons for protests.
Such activities, though, have been met with outrage not only from Jewish groups and human-rights activists but also from politicians of all stripes, and the public.
When some 400 Czech, German and Slovak neo-Nazis unsuccessfully tried to gather in Prague for a banned march through the city's historic Jewish district on November 10 - the anniversary of the so- called Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) pogrom - at least 1,000 people convened in the chilly drizzle in protest.
"The far right does not have a strong historical tradition in the Czech ethnic environment," Mares explained. "Nationalist parties do not impress the public. They do not have a bigger chance to enter real power structures. Most people disapprove of them."In Poland, the all-Poland Youth, the youth wing of the Catholic- nationalist League of Polish Families (LPR) party, has been accused of having neo-Nazi sympathies. The group is known for its sometimes violent anti-gay protests.
Hungary, too, has seen a significant rise in the far right since the riots that hit Budapest in September 2006 when football hooligans and extreme-right activists attacked the headquarters of Hungarian Television following the leaking of a tape on which the prime minister admitted lying.
While the violence only continued sporadically for around five weeks, right-wing groups have been far more prominent since then.
There have been isolated attacks, particularly one on a gay rights parade that saw skinheads pelt marchers with rotten eggs, but the most worrying development for many was the formation last August of the Magyar Garda, a uniformed wing of extreme-right party Jobbik.
Jewish organisations and government officials have expressed concern over the group, which wears black uniforms Jewish groups say are similar to those worn by Hungarian fascists in the 1940s.
The guard has chosen as its coat of arms a variation of the medieval flag associated with Hungary's Nazi-aligned Arrow Cross party - in power for a brief period during World War II and responsible for the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Jews.
Moves have been made to disband the group, which now numbers over six hundred, but they have made themselves very visible, particularly with regard to their attitudes to Hungary's Roma minority.
Some 260 members of the guard marched through a Roma-majority town near Budapest in their uniforms in December, claiming they were simply protesting against violent crimes by Roma against Hungarians.
The long-established democracies of Western Europe have also not been immune to the neo-Nazi scourge with attacks and far-right movements in countries such as Spain and Greece.
Across the continent the picture looks broadly the same - the far right attracts unemployed, undereducated youth and those who oppose immigration. But there's little evidence that extreme right-wing parties will ever be able to attract significant popular support.