cologne njemačka policija police germany.jpg
Photograph: EPA/MAJA HITIJ

German police are investigating the appearance of a mock Nazi tank in a carnival parade marked with the words "Asylum Defence Force," for inciting hatred against migrants.

The mock tank, a car with a cardboard structure built on top of it, rolled through the town of Steinkirchen by Pfaffenhofen in upper Bavaria on Sunday, where 500 people were taking part in traditional carnival celebrations.

The float was also marked with a black cross reminiscent of the emblem used on Nazi armoured vehicles.

A spokesman said police decided against halting the float during the parade in the interests of artistic freedom, but were now investigating whether it could be considered as inciteful.

For centuries, carnival celebrations in Germany's Rhineland and elsewhere in the country have been an occasion to take aim at politicians and other powers that be in the form of papier mache floats.

Previous years have seen floats in the form of Chancellor Angela Merkel with a Hitler moustache and Russian President Vladimir Putin flexing a Crimea-shaped muscle.

The organizers of the Steinkirchen parade, local community association OCV Steinkirchen, said there was no right-wing sentiment among its members and that refugees had taken part in the celebrations.

Anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise in the country and crimes against refugees and their accommodation have skyrocketed. There were 1.1 million new arrivals in 2015 alone.

Dusseldorf, Mainz and Essen were among several German cities to call off their Rose Monday parades because of a looming storm. The procession in Cologne - Germany's largest - went ahead as planned.

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