angela merkel, GERMANY GOVERNMENT.jpg
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during the Parliamentary Conference at the Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, 14 September 21016.
Photograph: EPA/MICHAEL KAPPELER

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned her countrymen on Saturday not to forget or misuse German history, speaking ahead of October 3 celebrations to mark the 26th anniversary of the country's reunification following the end of the Cold War.

The chancellor called on Germans to oppose right-wing protesters who chant "Wir sind das Volk" ("We are the people") - a slogan used in anti-communist protests in former East Germany before the fall of the Wall.

Back then, the cry was "a very emancipatory one," Merkel said, but today it is shouted at rallies by people who believe they have been short-changed or neglected.

The slogan has been repeatedly heard at the Monday protests held by Germany's anti-Islam Pegida movement in Dresden, where celebrations for German reunification kicked off on Saturday.

Pegida, which stands for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, has been criticized by churches, political parties and unions in Germany as xenophobic.

Dresden's state of Saxony has become notorious for right-wing extremism in recent months, with bomb blasts hitting a mosque and an international congress centre in Dresden earlier this week.

Merkel's decision to open Germany's borders to refugees on September 5 last year has earned her a mix of praise and criticism across the political spectrum and has coincided with a resurgence in right-wing populism and nationalism in Germany.

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