BERLIN (Reuters) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned xenophobic attacks and the use of Nazi slogans in a robust speech to parliament on Wednesday after the most violent far-right demonstrations in decades exposed deep divisions in the country.
Protests of right-wing radicals in the eastern city of Chemnitz two weeks ago after the fatal stabbing of a German blamed on two migrants has reignited a fierce debate about her 2015 decision to let more than a million refugees into Germany.
"There is no excuse or reason for hunting people down, using violence and Nazi slogans, showing hostility to people who look different, who have a Jewish restaurant, for attacks on police officers," Merkel told the Bundestag lower house of parliament.
"We will not allow whole groups in our society to be excluded on the quiet," she said, adding Jews, Muslims and Christians all belong in German society, adding human dignity was paramount.
She was responding to a passionate speech by the head of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) who said the country's 'domestic peace' was at risk.
"As disgusting as Hitler salutes are, I would like to remind you that the really serious event in Chemnitz was the bloody deed (committed) by two asylum seekers," said Alexander Gauland.
He accused Merkel of spreading fake news about the demonstrations and supported Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the BfV intelligence agency who is under fire for questioning whether video footage showing gangs hounding migrants were real.
"The truth is, there was no hunting down of people in Chemnitz... The citizens who demonstrated were criminalized," said Gauland. "Mrs. Chancellor, you have nothing more to offer the people of this country than obstinacy, dogmatism and insults. Barricade yourself up in the chancellery away from reality!"