Hard lessons learned no matter how painful - can be forgotten with passage of time. New generations don't share the memories of the old.

This thought is prompted by reports of right-wing extremists who would make a hero of sorts out of Adolf Hitler by celebrating his upcoming 100th birthday anniversary.Hitler was no hero. The millions who died in the concentration camps of the Holocaust, and the millions more who died in the war that Hitler began, make the German dictator one of the bloodiest figures in all history.

Yet some young Germans who never knew Hitler are trying to gather under his banner again. Plans are already under way by some extremists to celebrate Hitler's 100th birthday anniversary on April 20. Neo-Nazis from several countries are expected to attend.

Thankfully, the celebration doesn't represent the thinking of most Germans. The older ones remember too well what Hitler's Nazi philosophies and "grand plan" for a 1,000-year Reich did to them. Younger ones have learned the lessons from history books. Federal officials estimate there are only about 28,300 right-wing extremists in the country of 61.3 million people.

Yet the specter of any hero worship of Hitler should have a chilling effect, although only a few extremists are at the root of it. After all, when Hitler joined the tiny Nazi party, there were just seven members.

And West Germans are seeing a rise in extreme rightists. In January, for example, an extremist party made a strong showing in West Berlin's election by calling for the expulsion of foreigners and asylum-seekers.

West Germany is not about to turn Nazi or anything like it, but as memories turn into faded history, there is always the danger that the old lessons will not be remembered.