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Bundeswehr probes extremism within the ranks

September 29, 2017

Germany's military counterintelligence service is probing 391 cases of right-wing extremism, according to the Defense Ministry. An opposition politician called far-right soldiers "ticking time bombs."

Frankreich  Illkirch-Graffenstaden Bundeswehr Soldaten vom Jägerbataillon 291
Image: Getty Images/AFP/F. Florin

The full extent of the German military's problems with Nazi sympathizers among its ranks may slowly be coming to light.

In a year plagued by scandal, Germanys' Funke Media Group revealed on Friday that the Bundeswehr's Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD) recorded 286 new cases of right-wing extremism in 2017.

Read more: The German military and its troubled traditions

The counterintelligence agency had ongoing probes into 275 cases at the beginning of the year, the Funke group of local media outlets reported.

Findings on right-wing extremism in Germany's military – DW's Naomi Conrad

Funke's media outlets cited the Defense Ministry's response to a parliamentary inquiry in their reports. Neither the ministry nor the Bundeswehr has yet issued a response. 

A handful of cases have already been reported in the press this year, including that of Franco A. The army lieutenant was exposed in April for leading a double life as a Syrian refugee and planning a terrorist attack. His plan was to use a fake identity to raise suspicion about migrants in Germany. He and another soldier, identified as Maximilian T., were arrested for planning "grave act of violence against the state." Franco A.'s Master's thesis was reported to have included obvious far-right ideology.

Just a few week's later, investigators uncovered Nazi memorabilia in troop barracks in Donaueschingen, including helmets from the Wehrmacht — the German military under Hitler.

The Bundeswehr was founded in 1955, and many former Wehrmacht soldiers began serving in the new German army.

Read more: Germany promises army reforms after neo-Nazi terror plot

Ulla Jelpke, a domestic policy spokeswoman of the Left Party, denounced the military's dealing with extremists, told the Funke group, "There can be no pardon for neo-Nazis and Reichsbürger — they ultimately have to be expelled from the military ranks."

Reichsbürger refers to a collection of far-right, nationalist, and often anti-Semitic groups whose main characteristic is the conspiratorial belief that the Federal Republic of Germany does not legally exist because, Reichsbürger maintain, Germany never signed a peace treaty with the Allies following World War II.

Read more: What draws right-wing extremists to the military?

"Armed right-wing extremists are "ticking time bombs," Jelpke said. "Even on reasonable suspicion, the persons concerned should no longer have access to weapons until the allegations have been clarified."

Last month, prosecutors in the German city of Tübingen revealed that they are investigating allegations of right-wing extremist behavior among Germany's Special Force Commando, the nation's elite military troops.

dm/sms (dpa, AFP)