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More right-wing extremists found in German military

March 9, 2019

The agency responsible for probing right-wing extremism in Germany's military did not fully reveal the scope of the problem, a report has found. An MP accused the government of "downplaying" extremism in the military.

German soldiers stand in a line during an exercise
Image: picture-alliance/W. Rothermel

More right-wing extremist soldiers were uncovered and removed from service in the Bundeswehr in the past few years than had previously been reported, according to a report published Saturday by German newsmagazine Der Spiegel.

The Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD), which is responsible for investigating extremism in Germany's military, admitted that it had underreported the numbers "to the outside world" as well as to the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament.

During a closed-door meeting with the Bundestag's internal affairs committee in mid-February, a MAD department head said the figures they had reported only constituted the number of "clearly recognized right-wing extremists," Der Spiegel reported.

Figures 'came up short'

MAD previously reported that four right-wing extremists were let go from the military in 2018, as well as three Islamic extremist soldiers. In 2017, six far-right extremists were removed.

One of the agency's members told Der Spiegel that those statistics "came up short" of the real figures of people let go from Germany's armed forces — which include suspected cases of right-wing extremists as well.

Since 2013, there have been "around 10" additional "suspects with extremist attitudes" every year who were uncovered and reported to troop leaders, a MAD official told Der Spiegel.

Read more: A German right-wing extremist soldier's double life

Some 450 cases being investigated

The agency is currently investigating some 450 suspected cases of right-wing extremism in the German military, the magazine and news agency dpa reported.

Of those cases, 64 are suspected of being members of the Identitarian movement, while another 64 are possible Reichsbürger (Citizens of the Reich) members.

German law expects soldiers to actively commit to defending the country's constitutional values, making the presence of right-wing extremists especially problematic.

The Reichsbürger movement, in particular, rejects the legitimacy of the German government as well as current German law.

'Danger not being taken seriously'

Several opposition lawmakers criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government following the publication of the Der Spiegel report, saying Berlin should be more forthcoming with the data.

Left party MP Christine Buchholz told the AFP news agency that the scandal is not about isolated cases but rather a "structural problem" within the German military.

It is "high time for the government to stop downplaying right-wing extremism in the Bundeswehr," said Buchholz, who is a member of the Bundestag's defense committee.

Agnieszka Brugger, an opposition Greens lawmaker who also sits on the defense committee, urged for the Defense Ministry to submit a regular report on the cases with the complete figures.

The ministry is creating the impression "that the danger isn't being taken seriously enough when information is only made available upon request and not even with the overall context," Brugger told AFP.

Germany: Rocking against the far right

rs/sms (dpa, AFP, epd)

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