Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Number of Far-right Soldiers on the Rise in German Army

Number of Far-right Soldiers on the Rise in German Army

Wednesday, 27 May, 2020 - 08:30
German Bundeswehr army soldiers in Bad Reichenhall, southern Germany (Reuters)

The number of far-right wing soldiers is on the rise among the ranks of the German army (Bundeswehr), according to the army’s annual report.

The report's alarming numbers prompted Commander of Special Forces Command (KSK) Brigadier General Markus Kreitmayr to address the soldiers in a letter few weeks ago warning against the dangers of such ideologies, noting that the army is going through one of its most difficult stages.

The German Press Agency (dpa) published the letter Tuesday, in which Kreitmayr warned that there remains a number of soldiers who are considered to be members of the far-right parties.

He indicated that such members harm the military institution and the reputation of the special forces and army in general.

Kreitmayr explained that those soldiers are either not loyal to the German constitution, or affiliated with the Reich Citizens' Movement (Reichsburger), or support far-right ideologies, calling on them to resign from the army before they are expelled.

The involvement of soldiers with far-right movements has always been an issue for the German army.

Earlier this month, Saxony local police investigated an elite soldier assigned to Bundeswehr's KSK for breaching Germany's weapons control law.

DPA reported that weapons and explosives were found on the soldier's private property, who was being investigated for his involvement with right-wing extremist groups.

After the arrest, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer announced that “anyone, who is observed acting radically in the Bundeswehr has no place in our armed forces.”

She said that the soldier will not be allowed to enter the headquarters of the German army anymore.

Military intelligence recently increased its scrutiny of suspected extremists within the army's special forces, after a number of politicians and journalists criticized its leniency regarding this issue.

The intelligence report said it had identified 14 red category extremists, including eight classed on the far right-wing, two "Reichsburger", and four Islamists.

Reichsburger is a group that does not believe in German institutions, and its members refuse to pay taxes or carry a German passport.

However, the number of soldiers with right-wing extremism is much higher than that with previous investigations revealing they were more than 550, as the government struggles to contain right-wing threats and violence.

Former defense minister Ursula von der Leyen aimed to cleanse the army of such movements before leaving her position to assume the chair of the European Commission in Brussels.

In one of her statements, de Leyen showed Nazi fatigues worn by German soldiers and ordered the cleansing of the army of all Nazi ties.

The army continued to struggle with such scandals, and last year it apologized after an image of a Nazi-era uniform with swastikas was posted on its social media official account.

The image was quickly removed, and the army said it was an “unacceptable mistake,” admitting that it damaged the reputation of the Germany military and caused “considerable irritation.”

Editor Picks