ExtremismGermany: More than 500 Soldiers Investigated for Ties to Extremist Right-Wing Violent Groups

Published 27 January 2020

The director of Germany’s military intelligence service has confirmed that hundreds of new investigations were launched against soldiers with extremist right-wing leanings and associations. Germany’s elite Special Forces Command, with a disturbingly high number of cases, appears to be a particular hotbed. The director, however, said that there is no “shadow army” of extremists within the Bundeswehr plotting to topple the state authorities.

Germany’s Military Counterintelligence Service (Militärischen Abschirmdienst, or MAD) has said it was investigating 550 Bundeswehr soldiers suspected of belonging to various extremist and violent right-wing groups, the  German newspaper Welt am Sonntag reported.

In recent years, several cases of extremism among soldiers, policemen, and members of the domestic intelligence service have been brought to light, as the both the federal government and state governments are seeking more effective ways to deal with a rising tide of right-wing extremist violence.

Christof Gramm, the director of MAD, told Welt am Sonntag that 360 additional cases of suspected right-wing extremists were registered in 2019. He added that last year, 14 soldiers were found to be members of extremist groups, and eight of them were members of groups which engaged in political violence.

MAD also said an additional 40 soldiers were judged to have failed to uphold the values of the German constitution (or “lack of constitutional loyalty”: “fehlender Verfassungstreue”).

Our goal is to not only remove extremists from the German military but also people who lack loyalty to the constitution,” Gramm said.

Gramm attributed the growing numbers of extremists being identified to increased scrutiny by MAD.

Cases of suspected extremism were particularly concentrated among an elite unit known as Special Forces Command (Kommando Spezialkräfte, or KSK).

Gramm said that 20 of the suspected right-wing extremism cases currently being processed were within the KSK, which, relative to the number of personnel at the KSK, is five times as many as in the rest of the Bundeswehr.

He added that the number of extremism cases in the KSK doubled in comparison with the start of 2019.

In 2017, in the wake of the case of Franco A. — a German army soldier who will stand trial for terror-related offenses — MAD was sharply criticized for what critics said were the unit’s relaxed attitudes toward violent right-wing extremists in its ranks. Franco A. (German privacy laws prohibit the publication of a suspect’s last name before the beginning of the trial) was arrested after it was discovered that he was leading a double life: a soldier by day, and a Syrian refugee in the evening. He planned to carry out deadly attacks against German citizens, leaving behind clues to his “Syrian refugee” character, in order to trigger a backlash against refugees in Germany.

The activities by Franco A. and his two accomplices raised fears of a “shadow army” within the German military. One result of the Franco A. affair was the strengthening of MAD.

That was the alarm to comprehensively develop MAD,” Gramm said.

Gramm, however, rejected the idea that there was a shadow army of extremists, but said his organization keeps a watchful eye for any eventuality.

That’s how we identified extremists and people with insufficient constitutional loyalty,” Gramm told NTV, adding that they did not find any group that “wants to overturn the state.”