Germany- Insider Threat: Far-Right in Military, Security Services

Germany Stuck between Far-wing Extremism, Islamic Jihad
Thomas Haldenwang (left),president of Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, pictured with the interior minister, Horst Seehofer, said they would not view cases of extremism in isolation/Reuters

Germany is caught in the cross-hairs of right-wing radicalism and Islamic Jihadist extremism. German intelligence reports, during the past two years, admitted that the danger of right-wing terrorism has increased a lot, and this has made the German government take new measures, although they are still not at a good level.

In a country where any semblance of militarism calls to mind the Nazi past, the notion of a German soldier raising a gun in a foreign land remains for many, uniquely abhorrent. That’s why, when Germany’s elite commando force, the Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK), was established 25 years ago, many Germans were apprehensive.

On 19th September 2021, security services from the German military intelligence said that an officer, as well as another soldier, will be investigated over suspected right-wing extremism, according to a report by the German weekly Bild am Sonntag.

The German parliament approved in May 2021 a law to tighten security review procedures for army soldiers, following the discovery of cases of right-wing extremism within the army's Special Forces division (KSK).

Germany’s first nationwide report into rightwing extremism in the security services has revealed hundreds of incidents across the police and military that contravened the country’s constitution, according to The Guardian. A series of extreme far-right cases among members of Germany’s military and police highlight the threat of the enemy within radicalized extremists within security services, with access to weapons, training, and confidential information.

The 98-page report itself stated that while the absolute figures appeared low compared with the number of employees in the security forces, “it can basically be assumed that there is also a dark field” of unknown extremists. From police chat groups where racist, nationalist, and anti-Semitic content is being shared to a Nazi sympathizer within the special forces allegedly storing weapons and explosives to a police employee allegedly looking to help far-right terrorists plunge the country into civil war, it is clear the threat is significant.

On 6th October 2020, Horst Seehofer, the interior minister, sought to downplay the incidence of extremism in the forces, at the same time insisting that each case was a “disgrace” and that a “no tolerance” policy would be exercised against personnel who broke the rules.

There have been too many disturbing reports in recent months from Germany's security apparatus. It has led to growing concerns that the incidents that have been publicized may just be the tip of the iceberg. Stephan Kramer, president of the State Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Thuringia, said.

“When special forces units in the military and police call the state into question and perhaps even establish right-wing networks, that should make us extremely worried," he says. An attack on the state perpetrated by those trained to defend it - security personnel trained in the use of weapons – would be a nightmare scenario for Germany.

German Defence Minister Kramp-Karrenbauer plans on restructuring the country's KSK in the wake of numerous allegations of far-right extremism among its ranks, the German newspaper Die Welt reported on  30th June 2020. According to Die Welt, Kramp-Karrenbauer announced structural reforms of the KSK unit, which included the dissolution of one of its four combat companies. Some 70 soldiers would be affected by the changes, Die Welt reported.

 

A series of extreme far-right cases among members of Germany’s military and police highlight the threat of the enemy within. Credit: Reuters

Far-Right extremism has increased in Germany, because for the following reasons:

- Fear: the German federal government decided in early September 2015 to allow refugees, who were then trapped in Hungary, to journey on to Germany. In the months that followed, some 890,000 people applied for asylum

- Political correctness: The AfD party included criticism of “political correctness” (albeit an exaggerated phenomenon) in their platform. At campaign rallies, AfD officials often mocked the use of gender-sensitive language and criticized academic fields that focus on gender roles.

- Digital edge: No political party in Germany is as active on the Internet as the AfD. Since its founding in 2013, the party’s strategy has relied heavily on Facebook to spread its message via social media.

- Calculated provocation: The German interior minister said on 15th June 2021 that right-wing extremism and anti-Semitism remained the main security threat to the country.

- Pandemic protests: The COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed to strengthening the country's right-wing scene as anti-corona protests were exploited by the far-right for their political objectives. [7]

An independent body to monitor the work of the police revealed the existence of racism in the German police, stressing that there should be no place for extremists in uniforms. The head of the Social Democratic Party, a partner in Germany's ruling coalition, Zaskia Esken, said that there is also racism in the German security forces. Meanwhile, Esken suggested creating an independent body to monitor the work of the police, because, "when dealing with cases of police violence, the prestige of the police should not be more important than the rights of citizens." For this reason, "the matter should be entrusted to an independent body that considers such complaints."

Results

- The Far Right succeeded in infiltrating the security and defense institutions in Germany, and this penetration was intended by the extreme right to obtain training, weapons, and ammunition to carry out assassinations and terrorist operations inside Germany.

- There is a problem in the monitoring and follow-up of the extreme right, in society, or in reviewing the records of workers in German state institutions. What was revealed by the German Ministry of Defence and Intelligence came as a result of reactions, not proactive or follow-up efforts, but rather the result of open practices by extremist right-wing elements within security and defense.

- The German government, since 2018, has been aware of the growing danger of the extreme right after it was engaged with the threat of extremist Islamist groups and immigration.

It seems that the timing is late and not in the German government's favor, and it seems that the extreme right and its dangers during this stage are much greater than the ability of German intelligence to reduce this danger, and this means that the dangers of the extreme right will continue to escalate for years to come despite the efforts made by the German government.

- The problem lies not in the lack of human and financial resources for the intelligence services, but in the German "culture" through curricula, schools and universities, as a result of Germany's long history of confronting "Nazism".

It is essential to have constitutional institutions that supervise the security and defense services and monitor any trend towards extremism, or perhaps reveal any cases of penetration by the extreme right into Germany's security and defense.

 

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