Another German army officer arrested in neonazi terror scandal


This 2012 German ARD TV video is about neonazism in the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Second German soldier arrested over ‘false flag’ plot to assassinate left-wing politicians in terror attack

Prosecutors say Maximilian T covered for friend as he posed as Syrian refugee

Lizzie Dearden

Tuesday 9 May 2017 16:25 BST

A second soldier has been arrested for allegedly planning a “false flag” terror attack to be blamed on refugees in Germany amid fears of a wider neo-Nazi network within the army.

The plot was exposed with the arrest of a German lieutenant, Franco A, who was found to be posing as a Syrian refugee in order to carry out a shooting attack targeting left-wing politicians.

One of his friends at Illkirch-Graffenstaden barracks in France has now been detained for allegedly covering for the soldier’s absences as he periodically returned to Bavaria to continue the ruse.

Maximilian T, a 27-year-old German national, was also a member of Jägerbataillon 291 and was arrested on Tuesday after being questioned by military intelligence officers.

Like Franco A, Maximilian T is a first lieutenant. According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily, Maximilian T already had been investigated for right-wing extremism in 2015. However, that investigation had stopped without consequences.

He had joined his friend on a trip to Vienna in January – supposedly for an officers’ ball – where Franco A stashed an unregistered gun to be used in the attack at the city’s main airport.

Maximilian T was also part of an online messaging group where he, Franco A and other members exchanged far-right posts, photos and audio files, Der Spiegel reported.

He is assumed to be “number three” in the plot, following Franco A and Mathias F, a friend from his hometown who was also arrested in April.

“They were willing, or at least claimed to be, to kill for their cause,” an investigator said.

As well as the loaded 7.65mm pistol stashed in a toilet at Vienna International Airport, around 1,000 rounds of ammunition were found at Mathias F’s home in Offenbach – mostly stolen from the German army.

The federal prosecutor’s office said the three suspects were suspected of planning to attack senior politicians and public figures “who are committed to an immigration and refugee policy which has failed in the view of the defendants”.

The names of the former German President, Joachim Gauck, and left-wing justice minister Heiko Maas (SPD) were on a list of potential targets, said spokesperson Frauke Köhler.

She told a press conference Franco A planned to frame Islamist militants for the attack, which would have been linked to his fake identity as a Syrian refugee.

“The three suspects wanted to direct suspicion at asylum seekers living in Germany after the attack,” she added.

“The planned attack was intended to be interpreted by the population as a radical Islamist terrorist attack by a recognised refugee.

“Especially with regard to the ongoing public discussion over immigration and refugee policy, an alleged terrorist attack by a registered asylum seeker would have attracted particular attention and contributed to the sense of threat.”

Franco A had created a fake persona under the name David Benjamin, telling immigration officials he was a Damascus fruit seller …

No doubts appear to have been raised over the credibility of the 28-year-old’s background, despite him speaking mainly French with a smattering of Arabic from a language course.

The lieutenant registered in Giessen, Hesse, on 30 December 2015 – as Germany was overwhelmed by the arrival of almost a million asylum seekers – then submitted an asylum application at Zirndorf in Bavaria in January last year.

Despite having to return to Germany to collect monthly welfare payments, Franco A continued his army post in France until the day of his arrest because his friend covered for him, prosecutors said.

“Maximilian T is strongly suspected of planning a serious act of violence against the state out of a right-wing extremist conviction,” a spokesperson added.

“The resulting absences were at least partly covered up by Maximilian T, who had excused Franco A to his superiors.”

Officials said he obtained a Second World War era Unique Model 17 pistol for the attack, which he hid in a disabled toilet in Vienna International Airport while passing through in January.

Franco A’s double life was only discovered when he was arrested after returning to retrieve the gun in February.

A fingerprint check revealed his fake identity as a Syrian refugee, but when “David Benjamin” failed to answer a court summons in Austria, a wider investigation was triggered and the plot unravelled.

The soldier had not raised alarm over extremism in the army, despite writing a master’s thesis on ”political change and subversion strategy“ at a French university in 2014 that was found to contain far-right thinking.

An assault rifle case carved with a swastika was found in his barracks room, where the letters HH [Heil Hitler] were inscribed on the wall and a Nazi-era pamphlet depicting a Wehrmacht soldier was discovered.

The unprecedented plot has shocked Germany, prompting investigations within the army and interior ministry over how Franco A was able to lead a double life for more than a year.

The defence minister, Ursula von der Leyen, has come under fire for her handling of the case after attacking “weak leadership” following the discovery of 275 suspected right-wing extremists within Germany’s military.

She has since apologised for her blanket criticism, following scandals including sexual abuse and hazing at another military base.

See also here.

This video from 2007 says about itself:

This video showing a German army instructor telling one of his soldiers to envision African-Americans in the Bronx while firing his machine gun was broadcast Saturday.

The video, coming after scandals involving photos of German soldiers posing with skulls in Afghanistan and the abuse of recruits by instructors, seemed likely to raise more questions about training practices in Germany’s conscript army.

In 2007, it was still a conscript army. Now, it is a professional army. Some German militarists want to bring conscription back.

By Peter Schwarz in Germany:

Nazi traditions of Germany’s Armed Forces come to the fore

9 May 2017

Last Thursday, Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen apologized to Germany’s generals for reproaching the Bundeswehr (Armed Forces) with having an “attitude problem” and a “wrongly understood esprit de corps.” Since then systematic attempts are being made to hide the full extent of the right-wing conspiracy in the military.

After the arrest of 28-year-old First Lieutenant Franco A, who is accused of preparing terrorist attacks while falsely pretending to be a refugee, it soon emerged that his neo-Nazi sympathies had long been known and tolerated by his superiors, and that such views are widespread in the Bundeswehr. Now suspicions are growing that Franco A is part of a larger network reaching into the leadership structures of the Bundeswehr.

In the Fürstenberg Barracks in Donau-Eschingen, a meeting room decorated with memorabilia from the Wehrmacht (Hitler’s army) was discovered. The hurried attempts at a cover-up and an order from General Inspector Volker Wieker, the Bundeswehr’s highest-ranking general, to search all barracks and Bundeswehr buildings for such commemorative Wehrmacht items cannot hide the fact that the preservation of Wehrmacht traditions and the toleration of neo-Nazi views in the Bundeswehr are not individual lapses, but a widespread, systemic phenomenon.

In some barracks, no search is necessary to recognize the continuity of Hitler’s Wehrmacht. A look at the name of the barracks is enough.

Two barracks are named after Hitler’s most famous military commander, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Three bear the names of fighter pilots awarded hero status under the Nazis—Hans-Joachim Marseille, Helmut Lent and Hermann von der Lieth-Thomsen—and two bear the names of tank commanders who were prominent in the war of extermination against the Soviet Union—Dirk Lilienthal and Adelbert Schulz. Another one is named after Paul von Hindenburg, a key figure in the First World War, who, as German president, appointed Hitler as Reich chancellor in 1933.

In the Leclerc Barracks in the French town of Illkirch, where Franco A served in an infantry battalion, the traditions of the Wehrmacht and the Nazis were obviously a matter of course. According to Spiegel Online, investigators find “more and more signs of a far-right fellowship in the barracks around Franco A.”

Although German soldiers have been stationed there only since 2010, the wall of the recreation room, the so-called “bunker,” was painted with Wehrmacht soldiers. The base commander admitted he had visited the bunker, but said the large-scale depictions of the Wehrmacht soldiers were not evident to him.

Already in 2012, there was a scandal at the Leclerc barracks when soldiers spread a four-meter-wide swastika on the ground during an international football match. This case was reported to superiors and the Ministry of Defence, in contrast to the neo-Nazi attitudes of Franco A. However, except for minor fines for three soldiers, it did not have any consequences.

Militaristic propaganda by politicians, the media and historians also plays an important role in the promotion of Wehrmacht traditions. Three years ago, leading politicians, including von der Leyen, announced that Germany must once again play a global political and military role appropriate to its economic clout. Bundeswehr soldiers have been sent to Afghanistan, Mali and other countries and are now accustomed to fighting and killing. This inevitably boosts the glorification of the Wehrmacht.

An important ideological step in the rehabilitation of the Wehrmacht was already made in 1999, when, after a fierce public debate, the travelling exhibition “The Crimes of the Wehrmacht—War of Annihilation 1941-44,” which had attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors over four years, was cancelled and its director Hannes Heer dismissed.

At the time, the WSWS commented, “All those who have an interest in preserving the myth of the Wehrmacht, from the nationalist German historians and magazine columnists to the parties in the SPD-Green government coalition and the ‘tradition-conscious’ Bundeswehr generals, to the right-wing extremist skinheads on the streets—all felt encouraged by the dismissal of Heer.” This has now been confirmed.

First Lieutenant Franco A’s Infantry Battalion 291 is directly involved in the international war efforts of the Bundeswehr. “This battalion stationed in France is no ordinary unit, but a kind of pioneer organization for special tasks,” reports the website NachDenkSeiten. “The battalion is present where it is geopolitically precarious, such as in Lithuania or Mali. It is also involved in politically explosive maneuvers like Operation ‘Sabre Strike’ 2015 in Poland, which was commanded not by NATO but by the US Army.”

According to Der Spiegel, Franco A was a member of the staff responsible for planning “international exercises and maneuvers.” His superior, the battalion commander Colonel Marc-Ulrich Cropp, has excellent international and political connections. He participated in training missions in the US several times; from 2008 to 2010 he completed elite training with the US Marine Corps. He then headed the planning department for operations of the Bundeswehr special forces in the German Ministry of Defence.

In the Ministry of Defence, Cropp worked closely with high-ranking politicians, according to NachDenkSeiten. This included the head of the planning staff, Ulrich Schlie, a member of the Atlantik-Brücke, which describes itself as “private, non-profit, nonpartisan association with the goal of building a bridge between Germany and the United States.” Membership is by invitation only. Schlie began his career working with Wolfgang Schäuble and as a foreign policy advisor to Roland Koch (both leading Christian Democratic politicians). Cropp also worked with Schlie’s successor Géza Andreas von Geyr, who also came from Schäuble’s circle and was vice president of the secret service BND from 2010 to 2014.

Franco A also seems to have maintained international contacts. In January 2017, he attended the elite “Officers’ Ball” at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. According to the organizers, the annual social event is “a meeting place not only for officers of the Austrian Armed Forces and Viennese society, but also for European politics and business.” Its sponsors included the major international armaments companies Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, BAE Systems and General Dynamics.

Franco A’s visit to the Officer’s Ball became known because afterwards he hid a gun in a toilet at Vienna airport, which was discovered by maintenance staff. At the beginning of February, Franco A fell into a trap laid by the Austrian police as he sought to pick up the gun from its hiding place.

Franco A’s neo-Nazi views, their cover-up by his superiors, the prominent status and international connections of his battalion, and many unresolved questions indicate that he was a cog in a wider conspiracy. The great effort being undertaken by the law enforcement authorities certainly suggests this. Following his arrest, which took place only three months after he went to recover the gun in Vienna, 90 police officers searched 16 buildings in Germany, Austria and France.

However, the public has been informed only about two accomplices so far. One was found to be in possession of 1,000 rounds of ammunition and other material from Bundeswehr bases. The other is said to have drawn up a list of possible targets of a terror attack, which includes left-wing activists and Bundestag (parliamentary) deputies, former President Gauck, Justice Minister Heiko Maas, and Jewish and Muslim associations.

While the media report extensively about every newly discovered piece of Wehrmacht memorabilia, the background and possible links of this sinister network are veiled in silence.

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5 thoughts on “Another German army officer arrested in neonazi terror scandal

  1. Tue May 9, 2017 | 7:58am EDT

    Racist soldier’s militant double life shocks Germany

    By Thomas Escritt and Sabine Siebold | BERLIN

    In January 2014, the commander of a French military academy rejected the master’s thesis of an elite German army officer under his charge for its extremist argument that human rights could lead to the genocide of Western races.

    “If this was a French participant on the course, we would remove him,” he told the young officer’s German superiors.

    An academic hired to review the thesis told senior officers in the German army, the Bundeswehr, that it included racist and radical nationalist content, but they chose not to formally discipline the man as they did not want to jeopardize the career of a high-flying recruit.

    That laxness was a violation of German rules, which require that any report of extremism among soldiers immediately be investigated by military intelligence.

    Now, the young officer in question, Franco A., is in custody awaiting charges for posing under a false identity as an asylum seeker. Investigators are probing whether he planned an attack that he seemingly hoped would be blamed on asylum seekers.

    “There would have been an attack,” said Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen in a television interview, describing a “horror” scenario. “There would have been a weapon at the site, with fingerprints on it. We’d have put the prints in the system and have got the match of a Syrian refugee.”

    The episode has blown up into a full-scale scandal about right-wing extremism in the Bundeswehr that has prompted a search of all German army barracks for Nazi memorabilia.

    The case has also put pressure on the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel five months before an election, with her close ally, von der Leyen, facing criticism for failing to put the German army’s house in order.

    After the French commander’s warnings had been ignored, it took a tip-off from Austrian police to bring Franco’s plans to light, when they caught him trying to recover a loaded gun he had stashed in a Vienna airport toilet after an officers’ ball.

    German authorities have since discovered he had fraudulently obtained 1,000 rounds of live ammunition from Bundeswehr stocks and stashed it at the home of a 24-year-old accomplice. A search of his barracks in France found swastikas and memorabilia from the wartime army, the Wehrmacht.

    Prosecutors are poring over chat logs and files found on his seized smartphone and computer for evidence that he had further accomplices. Franco A., whose surname is known to Reuters but cannot be disclosed due to German privacy laws, has no visible social media presence that Reuters has been able to find.

    WEEDING OUT EXTREMISTS

    When the German armed forces were refounded after World War Two, they disavowed any link to the Wehrmacht, which was complicit in many Nazi atrocities. Set up in 1955, the new Bundeswehr was to be a democratic body of “citizen soldiers” with the autonomy and confidence to reject immoral orders.

    But in the case of Franco A., prior investment in a seemingly model soldier, chosen along with a handful of other promising recruits to attend an elite military college in France, appears to have outweighed civic commitment.

    “When his master’s thesis says that immigration leads to the genetic genocide of western peoples, then it should be crystal clear to everyone that we are dealing with Nazi ideas,” von der Leyen said in a speech to German top brass last week.

    Far from being sacked, Franco was given a verbal warning and allowed to rewrite the thesis. After graduating he was assigned to the Franco-German brigade in Illkirch – a prestigious unit that symbolizes the post-war rapprochement between the erstwhile foes.

    Meanwhile, he had registered under a false identity as an asylum seeker named David Benjamin, posing to immigration authorities as a persecuted French-speaking refugee who spoke not a word of German. He commuted from the base in France to attend asylum hearings, where he spoke through an interpreter.

    Many armies have had problems weeding out far-right extremists in their ranks. But for the German army, the past makes the issue especially sensitive.

    Ever since World War Two, successive German governments have seen a commitment to human rights and opposition to extremism as key elements in atoning for the crimes of Nazi Germany and rebuilding allies’ confidence.

    This was more easily done when the German army was rarely deployed abroad, mostly contributing to peacekeeping missions. But with allies now asking that Europe’s largest economy shoulder more of the continent’s security burden, tough choices have to be made.

    SWASTIKAS, NAZI MEMORABILIA

    In rejecting Germany’s tainted past, the army deprives itself of the sort of historical narrative that other fighting forces might use to create esprit de corps. For Franco’s fellow officers in Illkirch, mess-room wall pictures of soldiers in gear that, to the expert eye, dated from the wartime army were a permissible nod to tradition.

    But German regulations say otherwise, and von der Leyen won support, including from Merkel, for her pledge to get to the bottom of the multiple failings that led to Franco’s extremism being overlooked.

    At the weekend, prosecutors ordered searches of all German army barracks for similar relics. German media reported that Franco’s own room was more luridly decorated, including with swastikas.

    “Our image is hurt by these occurrences,” said Volker Wieker, head of the German armed forces, in a television interview.

    Von der Leyen, initially criticized for what seemed a blanket condemnation of the armed forces for tolerating extremism, has since apologized, praising the work done by the majority of their 250,000 members.

    The military has found sympathy in unlikely quarters. Tobias Pflueger, vice-president of the pacifist Left party, said soldiers were being asked to do the impossible by playing a more active European role while rejecting Germany’s military past.

    “If you now send German tanks to the border with Russia in Lithuania, then you can’t forget history,” said the Left party’s Pflueger, referring to calls for NATO to help protect their Baltic allies from an increasingly threatening Russia.

    “German tanks were there before, and they did something there,” he said. “There is a historical responsibility and Germany must be very cautious.”

    (Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Peter Graff)

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-security-army-idUSKBN1850VP

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