The Bundeswehr – the German armed forces – suspended a second solider because of far-right extremists statements, according to Friday reports in the German media.
The lieutenant, named only as Ralf G., was not permitted to wear his uniform – a move that is tantamount to a military suspension. The disciplinary move comes amid a widening scandal over fears of hard-line racist and xenophobic views among soldiers. The Bundeswehr has roughly 180,000 members.
The suspension comes days after the head of Germany’s armed forces called for an inspection of all army barracks after investigators discovered Nazi-era military memorabilia in a garrison.
Two other soldiers – named only as Franco A. and Maximilian T. – have been arrested on suspicion of planning a racially- motivated attack.
Der Spiegel cited one of the suspended soldier’s comrades as saying he had made comments about a “group of officers prepared to commit violence who are collecting weapons and munitions” based in the French town of Illkirch-Graffenstaden, home of a German-French brigade.
Franco A. and Maximilian T. had also been stationed in Illkirch-Graffenstaden. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has vowed to crack down on hard-right views among the troops. She has blamed “weak leadership” across the military for the failure to tackle the racist attitudes, bullying and sexual abuse. Von der Leyen, who has little military experience, is under fire from her Christian Democratic Union Party for her sharp criticism of the German military.
Former defense minister Volker Rühe, speaking to Welt am Sonntag, said, “It is completely inappropriate and absurd to place the entire German armed forces under suspicion of the Werhrmacht [the Nazi-era armed forces].” He added that von der Leyen’s criticism shows a “distorted picture of the German armed forces.”
The New York Times quoted German Left Party deputy Christine Buchholz in its Friday report as saying, “Now it is glaringly obvious to everyone that this problem has existed for a long time and poses an immediate threat to people.”
The comment from Buchholz could be seen as rich in irony, as she supports Palestinian suicide attacks against Israel as a legitimate form of “resistance” and was part of an left-wing extremist group within her party. Buchholz also advocates the “legitimate resistance” of Hamas and Hezbollah.
Hamas is classified by the EU and US a terrorist organization. Germany banned Hezbollah’s so-called military wing as a terrorist entity, and the US and the Netherlands consider all of Hezbollah’s organization to be a terrorist entity.
Reuters contributed to this report.