German military orders that all army barracks be searched for Nazi Wehrmacht memorabilia
Volker Wieker, the chief of staff of the German Army, the Bundeswehr, has ordered that all barracks and buildings used by the military be searched, the German media reported on Sunday. The search for Nazi memorabilia will last until May 16, and the military command will be given a report on the preliminary findings by next Tuesday.
This week, collections of Wehrmacht propaganda posters, military awards, and iconic steel helmets were discovered at army barracks in the towns of Illkirch and Donaueschingen, both home bases of the Franco-German infantry brigade.
The Nazi memorabilia were uncovered during an ongoing investigation into Franco Albrecht, a 28-year-old first lieutenant who was allegedly plotting a hate-motivated terror attack. Investigators said the officer had been living a double life for more than a year, serving in the army while receiving state benefits under a bogus identity as a supposed Syrian refugee.
Albrecht’s plan involved targeting subjects on a “death list,” which included left-wing anti-fascist activists, according to Bild. If his plot had succeeded, his fingerprints, which are contained in a refugee database, would have led investigators to his false identity as an asylum seeker, thus putting the blame on migrants.
The German government said earlier that it would “leave no stone unturned” to establish how the officer, who reportedly has xenophobic views, managed to falsely register as a Syrian refugee, even with no command of Arabic.
Additionally, the Defense Ministry now maintains that the suspect did not act alone and was likely a member of a far-right network consisting of at least five people, Hannoverische Allgemeine newspaper reported.
According to Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, the suspect had speculated on how migrants would bring about the “genocide of the Western European peoples” in his master’s thesis. Though he was required to submit a different thesis, he received no disciplinary penalty for writing the first. The minister said an analysis of his papers leaves no doubt that he harbors “nationalist, racist and far-right views,”according to Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
In a subsequent comment to ZDF, von der Leyen asserted that the Bundeswehr has an “attitude problem” and “clearly has a weakness of leadership on several levels.” In a separate statement, she added that the troops must bear “collective responsibility” for the alleged far-right terror plot. That emotional remark infuriated military commanders, prompting over 100 generals and admirals to demand an apology.
General Harald Kujat, the German Army’s former Inspector General, told Die Welt that von der Leyen’s comments were “unacceptable and disgraceful” for the armed forces, adding that soldiers may steadily lose trust in political leadership.
The opposition supported the minister, however. “Her stance on the Bundeswehr and the state of affairs there deserves respect,” said Klaus Ernst, vice chairman of the Left Party’s parliamentary faction, as cited by the newspaper.
“She is the only post-war minister to speak bluntly about the [far-right] problem in the armed forces,” he added.