‘From recruits to generals’: German defense minister vows to reform army amid far-right attack probe
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has pledged to respond to the discovery of far-right sympathizers in the German Army with reforms, including reviewing one of the Bundeswehr’s post-Nazi era key principles, Traditionserlass.
Von der Leyen said her ministry would, among other things, revamp its ‘Traditionserlass’, a policy last updated in 1982 that provides an overview of how troops are supposed to treat and perceive the legacy of the German military.
Von der Leyen, whose post includes the role of commander-in-chief of Germany’s armed forces, said that the military needed a faster and more efficient reporting scheme for incidents and potential threats and would need to increase the political education of troops, Reuters reported.
“We need a broad process in the military itself, that we must travel together, from recruits to generals, from instructors to the minister,” she said, as cited by Berliner Morgenpost.
The minister is in hot water over the scandal revolving around Franco Albrecht, a 28-year-old first lieutenant who was allegedly plotting a hate-motivated terrorism 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.
Since 2014, the Bundeswehr had been pointing to a right-wing attitude of the officer, but no action was taken, Suddeutsche Zeitung reported.
On Tuesday, German authorities detained a presumed accomplice, believed to be involved in an alleged far-right plot to stage a false-flag terrorist attack against high-ranking pro-refugee politicians and blame it on asylum seekers. The 27-year-old suspect, who the prosecutors identified as Maximilian T, was arrested in Kehl, Baden-Wurttemberg after military intelligence discovered a link between two suspects detained in late April.
According to the investigators, Maximilian T was stationed at the same Franco-German base near Strasbourg as Albrecht who was arrested in late April, and who was covering for his regular absences at the base, Tagesschau.de reported.
Numerous Nazi-era military awards, propaganda posters, and steel Wehrmacht helmets were discovered at an army barracks in western Germany last week during an ongoing investigation into Albrecht.
Von der Leyen said following Albrecht’s arrest in the German city of Hammelburg that the army suffered from an “attitude problem” and “a misunderstood esprit de corps,” as well as “weak leadership at different levels.”
Her remarks came under fire from the Bundeswehrverband, the armed forces association representing soldiers.
“Her comments leave us bewildered and outraged,” André Wuestner told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper.
“If the minister is truly serious about that, then she's massively damaging the Bundeswehr. To say all 250,000 in the Bundeswehr have an attitude problem affects us all.”
Von der Leyen later apologized for her sweeping criticism of “weak leadership” in the Bundeswehr.