Germany’s army infiltrated by Nazi ‘admirers’

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Germany has called for the inspection of all the country’s army barracks after memorabilia commemorating the Nazi army were found in a garrison.

“The General Inspector has instructed that all properties be inspected to see whether rules on dealing with heritage with regard to the Wehrmacht and National Socialism are being observed,” said a German Defense Ministry spokesman on Sunday.

The inspection was called for after the Nazi era memorabilia were found in an army base in southwest Germany after similar items were discovered in the base of an army officer detained for planning extremist attacks.

Meanwhile, Germany’s Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has stressed that right-wing extremism must be removed from the country’s armed forces. “We must now investigate with all due rigor and with all candor in the armed forces,” she said during a televised interview on Sunday. “The process is starting now, and more is sure to come out. We are not through the worst of it yet.”

Last week, German police arrested a 28-year-old army lieutenant, identified as Franco Albrecht, who had gained asylum by creating a false identity in his home country.

The soldier, who spoke no Arabic, had been accepted as a refugee and was receiving monthly state benefits. The soldier’s case came to light after Austrian police caught him with a loaded handgun at the Vienna airport in February.

The subsequent investigation found that he had created a fake identity as a Syrian fruit seller called “David Benjamin” in 2015.

Media reports said he kept “death lists” with the names of top politicians, including former president Joachim Gauck, some cabinet ministers, and the Social Democrat interior minister, Heiko Maas.

German authorities arrested a second soldier Tuesday on allegations he was part of a far-right plot to assassinate prominent political figures and blame the attack on refugees in a case that has raised concerns about extremism within the country’s military.

Maximilian T., 27, was arrested in the southwestern city of Kehl on charges of preparing an act of violence, federal prosecutor’s spokeswoman Frauke Koehler said.

In a case authorities have called “more than strange,” A. is alleged to have managed to pass himself off as a Syrian refugee in the state of Hesse at the end of 2015 and be granted a place at a home for asylum-seekers, as well as state financial aid for migrants. Though stationed with the Bundeswehr in France, he lived sporadically at the refugee home and T. is alleged to have covered him, at times, when he was absent from the barracks, prosecutors said.

A. came to the attention of authorities after he was arrested in February while going to retrieve a pistol he’d stashed in a Vienna airport bathroom. He was freed, but Austrian authorities informed Germany, and when the soldier’s fingerprint matched the one he’d given when he registered as a refugee, it triggered the current investigation.

In addition to the two soldiers, a 24-year-old student from A.’s hometown of Offenbach, Matthias F., has also been arrested.

Koehler said the three are believed to have been planning to attack “high-ranking politicians and public figures who, in the eyes of the suspects, engaged in failed refugee policies.” Among others on a list they put together were former German President Joachim Gauck, and Justice Minister Heiko Maas, she said.

A. was to carry out the attack under his “fictitious identity” as a Syrian refugee, Koehler said.

“In this way the three suspects wanted to link the attack in Germany to asylum seekers,” she said.

A. was supposed to carry out the attack, using the 7.65 mm pistol stashed in the Vienna airport, which Koehler identified as a “Model 17” produced by the French firm Manufacture d’Armes des Pyrenees Francais, a World War II-era weapon used by the German armed forces, among others.

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen canceled a visit to the U.S. after the case broke, and met with top members of Germany’s military last week to try and determine where mistakes were made.

Among other things, A. came to the attention of superiors for expressing what von der Leyen called “clearly racist and far-right extremist” views in a 2014 dissertation written as part of his officer’s training, but was let off with a warning.

Bundeswehr chief of staff Volker Wieker has promised a full investigation, saying there is no indication of widespread right-wing extremism in the military, but that the case has raised “justified concern.”