29 police officers in Germany suspended for sharing neo-Nazi images
A police department in western Germany discovered five chat groups with extremist content, feeding concerns about far-right infiltration of the country’s security services.
BERLIN — A police force in Germany on Wednesday suspended 29 officers suspected of sharing images of Hitler and violent neo-Nazi propaganda in at least five online chat groups, adding to concerns about far-right infiltration in Germany’s police and military.
Herbert Reul, the interior minister of the western state of North-Rhine Westphalia, where the chats were discovered, called them a “disgrace.” At a news conference on Wednesday, he described the images that were shared among officers as “far-right extremist propaganda” and the “ugliest, most despicable, neo-Nazi immigrant-baiting.”
The number of cases of far-right extremists in Germany’s police and military, some of whom hoard weapons and keep lists of enemies, have multiplied in recent years. On Monday, the authorities raided the home of a 40-year-old soldier in connection with an investigation of a suspected far-right terrorism plot.
For years, German politicians and security chiefs rejected the notion of far-right infiltration of the security services, speaking only of “individual cases.” The idea of networks was routinely dismissed, and the superiors of those exposed as extremists protected.
But this summer, the government disbanded an entire company of German special forces because it was deemed to be infested with far-right extremists. And the problem has become so serious that the authorities appear to be struggling to get a grip on it.
Early Wednesday, investigators raided the homes and work stations of 14 of the 29 suspended officers in at least five towns and cities. Their senior officer was among the members of the chat groups.
Mr. Reul, the interior minister, said he had long hoped that such episodes were isolated exceptions. “Today, I can no longer speak of individual cases,” he said.
In the state of Hesse, investigators have traced to police computers information used in a string of death threats sent over the past two years to left-wing politicians and prominent Germans with immigrant roots. The interior minister in Hesse later publicly raised concerns about a far-right “network” in his police service. And in Munich, the authorities identified another chat group of officers sharing anti-Semitic posts.
The police discovered the chats in North-Rhine Westphalia when the private cellphone of one 32-year-old officer was confiscated as part of a separate investigation into whether he had passed confidential information about an organized crime gang to a journalist.