Report: Far-right network active at German military university
The Bundeswehr's university has come under scrutiny as claims of far-right extremism in the German military continue to mount. Defense Minister von der Leyen, meanwhile, also finds herself under increasing pressure.
There may be a growing group of right-wing radicals in Germany's military, according to an exclusive report published in Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) on Friday.
The newspaper reported that a network of extremists involved with the Identitarian Movement has been growing for years at the Bundeswehr's university in Munich and includes students and alumni.
The Bundeswehr University is chiefly designed to equip service members for future careers outside the military
The Identitarian Movement
is currently being monitored by the BfV, Germany's domestic intelligence agency, for possibly infringing on the constitution, also known as the Basic Law.
The right-wing movement, with an estimated 300 members, propagates a return to what it sees as traditional national values and is accused of xenophobia and Islamophobia.
The military's counterintelligence agency, MAD, is presently examining a total of 284 cases of alleged far-right extremismin the Bundeswehr.
Bundeswehr under pressure
MAD investigations include four students at the Bundeswehr's university who are suspected of having ties to far-right movements, according to SZ's report. The MAD probe is scrutinizing potential direct or indirect links between the four students and a first lieutenant in custody since late April on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks. Franco A. and his two known accomplices had reportedly been scheming to blame refugees for the attacks. Franco A. had pretended to be a Syrian migrant himself and received subsidiary protection status in a scandal that raised many questions about how asylum applications are handled by Germany's Office for Migration and Refugees.
The case of Franco A shook the German military, whose image was already suffering after a series of abuse cases. German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen launched a major inquiry into the present state of disarray at the Bundeswehr, but has been criticized for mismanaging the crisis, and faces accusations of doing too little, too late.
The Defense Ministry has also come under pressure after it was revealed in the course of the investigation that a number of soldiers have been collecting Nazi-era mementos, and that several military installations were still named after Wehrmacht leaders.
Von der Leyen supports the inquiry into the Bundeswehr but denies personal responsibility for oversights
Von der Leyen faced fresh attacks on her leadership, with the defense representative of the Left party, Christine Buchholz, accusing the military and MAD of "complete failure."
"Today we heard for the first time explicitly that there are links to the periphery of the Identitarian Movement," Buchholz told reporters. "A relevant portion of the Bundeswehr has an issue with right-wing extremism. Von der Leyen and her predecessor systematically made light of this problem for years."
When asked about the case of Franco A, Buchholz said: "What we are dealing with here is nothing less than the formation of a right terrorist cell."