Germany Suspends Soldiers From Military Guard Over Right-Wing Allegations | News | DW
Germany is investigating a far-right organization within the army’s honor guard battalion, the Defense Ministry said on Friday.
The group presents itself as the “pack of wolves” (Wolfsrudel) and is also scrutinized for its initiation rituals and sexual abuse.
The prestigious battalion’s 2nd Company, best known for hosting foreign heads of state and for its high-profile military parades or accolades, has been “removed” from active service while reports are investigated, has Defense Ministry spokesman Arne Collatz told reporters in Berlin. The officers involved were relieved of their duties.
Soldiers suspended following complaints within the unit
The incidents came to light following testimony from fellow battalion members, they were first reported online by Der Spiegel, shortly before the ministry commented and informed parliament on Friday.
Collatz also acknowledged that these allegations were by no means the first of their kind in the German military ranks in recent years.
“This concerns – again, it has to be said – rather perverse drinking and hazing rituals. It concerns sexual violence and indecent assault. It concerns extreme right-wing incidents,” said Collatz.
The faction leader, which is said to have at least six soldiers, is said to have abused troops for racist ends.
The group of soldiers has been suspended from all official events “until further notice” while the investigation is carried out, Collatz said. The Defense Ministry said the allegations “bring us deep shame” and that the case will be investigated “with all due diligence”.
The Guard Battalion, the elite training unit of the Bundeswehr, has a total of almost 1,000 men; its members are often called “protocol soldiers”.
Problem of extremism within the army
According to Der Spiegel, a 32-year-old non-commissioned officer was seen wearing a T-shirt showing a black sun with “Sonnenstudio 88” (Solarium 88) on the front and “We are brown” in German on the back.
The number 88 is believed to correlate with HH (“Heil Hitler”) as the eighth letter of the alphabet. The initial paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party wore brown, and brown was the party color in the Weimar Republic. Modern German laws prohibiting the display of famous Nazi-era symbols or gestures, such as the swastika or the Nazi salute, force far-right extremists to use more indirect references to Hitler and the NSDAP or to risk prosecution.
German officials have said they are determined to eradicate right-wing extremism within the military after a series of similar reports in recent years. On Friday, the ministry stressed that “each case of suspicion is one too many” and that there would be “zero tolerance for any type of crime”.
In June 2020, the German Defense Ministry disbanded an elite wing of the armed forces in response to reports of far-right extremism in its ranks. About a year later, Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer decided to disband only elements of the KSK Special Forces unit, after initially considering disbanding it completely, claiming that efforts to reform it had already well advanced.
Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly referred to Wolfschanze as Adolf Hitler’s secret bunker near Berlin. This reference was removed on October 11, 2021.
jsi / msh (AP, dpa, AFP)