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Thread: Neonazi Terrorism in Germany

  1. #136
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    https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/07/02...rror-epidemic/
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    Germany Has a Neo-Nazi Terrorism Epidemic
    How many political murders do far-right extremists have to commit before the German government does something about it?
    By Peter Kuras | July 2, 2019, 5:32 PM

    When the German politician Walter Lübcke was found shot in the head outside of his home near Kassel on June 2, commentators were quick to assert that a right-wing extremist was the most likely culprit. Even the police seemed half-hearted in their calls for restraint in judging the motive of the crime, and the brief suspicion that the culprit had been someone close to the victim was quickly laid to rest. The unanimity of the official response, in one sense, was admirably forthright. But it was also its own national admission of negligence.

    Lübcke, a member of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, served as Kassel district president from 2009 until his death and had long been a figure of regional importance. Tributes from local papers emphasize that he was widely liked and had good relationships with his constituents. In 2015, however, he became a favorite target of right-wingers throughout Germany when, in the midst of the refugee crisis, he told an assembly gathered in the West German city of Lohfelden about the planned construction of a refugee camp, and he brushed away dissent by saying that Germany is a country based on Christian values, including charity, and “anyone who doesn’t share these values, anyone who doesn’t agree, is welcome to leave the country at any time. Every German has that freedom.”

    Lübcke received more than 350 emails immediately following the event, including numerous death threats. He was placed under police protection, but right-wing extremists ensured that outrage about Lübcke’s statement remained fresh. A few days after the event, the German Turkish author Akif Pirincci, speaking at a far-right rally, said that Lübcke had only suggested that ethnic Germans leave the country because the concentration camps had long been closed, implying that Lübcke’s preferred solution would have been the mass execution of his political opponents. Pirincci’s speech ensured Lübcke’s infamy in far-right circles. Erika Steinbach, a politician formerly with the right wing of the CDU, shared the video of Lübcke’s statement at the assembly to her 120,000 followers on social media three times, most recently in February of this year, while right-wing websites such as PI-News ran pieces about Lübcke on a regular basis.

    So it surprised no one when news broke that Stephan Ernst, the suspect in Lübcke’s murder, had a history of racist violence and ties to far-right groups. The killing has provoked widespread condemnations of the ascendancy of right-wing terrorism in Germany; even traditionally conservative leaders such as Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer are now saying that they need to play catch-up in the fight against the far-right and have promised to devote increased resources to policing right-wing terrorists. But critics say that the German state has a long history of ignoring reactionary terrorism.

    Tanjev Schultz, a professor of journalism at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz and the author of a prizewinning book about right-wing terrorism in Germany, says that in Germany’s public imagination terrorism tends to be associated with the left. Memories of the Red Army Faction and the series of political assassinations it undertook are still in the foreground of many Germans’ minds. Meanwhile, neofascistic terrorist attacks like the bombing of a Munich beer garden in 1980 have been largely forgotten.

    This blindness to right-wing terrorism is one of the reasons, Schultz told me, that it took authorities so long to recognize that the 10 murders carried out by the National Socialist Underground (NSU) beginning in 2000 were the work of a terrorist organization. Indeed, as Jacob Kushner has documented in Foreign Policy, authorities largely tried to restrict the investigation into the group’s three core members, Uwe Mundlos, Uwe Böhnhardt, and Beate Zschäpe, despite the fact that there was strong evidence that they had substantial support from other right-wing extremists, as well as some indication that some of that support may have come from within the government.

    Seehofer’s promise to devote increased resources to combating right-wing terrorism has thus encountered widespread skepticism that the commitment will be upheld. That impression has been reinforced by separate investigations that have recently revealed right-wing networks within German police forces: In December 2018, an investigation into Frankfurt’s police force revealed a group chat that regularly employed Nazi iconography. On June 26, police searched the apartment of a member of the group chat, who has been accused of sending racist faxes to one of the lawyers who represented a victim of the NSU—one of them threatened to butcher the lawyer’s young daughter. They were signed “NSU 2.0.”

    Then, on June 28, news broke that an organization called Nordkreuz had used police records to compile a “death list” of almost 25,000 liberal and left-leaning politicians—it had also stockpiled weapons, body bags, and quicklime. Hope that federal authorities would intervene where local authorities had failed to act are also dim given that the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany’s answer to the NSA, has often been accused of complicity in right-wing activity. This is seen most drastically, as Kushner documents in his Foreign Policy story, in the office’s failure to make proper use of informants during the investigation in the NSU. More recently, the former head of the organization, Hans-Georg Maaßen, drew criticism for his baseless claims that videos of right-wing violence during an August 2018 riot in Chemnitz were doctored.

    Though Lübcke’s death is a milestone, similar attacks have proliferated in recent years. In 2015 and 2017, respectively, the mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker, and Andreas Hollstein, the mayor of the West German town of Altena, suffered politically oriented knife attacks. Reker was severely wounded, as were several of her companions. Hollstein escaped with minor injuries after employees of the Turkish restaurant where he was eating disarmed the perpetrator. Leipzig Mayor Burkhard Jung recently told the DPA press agency that there were about three politically motivated crimes against politicians in Germany on a daily basis, with local politicians being especially vulnerable.

    It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the German state has long had difficulties preventing right-wing violence and apprehending its perpetrators because there’s substantial sympathy for neofascistic causes within the German government. But the situation is also more complicated—the diffuse structures of right-wing organizations make it legitimately difficult to differentiate between lone wolves and members of criminal conspiracies, and the ubiquity of online expression of rage makes it hard to differentiate serious threats from idle fantasies. Though some activists are calling for a widespread crackdown on all forms of right-wing activity, others fear that broad approaches could serve to further radicalize right-wingers. When we spoke, Schultz, the journalism professor, suggested that a series of reeducation programs might be a positive step but feared that they would end up reaching the wrong people.

    Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government will have to do something more radical than a simple increase in police resources if it wishes to effectively combat the rise of the far-right—not least because the issue threatens to tear her political party, the CDU, apart. The right wing of the CDU had already been frustrated by its leader’s tolerant stance during the refugee crisis, and now more liberal members of the party are busy accusing their more conservative counterparts of complicity in Lübcke’s death. Germany’s other major centrist party, the Social Democratic Party, has already been decimated by increasing frustration with its willingness to concede to the demands of the CDU within Germany’s governing coalition. If the CDU wishes to escape its fate, it will have to do more than simply root out extremist networks—it will need to find a way of redirecting the forces of right-wing anger.

  2. #137
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    Quote Originally Posted by kato View Post
    • police has uncovered some of these weapons in a buried cache at his employer
    One of the weapons in the cache, a Rossi .38 Special revolver, has been proven to have been the weapon with which Lübcke was killed (as in: not the .22LR).

  3. #138
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    The guy who supposedly shot Lübcke is currently under suspicion for a separate case of attempted murder - an attempt to kill an Iraqi refugee in front of his housing in 2016. The suspect lived less than 2 miles from the site back then and has admitted to "a verbal altercation with a man at that place".

  4. #139
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    Active right-wing shooter situation in Halle, East Germany right now.

    This guy:

    Name:  88dedea9-d345-46f5-82ef-a135f7253f9c.jpeg
Views: 131
Size:  57.0 KB

    - Apparently two killed so far - one at the local synagogue and one at the Turkish restaurant in this picture 600m away.
    - Perpetrators tried to enter the synagogue but could not get through locked door; they then fired through door and windows.
    - Perpetrators are armed with automatic weapons and explosive devices.
    - Hand grenades supposedly also thrown at the restaurant and a jewish cemetary.
    - Car hijacked with shots fired 8 miles from the site of those attacks, two injured.
    - One person arrested.
    - Federal prosecutor has assumed command over investigations, meaning suspected terrorist motive.
    Last edited by kato; 11 Oct 19, at 12:52.

  5. #140
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    Facts:
    • Police have suspect in custody, currently assume he acted alone
    • Suspect is a 27yo German national from Saxony-Anhalt with a rather distinct lack of hair on his head.
    • Perpetrator was streaming the act live online (on Twitch, deleted by now - police has it) similar to the Christchurch attack
    • Police assumes a right-wing extremist political motive based on antisemitic and xenophobic statements (in English and German) in that video.
    • Perpetrator was apparently using an assault-rifle-styled semiautomatic shotgun, pipe bombs and molotov cocktails; he was wearing a helmet and body armor. Witnesses report he switched to an automatic weapon from the shotgun inbetween.
    • There are varying reports that the perpetrator was shot in Halle itself by police shortly after the attack on the restaurant (disputed).
    • He then fled with his car, which he switched by hijacking a taxi from a car workshop in a suburb (two injured). Police arrested him in that car on a highway, with varying reports stating an earlier intercept with shots fired (disputed) and subsequent highway chase and the car crashing 15 minutes later when a truck rammed it.

  6. #141
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    • Suspect has confessed in police custody, including the right-wing extremist political motive.
    • Guns were PA-Luty-style DIY weapons with 3D printed parts, he was additionally carrying 4 kg of homemade explosives in hand-grenade-sized packages.
    • Shootout with patrol car crew and perp being shot in the neck in front of the restaurant is confirmed.

  7. #142
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    Bit too Turkish-German focused, but who cares:
    How Many Mass Shootings Will It Take for Germany to Confront Its Far-Right Problem?

    By Can Dündar
    12:55 PM EST
    Can Dündar is a Turkish journalist and former editor-in-chief of the newspaper Cumhuriyet, now living in exile in Germany


    What happened last week at the Midnight hookah bar – a modest lounge in the German town of Hanau, where a largely Turkish clientele often goes to relax in the evenings – should really be enough to change the debate in Germany. The debate about racism and intolerance, about violence, hate and terrorism, and about the ways that all these things have been fuelled by the nation’s political climate.

    It should have been enough for Germany’s leading politicians to consider the life and death of Gökhan Gültekin, the 37-year-old who worked at that bar in the Heumarkt, a neighborhood dotted with Turkish businesses. He had been busy this winter with preparations for his engagement party. Twice a week, he had taken his father for chemotherapy in the nearby city of Frankfurt. The media reported these facts about him because, on Wednesday night, a German man named Tobias Rathjen, 43, entered the Midnight bar and fired his SIG Sauer at the Turkish diners at a table, killing six. Gökhan was among the first victims.

    Three more died minutes later at the nearby Arena Bar, where Rathjen continued his rampage before going home to kill his elderly mother and, finally, himself. His massacre, and the raving and paranoid “manifesto” he left behind, has emblazoned in bullets one of Germany’s deepest problems, and one that has long been debated: What is behind the rise in racist terrorism here in the heart of Europe?

    The phenomenon itself is undeniable. In the 24-page screed that Rathjen left behind, he called for the extermination of the peoples of Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, Israel, Syria, and the complete Arabian Peninsula. A video shot in his room addressed Americans: “Your country is under control of invisible secret societies… Wake up!” In his lonely life, he appears to have been part of a virtual community of hate, one linked to a series of recent attacks and arrests in European cities.

    The Federal Criminal Police Office, Germany’s equivalent of the FBI, has reported a five-fold increase in the number of ‘dangerous’ far-right extremists in the country since 2012. One such murder (which many Germans called a wake-up call) took place last summer, when Walter Lübcke, President of the Kassel District, was shot in the head at home by a right-wing extremist. Investigators later said he was targeted because of his support for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy toward migrants and refugees.

    Then came another supposed wake-up call – an anti-Semitic attack on a synagogue and the adjacent Jewish cemetery in the town of Halle, resulting in the deaths of two people on 10 October 2019. A week before the latest killing spree in Hanau, German police rounded up 12 far-right extremists in a dragnet that swept across six states. The suspects were allegedly preparing an attack on a mosque.

    But even after the Hanau massacre, it’s hard to see much evidence of Germany waking up to the deeper threat of white supremacism and racist violence. The nation has, of course, mourned the victims of the latest attack. The Berlinale Film Festival opened with a moment of silence last week. Over ten thousand people took part in a march against terror and Islamophobia in Hanau. Representatives of the town’s Islamic community marched alongside clergy from the churches and synagogues. At least on one level, the Hanau massacre helped bring about what the perpetrator’s bloody act was trying to prevent: Many Germans and Turks did get together against racism.

    But this unity will not be easy to sustain once all the funerals are over. Many of Germany’s two million migrants from Turkey live on tenterhooks. They feel intimidated by the attacks of the far-right, who use the Nazi salute, who carry forbidden swastikas and even sing the Horst Wessel Song, an anthem of the Third Reich.

    This is nothing new for the Turkish community, which arrived by the millions in Germany in the 1960s and 70s, mostly under a government program that allowed them to come as “guest workers.”

    But as famous writer Max Frisch stated: “They called for workers, and humans came.”

    The natives, and their government, were slow to accept the fact that many Turks were not to be treated as temporary guests. Their reaction has taken different forms over the decades since. Back in the 1990s, xenophobes in Germany would taunt Turkish immigrants at sports stadiums by waving plastic bags in the air, the flimsy type from inexpensive malls where immigrant families did their shopping. Many still remember those small humiliations, which were followed by growing acts of vandalism against migrants’ homes, shops, mosques.

    After the fall of the Berlin wall, racism unexpectedly thrived in the vacuum left by the collapse of the regime in East Germany. Millions of Germans experienced that transition to capitalism through the loss of their jobs, homes and social security. It’s not surprising that some turned their frustrations against foreigners, especially those who prospered in the newly unified Germany or relied on the support of its welfare system in hard times.

    These frustrations never really went away. Even in Berlin, arguably the country’s most liberal city, applications for housing or a job are routinely turned down when made in a foreign name – and accepted if signed by a German one. And despite the openness toward refugees that Merkel’s government has shown, racism is still growing on the street, and in the political arena.

    During regional elections held last year, the far-right party known as the Alternative for Germany (AfD) won nearly a quarter of the seats in the regional parliament of three German regions, becoming the second biggest party across most of the formerly communist East.

    Björn Höcke, the party boss in the region of Thuringia, declared that the AfD would continue on its march toward power in Germany. Those who doubted him were taught a lesson in February, when the AfD played a decisive role in choosing the regional leader in Thuringia.

    Germans were horrified to realize that racist politics, which had devastated Europe under the Nazis, and which they believed to have been buried too deep to ever rise again, were, in fact, beginning to stir.

    The generation of people who remember the woes of World War II are, for the most part, no longer around to tell their stories. The country that was once seen as a ‘land of migrants’ faces the risk of turning into an anti-migrant land. So far, any political strategy to prevent this growing threat seems well beyond the horizon.

    The generation of people who remember the woes of World War II are, for the most part, no longer around to tell their stories. The country that was once seen as a ‘land of migrants’ faces the risk of turning into an anti-migrant land.

    Germans who have foreign roots make up more than a quarter of the country’s population, yet all too often they do not feel truly at home in Germany. The fact that some of the victims’ coffins (including that of Gökhan Gültekin) were taken to Turkey for burial might well be a symptom of that alienation. During the funeral, the Turkish Ambassador to Germany said, ‘Racist Nazis! No matter what you do, the Turkish community in Germany is here to stay.’

    But under what conditions?
    https://time.com/5790404/hanau-germa...ooting-turkey/

  8. #143
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    kato,

    NYT had a very good article today about far-right infiltration into KSK. would be happy to hear your thoughts.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/03/w...nazis-ksk.html

    As Neo-Nazis Seed Military Ranks, Germany Confronts ‘an Enemy Within’

    After plastic explosives and Nazi memorabilia were found at an elite soldier’s home, Germany worries about a problem of far-right infiltration at the heart of its democracy.

    By Katrin Bennhold
    July 3, 2020
    Updated 1:24 p.m. ET

    CALW, Germany — As Germany emerged from its coronavirus lockdown in May, police commandos pulled up outside a rural property owned by a sergeant major in the special forces, the country’s most highly trained and secretive military unit.

    They brought a digger.

    The sergeant major’s nickname was Little Sheep. He was suspected of being a neo-Nazi. Buried in the garden, the police found two kilograms of PETN plastic explosives, a detonator, a fuse, an AK-47, a silencer, two knives, a crossbow and thousands of rounds of ammunition, much of it believed to have been stolen from the German military.

    They also found an SS songbook, 14 editions of a magazine for former members of the Waffen SS and a host of other Nazi memorabilia.

    “He had a plan,” said Eva Högl, Germany’s parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces. “And he is not the only one.”

    Germany has a problem. For years, politicians and security chiefs rejected the notion of any far-right infiltration of the security services, speaking only of “individual cases.” The idea of networks was dismissed. The superiors of those exposed as extremists were protected. Guns and ammunition disappeared from military stockpiles with no real investigation.

    The government is now waking up. Cases of far-right extremists in the military and the police, some hoarding weapons and explosives, have multiplied alarmingly. The nation’s top intelligence officials and senior military commanders are moving to confront an issue that has become too dangerous to ignore.

    The problem has deepened with the emergence of the Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, which legitimized a far-right ideology that used the arrival of more than a million migrants in 2015 — and more recently the coronavirus pandemic — to engender a sense of impending crisis.

    Most concerning to the authorities is that the extremists appear to be concentrated in the military unit that is supposed to be the most elite and dedicated to the German state, the special forces, known by their German acronym, the KSK.

    This week, Germany’s defense minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, took the drastic step of disbanding a fighting company in the KSK considered infested with extremists. Little Sheep, the sergeant major whose weapons stash was uncovered in May, was a member.

    Some 48,000 rounds of ammunition and 62 kilograms, or about 137 pounds, of explosives have disappeared from the KSK altogether, she said.

    Germany’s military counterintelligence agency is now investigating more than 600 soldiers for far-right extremism, out of 184,000 in the military. Some 20 of them are in the KSK, a proportion that is five times higher than in other units.

    But the German authorities are concerned that the problem may be far larger and that other security institutions have been infiltrated as well. Over the past 13 months, far-right terrorists have assassinated a politician, attacked a synagogue and shot dead nine immigrants and German descendants of immigrants.

    Thomas Haldenwang, president of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, has identified far-right extremism and terrorism as the “biggest danger to German democracy today.”

    In interviews I conducted over the course of the year with military and intelligence officials, and avowed far-right members themselves, they described nationwide networks of current and former soldiers and police officers with ties to the far right.

    In many cases, soldiers have used the networks to prepare for when they predict Germany’s democratic order will collapse. They call it Day X. Officials worry it is really a pretext for inciting terrorist acts, or worse, a putsch.


    “For far-right extremists, the preparation of Day X and its precipitation blend into one another,” Martina Renner, a lawmaker on the homeland security committee of the German Parliament, told me.

    The ties, officials say, sometimes reach deep into old neo-Nazi networks and the more polished intellectual scene of the so-called New Right. Extremists are hoarding weapons, maintaining safe houses, and in some cases keeping lists of political enemies.

    This week yet another case emerged, of a reservist, now suspended, who kept a list with cellphone numbers and addresses of 17 prominent politicians, who have been alerted. The case led to at least nine other raids across the country on Friday.

    Some German news media have referred to a “shadow army,” drawing parallels to the 1920s, when nationalist cells within the military hoarded arms, plotted coups and conspired to overthrow democracy.

    Most officials still reject this analogy. But the striking lack of understanding of the numbers involved, even at the highest levels of the government, has contributed to a deep unease.

    “Once they really started looking, they found a lot of cases,” said Konstantin von Notz, deputy president of the intelligence oversight committee in the German Parliament. “When you have hundreds of individual cases it begins to look like we have a structural problem. It is extremely worrying.”

    Mr. von Notz pointed out that Brendan Tarrant, who massacred 51 Muslim worshipers last year at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, had traveled Europe a year earlier and included an ominous line in his manifesto.

    “I would estimate the number of soldiers in European armed forces that also belong to nationalist groups to number in the hundreds of thousands, with just as many employed in law enforcement positions,” Mr. Tarrant had written.

    Investigators, Mr. von Notz said, “should take these words seriously.”

    But investigating the problem is itself fraught: Even the military counterintelligence agency, charged with monitoring extremism inside the armed forces, may be infiltrated.

    A high-ranking investigator in the extremism unit was suspended in June after sharing confidential material from the May raid with a contact in the KSK, who in turn passed it on to at least eight other soldiers, tipping them off that the agency might turn its attention to them next.

    “If the very people who are meant to protect our democracy are plotting against it, we have a big problem,” said Stephan Kramer, president of the domestic intelligence agency in the state of Thuringia. “How do you find them?”

    “These are battle-hardened men who know how to evade surveillance because they are trained in conducting surveillance themselves,” he added.

    “What we are dealing with is an enemy within.”

    Inside the ‘Shoot House’
    The air inside the “shoot house” smelled acrid, so many live rounds had been fired.

    I was standing in the shooting range on the outskirts of the sleepy German town of Calw, in the Black Forest region, having been invited early this year for a rare visit inside the KSK’s base, the most heavily guarded in the country.

    A camouflaged soldier with a G36 assault rifle crouched along a broken door frame. Two shadows popped up. The soldier fired four times — head, torso, head, torso — then went on to systematically eliminate two dozen other “enemies.” He did not miss once.

    The KSK are Germany’s answer to the Navy Seals. But these days their commander, Gen. Markus Kreitmayr, an affable Bavarian who has done tours in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan, is a man divided between his loyalty to them and recognizing that he has a serious problem on his hands.

    The general was late for our interview. He had just spent four hours questioning a member of his unit about a party where half a dozen KSK soldiers were reported to have flashed Hitler salutes.

    “I can’t explain why there are allegedly so many cases of ‘far-right extremism’ in the military,” he said. The KSK is “clearly more affected than others, that appears to be a fact.”

    It was never easy to be a soldier in postwar Germany. Given its Nazi history and the destruction it foisted on Europe in World War II, the country maintains a conflicted relationship to its military.

    For decades, Germany tried to forge a force that represented a democratic society and its values. But in 2011 it abolished conscription and moved to a volunteer force. As a result, the military increasingly reflects not the broad society, but a narrower slice of it.

    General Kreitmayr said that “a big percentage” of his soldiers are eastern Germans, a region where the AfD does disproportionately well. Roughly half the men on the list of KSK members suspected of being far-right extremists are also from the east, he added.

    The general has called the current crisis in the unit “the most difficult phase in its history.”

    In our interview, he said that he could not rule out a significant degree of infiltration from the far right. “I don’t know if there is a shadow army in Germany,” he told me.

    “But I am worried,” he said, “and not just as the commander of the KSK, but as a citizen — that in the end something like that does exist and that maybe our people are part of it.”

    Officials talk of a perceptible shift “in values” among new recruits. In conversations, the soldiers themselves, who could not be identified under the unit’s guidelines, said that if there was a tipping point in the unit, it came with the migrant crisis of 2015.

    As hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers from Syria and Afghanistan were making their way to Germany, the mood on the base was anxious, they recalled.

    “We are soldiers who are charged with defending this country and then they just opened the borders, no control,” one officer recalled. “We were at the limit.”

    It was in this atmosphere that a 30-year-old KSK soldier from Halle, in eastern Germany, set up a Telegram chat network for soldiers, police officers and others united in their belief that the migrants would destroy the country.

    His name was André Schmitt. But he goes by the nickname Hannibal.

    Hannibal’s Network
    In a house in rural western Germany, behind a curtain of iron chains and past the crossbow in the hall, a dungeonlike room bathed in purple light opens into a bar area. An oversized image of a naked woman dominates the back wall.

    It was there that I met Mr. Schmitt early this year. He gave permission for his name to be used, but did not want the location disclosed or any photographs.

    He left active service last September after stolen training grenades were found at a building belonging to his parents. But, he says, he still has his network: “Special forces, intelligence, business executives, Freemasons,” he said. They meet here regularly. The house, he says, is owned by a wealthy supporter.

    “The forces are like a big family,” Mr. Schmitt told me, “everyone knows each other.”

    When he set up his Telegram chats in 2015, he did so geographically — north, south, east, west — just like the German military. In parallel, he ran a group called Uniter, an organization for security-related professionals that provides social benefits but also paramilitary training.

    Several former members of his chats are now under investigation by prosecutors for plotting terrorism. Some were ordering body bags. One faces trial.

    Mr. Schmitt’s situation is more complex. He acknowledged serving as an informer on the KSK for the military counterintelligence agency in mid-2017, when he met regularly with a liaison officer. Today the military is paying for him to get a business degree.

    He himself was never named a suspect. German officials denied that they protected him. But this week the domestic intelligence agency announced that it was placing his current network, Uniter, under surveillance.

    The authorities first stumbled onto his chats in 2017 while investigating a soldier in the network who was suspected of organizing a terror plot.

    Investigators are now looking into whether the chats and Uniter were the early skeleton of a nationwide far-right network that has infiltrated state institutions. As yet, they cannot say. The New York Times obtained police statements by Mr. Schmitt and others in his network related to the 2017 case.

    Initially, Mr. Schmitt and other members say, the chats were about sharing information, much of it about the supposed threats posed by migrants, which Mr. Schmitt admitted to the police he had inflated to “motivate” people.

    “It was about internal unrest because of sleeper cells and worldwide extremist groups, gang formations, terrorist threats,” Mr. Schmitt told the police.

    The chats were popular among KSK soldiers. Mr. Schmitt said he counted 69 of his comrades in the network in 2015.

    A fellow KSK soldier, identified by investigators as Robert P., but known as Petrus, who ran two of the chats, told the police two years later that it might have been more than twice that: “I have to say, presumably half the unit was in there.”

    Soon the chats morphed from a platform for sharing information to one dedicated to preparing for Day X. Sipping mineral water, Mr. Schmitt described this as “war gaming.” He portrayed a Europe under threat from gangs, Islamists and Antifa. He called them “enemy troops on our ground.”

    His network helped members get ready to respond to what he portrayed as an inevitable conflict, sometimes acting on their own.

    “Day X is personal,” he said. “For one guy it’s this day, for another guy it’s another day.”

    ‘‘It’s the day you activate your plans,” he said.

    Chat members met in person, worked out what provisions and weapons to stockpile, and where to keep safe houses. Dozens were identified. One was the military base in Calw itself. They practiced how to recognize each other, using military code, at “pickup points” where members could gather on Day X.

    The sense of urgency grew.

    On March 21, 2016, a chat member, identified only as Matze, wrote about a pickup point near Nuremberg. There were, he wrote, “sufficient weapons and ammo present to battle one’s way on.”

    Later that year, Mr. Schmitt sent a message to others in the chat network. In the previous 18 months, he wrote, they had gathered “2,000 like-minded people” in Germany and abroad.

    When I met him, Mr. Schmitt called it “a global like-minded brotherhood.”

    He denies ever planning to bring about Day X, but he is still convinced that it will come, maybe sooner rather than later with the pandemic.

    “We know thanks to our sources in the banks and in the intelligence services that at the latest by the end of September the big economic crash will come,” he said in a follow-up phone call this week.

    “There will be insolvencies and mass unemployment,” he prophesied. “People will take to the street.”

    Pig Heads and Hitler Salutes
    One night in 2017, Little Sheep, the sergeant major whose weapons stash was uncovered in May, was among about 70 KSK soldiers of Second Company who had gathered at a military shooting range.

    Investigators have identified him only as Philipp Sch. He and the others had organized a special leaving party for a lieutenant colonel, a man celebrated as a war hero for shooting his way out of an ambush in Afghanistan while carrying one of his men.

    The colonel, an imposing man covered in Cyrillic tattoos who enjoys cage-fighting in his spare time, had to complete an obstacle course. It involved hacking apart tree trunks and throwing severed pig heads.

    As a prize, his men had flown in a woman. But the colonel ended up dead drunk. The woman, rather than being his trophy, went to the police.

    Standing by the fire with a handful of soldiers, she had witnessed them singing neo-Nazi lyrics and raising their right arm. One man stood out for his enthusiasm, she recalled in a televised report by the public broadcaster ARD. She called him the “Nazi grandpa.”

    Though just 45, “the Nazi grandpa” was Little Sheep, who had joined the KSK in 2001.

    In the three years since the party, the military counterintelligence service kept an eye on the sergeant major. But that did not stop the KSK from promoting him to the highest possible noncommissioned officer rank.

    The handling of the case fit a pattern, soldiers and officials say.

    In June, a KSK soldier addressed a 12-page letter to the defense minister, pleading for an investigation into what he described as a “toxic culture of acceptance” and “culture of fear” inside the unit. Tips about extremist comrades were “collectively ignored or even tolerated.” One of his instructors had likened the KSK to the Waffen SS, the soldier wrote.

    The instructor, a lieutenant colonel, was himself on the radar for far-right leanings since 2007, when he wrote a threatening email to another soldier. “You are being watched, no, not by impotent instrumentalized agencies, but by officers of a new generation, who will act when the times demand it,” it read. “Long live the holy Germany.”

    The KSK commander at the time did not suspend the lieutenant. He merely disciplined him. I asked General Kreitmayr, who took over command in 2018, about the case.

    “Look, today in the year 2020, with all the knowledge that we have, we look at the email from 2007 and say, ‘It’s obvious,’” he told me.

    “But at that time we only thought: Man, what’s wrong with him? He should pull himself together.”

    The Hallway of History
    The back door of the main building on the base in Calw leads into a long corridor known as the “hallway of history,” a collection of memorabilia gathered over the KSK’s nearly 25 years that includes a stuffed German shepherd, Kato, who parachuted from 30,000 feet with a commando team.

    Conspicuously missing is any mention of a disgraced former KSK commander, Gen. Reinhard Günzel, who was dismissed after he wrote a 2003 letter in support of an anti-Semitic speech by a conservative lawmaker.

    General Günzel subsequently published a book called “Secret Warriors.” In it, he placed the KSK in the tradition of a notorious special forces unit under the Nazis that committed numerous war crimes, including massacres of Jews. He has been a popular speaker at far-right events.

    “What you basically have is one of the founding commanders of the KSK becoming a prominent ideologue of the New Right,” said Christian Weissgerber, a former soldier who has written a book about his own experience of being a neo-Nazi in the military.

    The New Right, which encompasses youth activists, intellectuals and the AfD, worries General Kreitmayr. The lawmaker whose anti-Semitic comments led to General Günzel’s firing all those years ago now sits in the German Parliament for the AfD.

    “You have leading representatives of political parties like the AfD, who say things that not only make you sick but that are clearly far-right, radical ideology,” General Kreitmayr said.

    Soldiers were not immune to this cultural shift in the country, he said. Just recently a fellow general had become a mayoral candidate for the AfD. Several former soldiers represent the party in Parliament.

    Down the hill from the shoot house is the Green Saloon, a cross between a boardroom and a bar. It is dominated by a vast oil painting depicting KSK soldiers and their German shepherd successfully attacking a Taliban hide-out.

    It is a scene familiar to several soldiers who had gathered the day I was there. But the soldiers I spoke with questioned the strategy behind a war that has run for two decades with few concrete results, except an increase in migration at home.

    “My girls asked me: ‘Why do you have to go to Afghanistan when there are children from the Kundus in our class?’” recounted one officer. “I did not have an answer.”

    When he took a delegation of KSK soldiers to meet with political parties in Parliament, he asked them the same question. “They did not have an answer, either,” he said.

    Only one lawmaker made a clear statement, he said. He was from the AfD. “He said we should have left a long time ago,” the officer recalled.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

  9. #144
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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    NYT had a very good article today about far-right infiltration into KSK. would be happy to hear your thoughts.
    Ahead of you, posted this yesterday as a separate thread: http://www.worldaffairsboard.com/showthread.php?t=67411
    (basically explaining what is being done to handle the problem in KSK, and a bit on why)

    For some thoughts on the article:

    In my opinion it blames the AfD a bit too much, portraying it a bit as if they had fostered the Hannibal Network.

    However, the Hannibal Network pretty much predates it - its foundation lays with Uniter e.V., an association of "former members of elite security forces" founded in 2012 by the mentioned Andre E.. Uniter served to connect groups of dubious provience, from security guards to former soldiers and police officers to ... whatever the PC term for mercenaries is. The Hannibal Network formed within it in 2015 with the refugee crisis as an initial spark, and - beyond its terrorist plans - served as a forum for militant prepper groups. Some of these groups have been found. Others probably haven't. Some members may have worked for or been members of AfD. Some groups were quite serious about their plans, others probably weren't. All very widespread.
    Last edited by kato; 03 Jul 20, at 21:31.

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