Germany Identifies Far-Right Extremists Working in Security Services

BERLIN — Germany has identified 327 cases of far-right extremists working in the police, military and intelligence services over a three-year period, according to a report issued by the country’s interior minister on Friday, highlighting the persistent nature of the threat and the authorities’ efforts to address it.

Germany, under the previous government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, was compelled to open a formal investigation of the problem after several scandals involving right-wing extremists among the country’s police and armed forces including chat groups, stolen ammunition and the possession of illegal weapons.

“We will not allow our democratic constitutional state to be sabotaged from within by right-wing extremists,” said Nancy Faeser, the minister, at the presentation of the report, the most comprehensive public review yet of the issue, covering employees at both the state and federal levels.

Ms. Faeser, who has been in office for less than half a year, brings credibility to fighting far-right extremism from her years in state politics. She presented a 10-point plan to battle right-wing extremism in Germany earlier this year, and said on Friday that she would present a new law to Parliament make it easier to fire extremists working in law enforcement and the security services.

Ms. Faeser and Thomas Haldenwang, the president of the domestic intelligence agency that put together the document, “want to know, want to clarify, want to get to grips with the issue of right-wing extremism,” said Hajo Funke, an expert on the subject. He has for years been critical of federal efforts to combat it, but praised the government for the new approach.

According to Professor Funke, the attempts to uncover right-wing extremism have suffered because state-level authorities, who must play essential roles in fighting the threat, are generally less attuned to it.

The new report covers the three-year period between July 2018 and July 2021. It broadened the definition of who should be labeled a right-wing extremist to include members of the so-called Reichsbürger movement, who reject the modern German state and believe the German Reich will return to power.

Rather than simply providing a number of people suspected of holding extremist views, the authorities were able to identify specific individuals for whom they had proof of right-wing ideology, although the ability to punish them is limited in some cases.

According to the 156-page report, 138 of the confirmed cases were found in federal institutions, such as the armed forces, federal police and big intelligence agencies, which together employ more than 355,000 people. The remaining 189 were found among state agencies, such as police forces and state intelligence organizations, which in total employ nearly 288,000 people.

Among those cited in the report is the well-known case of a former police sniper who was convicted of ownership of illegal weapons in 2019. The man, Marko Gross, who was not identified by name in the report, had organized a chat group for fellow extremists who were preparing for the day society would break down — Day X — with plans to form a small armed group. According to the report, the group included a number of state employees of security services, some with military backgrounds.

Also mentioned in the report is a former Army lieutenant identified as Franco A., who is currently facing trial in a Frankfurt court, where prosecutors have accused him of plotting political murder.

The authorities have said Franco A., who was caught in 2017 trying to collect a loaded gun he had hidden in an airport bathroom and had a fake identity as a Syrian refugee, was driven by a “hardened far-right extremist mind-set,” and had the goal of bringing down the country’s democratic system.

But many of the other cases are more mundane. Some of the employees were part of right-wing chat groups. Others were flagged because of extremist speech or performing straight-armed Nazi greetings, which in Germany is prohibited by the Constitution.

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