29 officers suspended in Germany, suspected to share Hitler images

BERLIN – A police force in Germany suspected of sharing images of Adolf Hitler and violent neo-Nazi propaganda in at least five online chat groups on Wednesday, adding concerns of far-right infiltration into Germany’s police and military. Officers suspended.

Herbert Reul, the interior minister of the western state of North-Rhine Westphalia, where the chat was discovered, called it “an insult”. At a press conference on Wednesday, he described the images shared between officials as “ugly, most vile, neo-Nazi, anti-immigrant” kind of “far-fetched extremist propaganda”.

Officials familiar with the evidence said the 126 photographs shared included swastikas as well as pictures of a refugee in a gas chamber and the shooting of a black man.

The number of cases of far-right extremists in Germany’s police and military, keeping lists of some hoarders’ weapons and enemies, has multiplied dangerously in recent years. Just on Monday, authorities raided the home of a 40-year-old soldier in connection with an investigation into a suspected remote terrorism plot.

For years, German politicians and security chiefs rejected the notion of any far-reaching intrusion of security services, speaking only of “personal matters”. The idea of ​​the network was regularly rejected and the superiors of those protected by extremists.

But this summer, the government dissolved an entire company of German special forces, as it was believed to be suffering from far-right extremists. And the problem has become so serious that the officials seem to be struggling to get hold of it.

In the wee hours of Wednesday, police raided the homes and work centers of 14 of the 29 suspended officers, most of whom have been charged with actively sharing material. His superiors were among the members of the chat groups.

Interior Minister Mr. Reul said that he had long hoped that such incidents were isolated.

“Today, I can no longer speak of personal matters,” he said.

Many police departments in Germany have found themselves in the limelight due to far-right extremism.

In Hesse’s state, investigators have unearthed police computer information used over the past two years to link left-wing politicians and prominent Germans with death threats sent to immigrant origins. The interior minister in Hesse later publicly raised concerns about a far-flung “network” in his police service.

In Munich, the authorities identified another chat group of officers sharing anti-quasi positions.

Police discovered the chat in North-Rhine Westphalia when a 32-year-old officer’s phone was seized as part of a separate investigation into whether he had given confidential information about organized crime gangs to a journalist .

Officials said the first group was formed in 2012, and the biggest dates since 2015, when hundreds of thousands of migrants arrived in Germany.

Of the 29 members in chat groups, 25 worked for the same trend in the western city of Essen. XI had actively shared the images, while 15 others had only received them – but did not raise any alarm.

Mr Reul, the state’s interior minister, said he planned a special interrogation for the police. He also said that he wanted to appoint a special envoy for “far-right extremist tendencies” in the state police to take stock of the situation and come up with ways to quickly detect extremism and radicalization.

Police seized more phones and computers in the raid on Wednesday.

As Mr. Reul said he feared that the 29 officers suspended would rarely be susceptible to extremism, he insisted that most of the state’s 50,000 officers were “extremely civilized people and democracies” .