BERLIN: A German police force on Wednesday suspended 29 officers suspected of sharing images of Adolf Hitler and violent neo-Nazi propaganda in at least five online chat groups.
Herbert Raul, the interior minister of the western state of North-Rhine-Westphalia, where the chats were discovered, called them “insults.” At a news conference on Wednesday, he described the images shared among officials as “the most right-wing extremist propaganda” of the “ugliest, most despicable, neo-Nazi, anti-immigrant.”
Officials familiar with the evidence said the 126 pictures shared included swastikas, forged pictures of a refugee in a gas chamber and the shooting death of a black man.
Number of cases of far-right extremists in the German police and army, Keeps some weapons and keeps a list of enemies, Has increased alarmingly in recent years. Authorities raided the home of a 40-year-old soldier on Monday in connection with an investigation into a far-right terrorist plot.
For years, German politicians and security chiefs rejected the idea of far-right infiltration of security services, only “individual cases.” The idea of networks was routinely rejected and defended by the superiors of those who were exposed as terrorists.
But the government this summer An entire company was dissolved He was thought to have been targeted by far-right militants of the German Special Forces. The problem has become so serious that the authorities seem to be struggling to gain a foothold.
Police raided the homes and work stations of 14 of the 29 suspended officers early Wednesday morning. Most of them are alleged to have actively shared content. Their senior official includes members of chat groups.
The Home Minister said he had long expected such incidents to be isolated exceptions.
“I can’t talk about personal cases today,” he said.
Several police departments in Germany have been on the lookout for far-right extremism.
In the state of Hesse, investigators have uncovered police computer information used in death threats sent to left-wing politicians and prominent Germans with immigrant roots over the past two years. Hesse’s interior minister later publicly expressed concern about a right-wing “network” in his police service.
In Munich, authorities identified officials from another chat group who shared anti-Semitic posts.
Chats in North Rhine-Westphalia were accidentally discovered by police when the phone of a 32-year-old officer was confiscated as part of a special investigation into whether a journalist had passed on confidential information about the organized crime group.
The first group was formed in 2012, and officials say millions of migrants have arrived in Germany on the biggest dates since 2015.
Of the 29 members of the chat groups, 25 worked at the same location in the western city of Essen. Eleven pictures were actively shared, and only 15 others received them – but the alarm did not go off.
The state home minister said he planned to launch a special investigation into the suspicious police presence. He called for the appointment of a special envoy for “extreme right-wing extremist tendencies” in the state police.
Police confiscated more phones and computers during the raids.
Although he feared that the 29 suspended officials would not be victims of terrorism, he wished that the vast majority of the state’s 50,000 officers were “absolutely decent people and democrats.”