Germany suspends dozens of police officers for neo-Nazi chat messages
Ralph Orlowski Reuters
BERLIN — A total of 29 German police officers were suspended on Wednesday for participating in extremist chat groups that shared images such as swastikas and a depiction of refugees in a gas chamber, officials said, in the latest neo-Nazi scandal to engulf the country’s military and law enforcement.
The discovery is a “disgrace” for the police in the western region of North Rhine-Westfalia and impacted the force “to its core,” the state’s Interior Minister Herbert Reul said in a news conference.
“We are talking about the nastiest and most disgusting Neo-Nazi, racist, and refugee-hostile hatred,” he said.
More than 100 images with content punishable by law were shared in five WhatsApp chat groups that were exclusively or predominantly used by police officers. The officers — 25 of whom worked for the same police force in the city of Essen — were asked to hand in their badges and weapons on Wednesday.
[Prominent Germans received neo-Nazi death threats. Police are under suspicion.]
Of the 29, a total of 14 who actively shared messages, are expected to be sacked, officials said. Early morning raids were carried out on 34 homes and offices.
Germany’s police and military have been marred by a slew of extreme-right scandals. A series of neo-Nazi death threats against prominent public figures including left-wing politicians and lawyers in recent years have been linked to police computers. The inquiry into those threats also unearthed WhatsApp chat groups in which officers had shared neo-Nazi content.
In June, Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer disbanded a combat unit of Germany’s elite Special Forces Command because of suspected extreme far-right ties among its soldiers.
“I have to tell you that this process makes me speechless, and that I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since I found out about it,” said Reul.
The latest chat groups were discovered after an officer’s phone was confiscated due to suspicion over press leaks, officials said. One of the groups was started in 2012 while the one where the majority of the images were shared began in 2015.
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