German special forces company infiltrated by far-right disbanded

The official dissolution of the KSK unit follows a series of troubling racist and neo-Nazi incidents

FILE  - In this Feb. 5, 2004 file photo, soldiers of (KSK) Kommando Spezialkraefte, German Bundeswehr's special forces take part in a training  exercise in Calw, southern Germany. Germany’s defense minister reportedly plans to restructure the country’s special forces unit after numerous allegations of far-right extremism. Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has called a press conference for Wednesday, July 1, 2020 to talk about a “structural analysis” of the KSK, unit, following up on an analysis she ordered in May. (AP Photo/Thomas Kienzle, File)
Powered by automated translation

An elite unit within Germany’s Special Commando Forces (KSK) has been formally disbanded after some of its members were found to hold extreme, far-right views.

The German Ministry of Defence announced the disillusion of the KSK’s second company on Thursday.

Plans to dismantle the unit were first unveiled, as part of measures to stamp out far-right extremism in the German armed forces, four weeks ago.

The elite company, formed in 1996, has been dogged by accusations of far-right ties since 2003, when its commander was forced into retirement because of connections to the radical right.

The KSK has fought in operations in Afghanistan and the Balkans but its missions are secret.

In June, a KSK captain wrote to German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer asking her to intervene in the unit over the “toxic culture of acceptance”.

epa08558356 Protesters hold banners with the names of some 220 murdered victims of right-wing terror acts in Germany, as part of a remembrance vigil for the victims of the Halle terror attack, outside the regional court in Magdeburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, 21 July 2020. The suspect, a 27-year-old German neo-Nazi named by the media as Stephan Balliet, went on rampage shooting and killed two people on 09 October 2019 in front of the synagogue and a Kebab shop in Halle during the celebrations on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.  EPA/OMER MESSINGER

The atmosphere fostered by senior instructors and commandos had allowed the influence of the far-right in the company to fly under the radar, the captain said.

A month earlier, police seized weapons, explosives and ammunition during a raid on the private property of a KSK sergeant major in the eastern state of Saxony.

The New York Times reported that, along with two kilos of plastic explosives and an AK-47, investigators uncovered an SS songbook, and other items of Nazi memorabilia.

Much of the material, including thousands of rounds of ammunition, is believed to have been stolen from Germany army stocks.

The German Ministry of Defence has said about 48,000 rounds of ammunition and 62kg of explosives have disappeared from the KSK.

Military counterintelligence in Germany is now in the process of investigating about 600 troops feared to be involved in far-right extremism across the German military. Around 20 of them were in the KSK, five times more than in other units.

In another notorious incident, in 2017, KSK soldiers performed Nazi salutes at a party where they listened to far-right rock music and played with pigs’ heads.

According to Deutches Welle, German authorities have warned that the whole KSK, 300 soldiers and several hundred other staff, could be disbanded if they are not able to isolate the far-right elements.

In recent months Germany has been plagued by a series of extreme-right attacks, including in February when a 43-year-old racist shot dead nine people with immigrant backgrounds in the town of Hanau before killing his mother and himself.

View from London

Your weekly update from the UK and Europe

View from London