BONN (Oct. 3)
Ten young German army officers who took part in a symbolic burning of Jews and sang Nazi songs at a drinking party last February may be expelled from the Munich military college they are attending where the incident occurred, official sources said here today. Disciplinary action was also promised against the officers’ superiors if an investigation now underway shows that they knew of the episode but tried to conceal it.
A Defense Ministry spokesman, speaking on behalf of Defense Minister Georg Leber, said that if press reports of the incident were verified there would be “immediate and severe” consequences. But the spokesman said the Minister had confidence that most soldiers “held unblemished loyalty for our democratic state and constitution.” A student spokesman at the military college said the students were “surprised and dismayed” and “emphatically dissociated themselves from fascist tendencies.”
There have been two incidents at the college involving neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic acts, neither of which was immediately reported to the military authorities. On May 21, a student officer was caught smearing swastikas on a list of participants in a seminar at the college. A statement by the college said the officer was given “disciplinary punishment” but did not elaborate.
Those involved in the February incident were not punished but were required to attend a special seminar on “teaching under national socialism,” the college reported. It said that they were neither convinced nor incurable anti-Semites or Nazis but immature young men with a regrettable deficit of information and insight.
Deputy Inspector General Ruediger von Reichert, who is responsible for army educational institutions, ordered an investigation of the burning incident after the liberal socialist daily Frankfurter Rundschau said the fact that the Defense Ministry knew nothing of the occurrences at the college created the “fatal impression” of a “cover up.”
‘LET’S BURN THE JEWS’
According to informed sources, several lieutenants became drunk and went to a small disposal plant where garbage was being burned. Someone shouted, “Let’s burn the Jews.” The word “Juden” was scrawled on pieces of paper and cardboard which were thrown into the fire. The officers chanted “sieg heil” and sang the Nazi song “Die Fahne Hoch” (Raise the Flag High) until another group of officers intervened to stop the incident. They reported it to the head of the college, Prof. Horst Engert, but he did not inform his army superiors.
Paul Neumann, chairman of the ruling Social. Democratic Party’s defense committee, said the “Jew-burning” and later swastika-smearing incidents at the college were disgraceful and called for measures to improve the political education of army officers. Wolfgang Zink, spokesman for the Association for Christian-Jewish Cooperation, said the incidents showed that “more national socialist undercurrents are alive in our nation than meets the eye.” He said these attitudes included “despising human dignity.”