German Prosecutors Probing Right-wing Extremism in Army

The German federal prosecutor’s office has launched an investigation into the production by army members of racist and anti-Semitic videos amid reports that neo-Nazi propaganda is readily available in German barracks.

Eight people, including two army officers, are under scrutiny for their role in producing the videos.

The videos, which were taped between 1993 and 1995, contain scenes propagating right-wing extremism, according to a high-ranking Defense Ministry official.

Scenes include a Hitler salute, a simulated interview about the extermination of the Jews and a fake battle scene between Serbs and Croatians.

The deputy chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Michel Friedman, called on the government to take legal and disciplinary action against those involved in producing the videos.

One of the alleged producers of the videos, a former German army soldier, told the Berlin newspaper Berliner Zeitung that the sale of banned right-wing materials is openly tolerated in some German army barracks.

He claimed that illegal materials, including flags with swastikas and books containing Nazi ideology, are easily obtainable at army bases, sometimes with the knowledge of officers.

A spokesman for the Defense Ministry said these allegations would be investigated.

Earlier this year, a video produced by army soldiers simulating violence created a controversy about the degree of right-wing extremism in the German army, known as the Bundeswehr.

Defense Minister Volker Ruehe demanded at the time that laws be enacted to allow the army to check the backgrounds of recruits for possible neo-Nazi activities.

But the Justice Ministry turned down the request, arguing that criminal records do not indicate possible political motivations for crimes.

After details about the latest discovery of right-wing videos were revealed last week, Ruehe asked the army’s chief of staff to suggest measures to counter right-wing tendencies in the Bundeswehr.

The number of right-wing extremist incidents involving Bundeswehr members has been rising steadily, with 120 such acts reported so far this year.

Politicians from the opposition center-left parties in Bonn have accused government officials of downplaying the problem.

The Defense Committee of the Bundestag, the lower house of the German Parliament, was expected to discuss the problem of right-wing extremism in the army later this week.

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