Germany’s Ministry of Defense on Wednesday disbanded a military unit within the German Special Forces after an investigation found members were affiliated with far-right extremist groups.
As of January, about 500 German service members were under investigation for far-right ties, a report by the nation’s Military Counterintelligence Service found. Twenty of the probe's targets were part of the country’s elite Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK) military command, NPR reported.
Investigators reportedly found that members performed Nazi salutes at a party in 2017, and in May 2020 found weapons, explosives and Nazi memorabilia on property owned by a KSK sergeant major. They also reportedly were investigating 48,000 rounds of ammunition and more than 130 pounds of explosives that had gone missing from a KSK arsenal.
Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Wednesday that the KSK “cannot continue to exist in its present form,” citing a “wall of secrecy” and “toxic leadership culture” that would make rooting out extremist elements impossible, according to NPR, citing Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.
She said that some of the 70 soldiers from the disbanded company will be reassigned to one of the command’s remaining three companies, saying, "We will give the KSK time to press the reset button.”
Germany “need[s] the KSK,” she said, adding, "The vast majority of the men and women in the KSK and in the Bundeswehr as a whole are loyal to our constitution, with no ifs or buts,” according to NPR.
The announcement comes about a month after German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer reported anti-Semitic crimes were at their highest level in Germany since 2001, saying the majority involved far-right extremists.
"Extreme-right politically motivated cases make up more than half of all of such recorded crimes — it is an order of magnitude that causes us concern, great concern,” Seehofer said in May.