Speech in the German Bundestag as part of a debate tabled by The Left Party parliamentary group on the investigation of potential right-wing extremist structures in the Bundeswehr
17 May 2017
Christine Buchholz (The Left Party):
Madam President!
Ladies and gentlemen!
The Left Party tabled a motion calling for this debate to send a signal, a signal against right-wing extremism and terrorism.
(Applause from the Left Party)
The events that surround this are dramatic. Two Bundeswehr soldiers and a student from Hesse have been arrested. They are being investigated on charges of planning a serious violent crime endangering the state. The authorities are also examining at least four other soldiers.
Here are the facts: Several years ago, Officer Franco A. submitted a dissertation which echoed the Nazi racial ideology. As we know, he was nevertheless able to embark on a career with the Bundeswehr. Together with his accomplices, he was apparently planning an attack, had written a kill list and stashed one thousand pieces of ammunition stolen from Bundeswehr supplies. Bomb-making instructions were later found in his possession.
Franco A. registered as a refugee of the Syrian war, in order to be able to later blame refugees for the attack.
Ladies and gentlemen, that is unbelievable.
(Applause from the Left Party)
We need to make it very clear: we’re dealing with nothing less than the creation of a far-right terrorist cell here.
That is why today, too, we need to show solidarity with all those threatened by racism and right-wing terrorism.
(Applause from the Left Party and from members of Alliance 90/The Greens)
The case of Franco A. additionally reveals a complete failure by the Bundeswehr and the Military Counterintelligence Office to deal with right-wing extremists who are willing to use violence.
The convictions held by Franco A. and his accomplice Maximilian T. were known within the Bundeswehr. Some superiors looked the other way, while others apparently even covered up right-wing activities.
This is not an isolated case. This is backed up by letters from soldiers informing us that superiors were happy to turn a blind eye to “things”, in order to not be forced to take decisions that would have made them unpopular.
Let me say here: yes, a significant part of the Bundeswehr has a problem with the extreme right, and its political leadership – Minister von der Leyen and her predecessors – have systematically played down this problem for years.
(Applause from the Left Party)
As recently as March 2015, Mrs von der Leyen claimed that the Bundeswehr did not have any – I quote – “disproportionate extremist problem”,
(Florian Hahn (CDU/CSU): And it doesn‘t!)
and this, despite the experiences with the National Socialist Underground, the NSU. A third of the suspected NSU supporters were members of the Bundeswehr.
The final report of the committee of inquiry into the NSU in 2013 confirmed that the Bundeswehr had an – I quote – “extremely problematic approach… to right-wing extremist activities.”
Mrs von der Leyen, it appears you have not taken the findings of the Committee seriously.
The SPD, who have been keen to frequently distance themselves from the Defence Minister recently, also cannot afford to get too self-congratulatory.
(Applause from members of The Left Party)
Their former Defence Minister Peter Struck was not much better: in 2003 Struck personally blocked an extensive investigation into far-right extremist ideas in the Bundeswehr – just a reminder.
Similarly, Rudolf Scharping, another former SPD Defence Minister, is currently more worked up about the removal of a picture of Helmut Schmidt in Wehrmacht uniform than about the right-wing activities within the Bundeswehr.
(Applause from members of The Left Party)
Minister von der Leyen now wants to give the impression that a clean sweep has been made.
And yes, it is overdue that barracks are no longer named after Wehrmacht officers. Swift and decisive action must be taken, and measures that have been announced must be implemented.
(Applause from the Left Party)
What we need is a clear break with the Wehrmacht tradition.
I say: Wehrmacht objects and symbols have no place in any rooms or any minds.
(Applause from the Left Party)
Who do we actually have to thank for uncovering the alleged terrorist group?
Was it the Military Counterintelligence Office, the MAD?
No, it was a cleaner, who found Franco A’s gun at the airport in Vienna.
It is absurd that politicians from the grand coalition are calling for an increase in personnel at the MAD. After all, the MAD spent months investigating Maximilian T., one of the presumed terrorists, back in 2015, only to declare him harmless.
The problem is not how well equipped the MAD is, but rather its orientation.
(Applause from the Left Party and from members of Alliance 90/The Greens)
It appears to turn a blind eye to the right. The MAD is part of the problem and not part of the solution.
(Applause from the Left Party)
I wish to stress one thing: there are many soldiers who abhor the racism and the right-wing activities within the Bundeswehr.
But racist voices in the Bundeswehr cannot be beaten back when, at the same time, Minister of the Interior de Maizière starts a debate on a dominant culture, and in doing so fuels right-wing sentiments.
(Applause from members of The Left Party members of Alliance 90/The Greens – Wilfried Lorenz (CDU/CSU): Outrageous! – Further intervention from the CDU/CSU: Nonsense!)
We need a social climate in which an anti-racist and anti-fascist ethos can be demonstrated.
Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.
(Applause from the Left Party)