In the German village of Banzkow, in the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, special federal police units searched several homes in 2017. In one house, officers found more than 50,000 rounds of ammunition and several weapons. The home belonged to Marko G., a former member of an elite state police unit. He was charged with many weapons violations and went on a trial in late 2019. Marko G. told the court that he was simply preparing for a possible catastrophe.
He and several associates had formed a group called Nordkreuz. The investigation showed that the group had also stocked up on supplies of quicklime and bodybags. A state police report concluded that Marko G. represented a potential threat to the State. The court determined that he had rejected the constitutional principles of the German State, so he was convicted and sentenced to 21 months’ probation. Several of his friends were in court to hear the decision. Among them was Jörg S., who received an important e-mail from Marko in 2016. The message said that over the last 16 months, a network of right-wingers had been established across Europe and that nearly 2,000 potential members had been contacted.
So the questions arise: is there any kind of conspiracy involving members of the police or the military to support far-right extremist movements?
The far-right extremist movement grows in Germany
Volker L., a weapons dealer who allegedly has ties to an elite Bundeswehr unit, the KSK. He is a former soldier. He says he met the conspirators in 2015 when a member of the KSK invited him to a meeting of like-minded individuals. The group is said to have included soldiers and police officers. Volker says that a meeting someone suggested that on day X, the coup participants should take over the Cawl barracks to seize the weapons stored there. Evidence got by the German tv channel DW showed that Volker had been involved in organizing training exercises for members of the group since 2014. Some of his activities included preparations for sabotaging bridges and the design of identification badges for certain group leaders. The badges featured a skull and crossbones and a logo that stood for Day X.
By 2015, the group had spread all across Germany, the group’s organizational efforts were well underway. It’s alleged that some members of the elite military and police units were active in the organization and may have been preparing for Day X operations. At this point, it is important to wonder if they were isolated cases or if they were part of a bigger picture the German government is neglecting to prepare for.
Some say that the KSK military units represent a real problem due to their right-wing activity and that this dates back to the founding of the organization in 1996. The threat became stronger when General Reinhard Günzel was appointed KSK commander in 2000, later that year he was accused of making inappropriate public remarks and he was removed from his military position.
The German government is now waking up. Cases of far-right extremists in the military and the police, some hoarding weapons and explosives, have multiplied alarmingly. Top officials are moving to confront an issue that has become too dangerous to ignore. https://t.co/lvH2yuG7dJ
— Ali H. Soufan (@Ali_H_Soufan) July 3, 2020
How well prepared was the coup for the so-called “Day X”?
According to the investigations of the TV channel, André S. and Marko G. were actively planning a coup attempt. They found a Day X mobilization plan that was allegedly drafted in 2016 that includes maps that show where the conspirators were to gather when they got the go-ahead from their commanders at a military training ground in the state of Baden-Württemberg. The military group KSK has carried out legitimate exercises at this same place. The Day X headquarters was said to be located in a small building in the area. The plan included code-words and radio frequencies. Group members were to identify themselves by rolling up their left shirt-sleeve. Personal will assemble at South Alpha Grey. This area will serve as a transfer point for the secret operations center. The site was said to have been chosen by Volker L. Some of the building there are used as artillery practice targets
The operation also called for taking over a vehicle storage site. Experts speculate on what the conspirators might have had in mind because transportation would play a big role in these sort of situations, especially in a Nordkreuz operation: they would have to move their troops around and may have also planned to “arrest” potential opponents and, to do that, you need vehicles; according to the analysis of Martina Renner, Bundestag Member at Internal Affairs Committee. Among the prisoners, there should be leftists, FDP politicians, and refugee-aid workers who were then to be executed.
Dirk Friedriszik, a Bundeswehr veteran and Social Democrat member of the state parliament, has been warning for years that Nordkreuz extremists have infiltrated local military reserve units. He feels frustrated that Marko G.’s close contact such as Jörg S. is not facing charges at this time. In 2016, Marko and Jörg exchanges a series of emails that indicates that it was Jörg S. who set up the meeting point in Warin, located near a military training area. Deeper research of this congressman has established the outline of an entire network of such points. Jörg S. is also a sergeant in the Bundeswehr reserve. Many of the other conspirators are also alleged to be reservists. Jörg served for some time at the air force base at Rostock-Laage, where a Eurofighter squadron is stationed. When the squadron commander left his job in 2019, he invited Jörg S. to his official farewell celebration, even though Jörg was already known to federal authorities as a suspected right-wing extremist. Which is the most suspicious aspect, in this case, is that Rostock-Laage is a high-security military base and home to some of the Bundeswehr’s most sophisticated weapons systems. Armin P., another Marko G.’s supporters at his trial, trains Eurofighter pilots at the Rostock airbase. It remains unclear how those suspected of supporting a right-wing anti-government movement managed to gain access to high-security military sites.
Konstantin von Notz, member of the Bundestag oversight panel that’s responsible for Germany’s intelligence agencies has been reported to declare: “The possibility of a coup attempt, even during the pandemic, may seem unlikely but we (the government) still have to take it seriously and react accordingly”.
Manipulating the public’s opinion about the refugees
Many of the alleged isolated cases in the police and the military are connected. For example, Volker L., the weapons dealer, confirmed that the group led by Andre S. had contact with a Bundeswehr officer called Franco A. In 2017, Franco was arrested after he tried to pass himself off as a Syrian refugee and had illegally acquired a gun. He was charged with various crimes involving terrorism. In its decision on Franco’s case, the German Supreme Court cited some extremist statements that he had made such as: “People do not accept ‘the greatest truth’ if it is not connected with a triggering event. You should destroy the entire system to make the people listen“.
In early 2017, Franco A. was in Vienna. At the airport, he hid a weapon in a public toilet and then posted the location to his WhatsApp group. That group also included other soldiers. He was arrested when he tried to retrieve the gun. That evening, an annual ball sponsored by Austria’s right-wing FPÖ party (Freedom Party of Austria) was to be held. The event often draws lots of demonstrators. Investigators believe that Franco intended to carry out an attack there. He believed that since he was registered as a refugee, many would blame the crime on the immigrant community. Franco A. is accused of preparing an attack that would then be attributed to Islamists or leftists or whomever and the Nordkreuz group was considering similar measures. They figured that a provocation might be the best way to get things moving.
The government fails… in purpose?
Incidents like this have prompted speculation about what Marko G. intended to do with the stockpile of weapons and ammunition that he had kept at his house and where he got all that ammo. The Schwerin prosecutor’s office has determined that much of the ammunition came from Bundeswehr and police warehouses. It is quite easy to determine the origins of this kind of ammo if you know what to look for, which is what Lars Winkelsdorf did. This weapons expert explains that these were military-grade rounds that have a very high penetration capability and are quite effective against a wide variety of targets. It is not at all something that could be claimed as self-defense, because these rounds can penetrate body armor so it is possible to assume that they might be used against police officers and security forces. To help in the investigation and find out where this ammunition came from, the specialist had to look for the specific lot number on the package. Even with containers of five hundred or a thousand rounds, there are individual packages where the lot number is always stamped on the bottom of each round. In this case, the cartridges are shipped to the police department, which then hands them out to individual officers and the department should keep a record to quickly determine when the ammunition came in and when it went out. Anyway, prosecutors declare they are still trying to figure out how the police could lose track of so much ammo.
Nevertheless, it seems that the press is still more effective than the government. DW’s investigations team found that the rounds had originally been supplied to Bundeswehr and elite police units all over Germany. For example, 12 hundred cartridges were traced back to the state of North Rhein-Westphalia. These investigators found out that special police units from Düsseldorf, Cologne, and Dortmund often train in the wide-open spaces of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Now, it shows that the possibility of one of the officers of these cities had contact with Marko G’s group is real. The authorities in Duisburg, who distribute ammunition to individual departments, are reported to have admitted that the rounds had indeed come from the state’s police stockpiles. As a consequence, North Rhein-Westphalia has now revised its ammunition distribution system, but it’s still not clear who was responsible for handing over the rounds to unauthorized individuals. the officials say they can’t comment on an on-going criminal investigation.
One hundred other cartridges that later turned up in Marko G.’s stockpile were determined to have come from an elite police unit in Bavaria, the USK. Several USK members were recently investigated for allegedly sharing objectionable content on chat apps. Officials determined that some of that content might have been anti-Semitic. Bavaria’s state premier, Markus Söder seems to have little interest in pursuing this potentially explosive matter even though it seems that there are obvious connections between the Nordkreuz group and Bavaria. If weapons or ammunition from federal or Bavarian sources are ending being part of a far-right extremist network, the acknowledge of this situation makes them accountable for what might happen. It remains clear, nevertheless, that the German government should protect itself against such threats
Germany fears far-right influence in police and security forces https://t.co/1D1czjhS21
— Financial Times (@FT) July 28, 2020
Bavaria’s state Criminal Police Office has just recently admitted that prosecutors are investigating the situation. The discovery of the ammunition that had been stored in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has turned to a national scandal for the police and the Bundeswehr. But most of the investigative work was left to prosecutors in Schwerin. A private shooting range near Güstrow in Mecklenburg provided even more clues. For years, instructors from several police and Bundeswehr’s units attended shooting competitions there, including some of the units from which Marko G. got his ammunition. The events were authorized by Mecklenburg’s interior ministry and organized by a civilian who turned them into a kind of weapons trade fair. State interior minister Lorenz Caffier was the competition’s patron and often attended the events himself. Evidence presented at the Schwerin trial indicated that the range’s owner, Frank T., passed along Nordkreuz instructions to Marko: “The better we can communicate, the easier it will be for us to meet on Day X, but until then, we have to keep a low profile”. State interior minister Caffier also met often with Frank T. at the shooting competitions.
The ministry has set up a commission to investigate all this scandal.
It’s not yet clear how much progress they’ve made