Germany surveils far-right ‘Flügel’ faction as fight against extremism stepped up

Far-right terrorism and extremism are the "biggest danger" facing democracy in Germany today, the president of the German domestic intelligence agency said on Thursday, after the country was hit by several extremist attacks in recent months.

Germany surveils far-right 'Flügel' faction as fight against extremism stepped up
Björn Höcke, founder of the Flügel, which is now under formal government surveillance. Photo: DPA

The most radical right-wingers number 32,000 in the country, said BfV chief Thomas Haldenwang, adding that 13,000 are considered potentially violent.

“Right-wing extremism and right-wing terrorism are currently the biggest danger for democracy in Germany,” he said at a press conference.

His agency also placed under formal surveillance the far-right AfD party's most radical faction Flügel (The Wing) which now has about 7,000 members.

READ ALSO: Germany to create 300 jobs to fight right-wing extremism

Founded in 2013, the AfD has grown and shifted further right over the last seven years.

Railing against Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision in 2015 to keep Germany's borders open to refugees, the AfD has scooped up a significant number of votes from those unhappy with the government's migration policy.

It is now the largest opposition group in the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament.

The AfD's most radical wing, the Flügel, was founded by far-right firebrand Björn Höcke, who has sparked outrage with statements on Germany's Nazi past.

Höcke has called Berlin's Holocaust monument a “memorial of shame” and urged a “180-degree shift” in the country's culture of remembrance.

Haldenwang said security officials believe the Flügel violates “characteristic features of the free democratic basic order, human dignity, democracy and the rule of law”.

Recent attacks in Germany meant it was more important than ever to monitor groups that may be inciting hatred, he added.

A gunman with apparent far-right beliefs killed nine people at a shisha bar and a cafe in the city of Hanau in February, while two people were killed in an attack targeting a synagogue in Halle in October.

In June, pro-immigration politician Walter Lübcke was found dead at his home in the state of Hesse, with a far-right sympathiser confessing to the attack.

READ ALSO: What is Germany doing to combat the far-right after Hanau attacks?


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New army scandal: Germany vows to punish soldiers caught singing anti-Semitic songs

Germany's Defence Minister on Tuesday vowed to severely punish soldiers stationed in Lithuania who were accused of singing racist and anti-Semitic songs, if the allegations turned out to be true.

New army scandal: Germany vows to punish soldiers caught singing anti-Semitic songs
German soldiers training in Saxony-Anhalt in May. credit: dpa-Zentralbild | Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert

“Whatever happened is in no way acceptable,” said Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

Those implicated would be “vigorously prosecuted and punished”, she added.

The Spiegel Online news site had on Monday reported that German soldiers in Lithuania sang racist and anti-Semitic songs during a party at a hotel in April.

One had also sought to sexually assault another soldier while he was asleep, a scene which was caught on film, said Spiegel.

According to Spiegel Online, the scenes took place at a party at which soldiers consumed large quantities of alcohol. They are also alleged to have arranged a “birthday table” for Adolf Hitler on April 20th and to have sung songs for him.

It is unclear to what extent more senior ranked soldiers were aware of the incidents.

Three soldiers have been removed from the contingent stationed in the Baltic country and an investigation is ongoing to identify other suspects, said the report.

The German armed forces have been repeatedly rocked by allegations of right-wing extremism within their ranks.

Kramp-Karrenbauer last year ordered the partial dissolution of the KSK commando force after revelations that some of its members harboured neo-Nazi sympathies.

SEE ALSO: Germany to compensate gay soldiers who faced discrimination