Security authorities are the guardians of the rule of law. In a parliamentary democracy like the Federal Republic of Germany, there must be no doubt that the police and the armed forces, who embody the state’s monopoly of violence, are firmly rooted in the Basic Law. And that protection of the constitution do what their job title is.
But this basic trust has been shaken and the mistrust is justified, as the situation report on right-wing extremists in security authorities shows. The fact that this report even exists is not due to the insight of Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, but to all those who asked for clarification a year ago. Then there was one individual case after another – some only in the past few days.
Because Seehofer finally gave in to this urge, at least the following is documented: Since 2017 there have been 377 cases of suspected or proven right-wing extremism in the security authorities and more than 1,064 suspected cases in the Bundeswehr. Every case is “a shame” – at least the interior minister has found clear words. But this documentation is only a snapshot and is no longer up-to-date. In North Rhine-Westphalia alone, 59 cases have been added since March. This shows the dynamism, but also the greater attention and problem awareness that is being devoted to this topic. Finally.
The activities of the police, the armed forces and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution are embedded in a decades-long history of the repression and trivialization of right-wing extremism, right-wing terrorism and anti-Semitism, and they go back to the recent past. It is not the first time that security authorities have overlooked – or wanted to overlook – the networks behind them because of the sheer number of lone criminals. That was the case with the Oktoberfest attack in Munich in 1980 and also with the double anti-Semitic murder in the same year, to which the Jewish publisher Shlomo Lewin and his partner fell victim in Erlangen. At that time, politics and the judiciary were fixated on RAF terrorism and criminally underestimated right-wing terrorism. The NSU murderers were also able to act undisturbed for years because the investigators did not want to recognize right-wing terror in Germany.
Lessons should be drawn from past failures for the present, especially since Germany is being looked at abroad in particular: In Israel, anti-Semitic attacks such as the one in Halle a year ago and the recent attack in Hamburg, as well as reports of right-wing extremist chats by police officers, are triggering outrage and fears out. In Turkey and in the Turkish community in Germany, it is precisely recorded that the police do not draw any conclusions from racist incidents.
This management report can and should only be the first step. Even if Seehofer continues to stonewall and block an independent, scientific investigation into racism in the police and instead wants to investigate police officers’ experiences of violence: Arguments for such an investigation can be found in the report itself, which states that it is “basically to be assumed from an unreported” .
This dark field needs to be illuminated – right down to the last corner. Seehofer even asked the employees in the security area: “Take a look!” But he doesn’t seem to want to look very closely and certainly doesn’t want to know exactly. However, it must be clarified whether there are networks and structures behind all these incidents, in short: a system. It is not enough for Seehofer to assure that there is no structural problem. It is also not enough for the Office for the Protection of the Constitution to carry out further analyzes, especially since the domestic secret service itself has been criticized since its failure at the NSU complex. This has to be done by an independent institution.
As a politically responsible person, Seehofer should have an interest in gaining sound knowledge of what needs to change. It is necessary to determine which instruments would have to be used in the recruitment, training and further education of civil servants in order to counter right-wing extremist activities. Civic education will have to play a bigger role in education than it does today. Independent contact persons at the security authorities and the armed forces should be installed, because the motto must apply: Don’t look the other way, cover nothing or anyone.
It’s not about putting all police officers under general suspicion. Your reputation has been damaged by the repulsive behavior of some colleagues, just as the basic trust of the citizens has been shaken. You have a right to have enemies of the constitution discovered and removed from service. Because the majority wants to protect this rule of law and not undermine it.