How can Bundeswehr soldiers keep stealing weapons and ammunition? The Ministry of Defense now wants to check this out.
Police officers after finding weapons from KSK soldier Philipp Sch. in Saxony Photo: Robert Michael, dpa
Investigators have unearthed a veritable cache of weapons at the home of a KSK soldier in Saxony. They seized: an AK-47 assault rifle, several thousand rounds of pistol and rifle ammunition, two kilograms of PETN plastic explosives and detonators, alarm and air guns, various detonators, signal cartridges, a crossbow. And not only that: they also found unspecified "National Socialist devotional objects."
This is revealed in a letter from the Ministry of Defense to the Defense Committee of the Bundestag, which is available to the taz and other media. The list is not yet complete, they say, but it is already certain: The items originate at least in part from Bundeswehr stocks, such as the explosives and cartridge ammunition caliber 9×19 and 5.56x45mm.
Two weeks ago, the Prosecutor General’s Office in Dresden had the house and property of soldier Philipp Sch. in the municipality of Wermsdorf searched. The 45-year-old is now in pre-trial detention; he is being investigated for, among other things, violating the War Weapons Control Act. His son, who is also employed by the Bundeswehr and with whom Sch., according to a neighbor, occasionally went into the forest in "combat gear", was questioned as a witness at his troop location in Buschel.
Hitler salute at the company commander’s celebration
For almost 20 years, Philipp Sch. has been with the Bundeswehr’s Special Forces Command (KSK) and, according to taz research, is known there by the nickname "Schafchen." The Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD) had originally become aware of him because he had allegedly shown the Hitler salute at his company commander’s farewell party in spring 2017. A witness present at the time referred to him as a "Nazi grandpa." Initially, however, there had not been sufficient evidence for disciplinary or criminal proceedings.
As to the question of whether Philipp Sch. was a member of a right-wing chat group like the one administered by former KSK soldier Andre S., alias Hannibal, the letter, classified as "VS – For official use only," states: "At the present time, the BMVg has no findings."
Ammunition and weapons from Bundeswehr stocks had also been found on several individuals in the Hannibal network. Often, the path from the army to the owners could not be clearly traced. The Ministry of Defense now indirectly admits that it has apparently not always been possible so far to find out who stole weapons or ammunition and when and where. "Beyond clarifying the specific facts, the BMVg has initiated a review of the management and inventory record-keeping of weapons and ammunition – in the Bundeswehr in general and in the KSK in particular," it says. In addition, a comprehensive package of measures is currently being implemented to combat extremism in the KSK. These include training and further education measures, among other things, on the KSK’s understanding of tradition.
The KSK, based in Calw, has long been known as a problematic unit. Around 20 soldiers from the comparatively small unit, which is responsible for the toughest missions, have been classified as suspected right-wing extremists. According to a listing, four KSK soldiers have been dismissed since the end of last year alone. Disciplinary action was taken against others and some were transferred to other units.
"New alarming quality"
The case of Philipp Sch. represents "a new alarming quality," wrote the commander of the KSK, Brigadier General Markus Kreitmayr, in a letter to his soldiers last week. Due to the right-wing extremist incidents, he said, the KSK is currently experiencing the "most difficult phase in its history." In the letter, which is available to the taz, he calls on enemies of the constitution in the KSK: "You should leave our association and the Bundeswehr of your own accord! If you do not, you will find that we will find you and have you removed!"
It remains unclear at first how exactly the MAD became aware of the weapons cache at Philipp Sch.’s home. There is only talk of "intelligence gained" at the beginning of the year, which was passed on to the Saxon authorities on February 11. At that time, there had also been "indications of a right-wing extremist attitude" on Philipp Sch.’s part. On March 23, the investigators obtained a search warrant, which they executed almost two months later.