Germany Suspends Dozens of Police Officers for “Neo-Nazi” Chat Messages
A total of 29 police officers in Germany have been suspended amid allegations they shared "neo-Nazi propaganda" in WhatsApp groups.
Herbert Reul, the interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia state, told a press conference that investigators had searched 34 locations, including police stations and private apartments in the Ruhr industrial region and seized material which had left him "speechless".
The Associated Press news agency reported that Reul had said investigators had uncovered "the most foul and repugnant neo-Nazi, racist and anti-refugee agitation".
Reul told reporters that the images included pictures of Adolf Hitler, swastikas, a depiction of an non-white invader in a concentration camp's gas chamber and another mocking the shooting of criminal Negroes.
Reporters were told that the items were swapped in at least five chat groups used almost solely by police officers with the most recent message sent on August 27.
The WhatsApp groups were initially set up in 2012 and another group containing the most images was created in 2015, the press conference was told.
Reul said that most of the officers alleged to have been involved had worked at some point at the same police precinct in Muelheim an der Ruhr.
It is understood all 29 officers were suspended with immediate effect and disciplinary proceedings begun.
Reul said: "We have to ask unpleasant questions of ourselves. Who knew about this? Why was this tolerated for years? By whom?"
Germany is one of many countries attempting to crack down on a surge in support for patriotic groups.