German police caught sharing images of refugees in gas chamber and black people being shot

Officers who also shared images of Hitler and concentration camps face summary dismissal and criminal prosecution

ASTATT, GERMANY - MAY 08: A German border police officer stops cars in a checkpoint of the D87 road at the German-French border during the coronavirus crisis on May 8, 2020 near Rastatt, Germany. The rates of new infections in both Germany and France, as in much of the European Union, have fallen dramatically over recent weeks, allowing governments to ease lockdown measures and strengthening demands by both business leaders and local communities to reopen international borders. In Germany so far Interior Minister Horst Seehofer is resisting a fast-paced lifting of border closures. (Photo by Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images)
The German Police Union condemned the officers involved (file picture) Credit: Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images Europe

Twenty-nine police officers were suspended from duty in Germany on Wednesday after they were caught sharing far-Right material online.

Mocked up images of refugees in a gas chamber and a black child being shot were among the content shared by the officers in private online chats. They also shared pictures of Hitler, swastikas, and concentration camps.

“We are talking about the worst, most disgusting neo-Nazi, racist, anti-refugee agitation,” Herbert Reul, the regional interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) told a press conference. 

“I tell you, in my opinion this is a disgrace for the NRW police. These people have thrown away the right to wear the uniform... There must be no pity, no misplaced sense of comradeship.”

The officers involved are understood to include six women and an unspecified number with an immigrant background.

Fourteen are to be summarily dismissed from the police force, while the remaining 15 are considered only to have received the images and face disciplinary action.

25 of the police officers involved are based in the city of Essen Credit: Wolfram Schroll/ Bloomberg

Eleven of those responsible for sharing the most extreme images face criminal prosecution.

The private chat group only came to light by chance, after the mobile phone of one of the officers concerned was searched in connection with another matter.

The officer in question was under investigation on suspicion of passing operational secrets to a journalist. Investigators discovered more than 100 far-Right images in his private chats.

All the officers involved are members of the NRW police, including 25 in the city of Essen. A number are understood to be based in the nearby town of Mülheim, which comes under the command of the Essen force.

“I am deeply dismayed by this inexcusable misconduct and can only say with absolute clarity that there is no place in the Essen police headquarters for people who identify with such far-Right-wing ideology,” Frank Richter, the Essen police chief said.

“Fighting the far-Right is part of the police's DNA,” the German Police Union said in a statement. “The fact there are officials who share far-Right, xenophobic content in chat groups is unbearable.”