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Right network in the Bundeswehr: Hannibal's shadow army

What is happening in the dark in the Bundeswehr? Photo: Reuters

He is the head of a nationwide underground network - with excellent connections to German authorities.

On September 13, 2017, a Wednesday, André S. received a visit from the Bundeswehr's secret service in Sindelfingen. Again. S. is a soldier in the special forces command in Baden-Württemberg. He is one of the best trained soldiers in the Bundeswehr, an elite fighter. The man who visits him is a lieutenant colonel in the Military Counterintelligence Service. He has come to ask S. about right-wing extremist tendencies in his company.

This is not an unusual date for S. He has been meeting the MAD regularly for a long time. The task of the Bundeswehr intelligence service is to identify and prevent extremist developments within the armed forces. The MAD calls S. an "informant".

On this day in September, S. apparently got something in return for his information: The MAD man reported to him about investigations by the Attorney General against a secret network of men who are said to have planned to kill politicians and activists from the left spectrum. The Federal Prosecutor's Office sees this as the preparation for a serious, state-endangering act of violence - terror.

At this point in time, André S. already knew about the raids that had recently taken place in northern Germany. On this September 13th, however, he is said to have learned that further searches and interviews are imminent. This is what it says in an indictment from the Cologne District Court, which is currently litigating the MAD employee for breach of official secrecy.

Prepper and pickled vegetables

Because: André S. is said to have been warned by this. And S. is none other than the head of a nationwide network that is at the center of far-reaching investigations. His code name is Hannibal.

For a year now, a taz team has been researching the question: Is there a right-wing underground network in Germany in which government opponents network, radicalize and prepare specifically for armed fighting? Is there a network that extends into German authorities, offices for the protection of the constitution and right up to the upper levels of the Bundeswehr?

In doing so, we came across preppers who supplied themselves with canned vegetables, researched investigations by the Federal Prosecutor's Office, whose officials initially believed they had found right-wing terrorists in northern Germany. We read secret Telegram chats and talked to men who, although they ordered books from right-wing extremist publishers, did not consider their ethnic outlook to be questionable.

When we published the first larger text on the "Home Security Command" in December 2017, we did not yet know who was hiding behind the pseudonym Hannibal. Hannibal, someone told us, was the administrator of a nationwide chat network known as preppers. We asked ourselves at the time: Is it conceivable that Hannibal is a member of the Bundeswehr and helped build an underground network directly from within the Bundeswehr?

We know Hannibal's name

Today we know Hannibal's full name. André S., born 1985 in Halle an der Saale, is a member of the Special Forces Command of the German Armed Forces in Calw. He is the founder and chairman of an association with a postal address in Dormagen, North Rhine-Westphalia, in which elite fighters organize. For reasons of privacy protection, we are shortening his surname.

After a year, our research produces a picture that does not allow any other conclusion: all over Germany, including Austria and Switzerland, groups have formed that are working on building their own state within the state. Members of these groups are police officers and soldiers, reservists, officials and employees of the constitution protection who have a plan under conspiratorial conditions: When they see the signs when "day X" is here, they want to take up arms.

The chat groups are about "Day X". Franco A. is there, arrested on suspicion of terrorism

Some of their plans are shockingly concrete. The Focus writes of an "underground army". The groups are connected to one another like a network. Our research shows that the individual threads always lead to one person: Hannibal.

Who is this Hannibal? How can it be that, administered from the grounds of the Graf Zeppelin barracks in Calw, extremist cells emerge nationwide? And how can it be that the MAD even warns Hannibal?

Distrust of the public servants

End of August 2017. The Federal Public Prosecutor has houses and offices searched in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Among other things, from a lawyer and a criminal investigator. The accusation: They are said to have agreed to arrest or liquidate politicians and people from the left spectrum on a “day X”. The investigation continues.

The special thing at the time is that the public prosecutors in the federal prosecutor's office distrust the public servants in the north. State police officers are not included. Even the Minister of the Interior of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania was only informed immediately before the raids. Because the suspicious lawyer and the policeman did not act alone. Among other things, they disclosed their plans to a SEK police officer and a former soldier who at that time was still head of a reservist company that was preparing for a deployment at the G20 summit in Hamburg.

These men are part of a larger group preparing for disasters, power outages, storms and food shortages, for moments when the state can no longer provide for its citizens. They organize themselves in several chat groups in Northern Germany. One of them is called Nordkreuz, one is called Nord.Com, sometimes it's about vaccine shortages, sometimes about troop movements in Eastern Europe.

A third group is called North. It is Hannibal who provides this group with confidential information and situation reports from inside the Bundeswehr. In the group, his messages create the feeling of belonging to an inner circle that has a knowledge advantage. It is also no coincidence that these groups emerged in autumn 2015, because it is also about the federal government's refugee policy - and how you can defend yourself against it.

Shooting competition at the birthday party

One evening in early 2017, four men, including the accused policeman and another and the reservist, met at a stand-up snack on a country road near Schwerin. They talk about warehouses in which they want to intern their political opponents on "Day X". Couldn't the reservists' company commander organize Bundeswehr trucks for this in an emergency?

Could possible roadside checks be overcome in this way? They also talk about shootings. In the course of the conversation, the word “final solution” should also have come up. This is what people who are entrusted with the processes say to the taz.

They also tell: The accused lawyer held a shooting competition at birthday parties behind his house and offered a challenge cup for it - named after Mehmet Turgut, a man who is said to have been shot by the right-wing extremist terrorist cell NSU in 2004. In Rostock. His murder has not yet been solved.

The investigation documents available to the taz show that members of this northern group are said to have already set up depots with fuel, food and ammunition. Each of them paid around 600 euros to a joint fund. Beyond the chat group, there were other supporters - for example the operator of a shooting range near Rostock. He left the chat but continued to sell weapons to members. Or an instructor at the Bundeswehr air base in Laage, where Eurofighters are stationed. He invited his friends to the security area after work. There they were allowed to fly the Eurofighter in the flight simulator.

The south group

After the raids in August 2017, the willingness of the interior minister responsible, Lorenz Caffier (CDU), was manageable. He set up a so-called prepper commission. Findings so far: There is no problem. A year later, the Commission has not yet submitted a report.

But there was not only the northern group in the chat network. There were: East, West, South - organized according to the geographical division of the military area administration. Also: Austria and Switzerland. In the south, too, the largest and most active group, Hannibal was the administrator.

This text comes from the taz on the weekend. Always from Saturday at the kiosk, in the eKiosk or with a practical weekend subscription. And on Facebook and Twitter.

This is the group in which the former Bundeswehr soldier Franco A. was a member. The exposure of Franco A. was one of the biggest Bundeswehr scandals in recent years. A soldier who allegedly planned right-wing extremist terrorist attacks - and nobody, not his superiors, not the MAD, wanted to have noticed?

Franco A. was not only a passive member of the southern group. Once he was at Hannibal's home, and once he and Hannibal took part in a meeting in Albstadt where the cell phones were left in the car. It was a meeting in a rifle club.

The Federal Prosecutor's Office determined

Franco A. also recruited new members for the southern group. For example, a gun parts dealer from whom A. had previously bought accessories as a cash purchase so that his name would not appear on the invoice. A. had also told the dealer that the southern group was a special group within the Bundeswehr.

When Hannibal found out what Franco A. was accused of, he immediately gave instructions to delete all chats: North, South, West, East. It would not have thrown a good light on the judges, officials and soldiers in the chat groups, he will say later, if they were brought into contact with Franco A.

Because Franco A. is exposed, the federal prosecutor's office is investigating. Now the network is coming under pressure. As in northern Germany, they also determine safe meeting points and accommodations in the southern group, where the members can meet on "Day X".

You create “safe houses”. It is unclear how many of these accommodations there are and what exactly they should be used for

During the interrogation, the investigators want to know from Hannibal how many such "safe houses" there are in Germany - and where they are. André S. replies: everywhere. He even suggested his parents' car dealership as such in the chat.

Barracks successfully taken over

It is still unclear what exactly defines these “safe houses”. These places are a headache for the investigative authorities. They exist in Nuremberg and Ulm, in Lenggries and Bad Tölz and also the Graf Zeppelin barracks in Calw, where the KSK is stationed, was defined as such a place in the chat group south - provided, however, that the barracks are available in the event of a crisis already successfully adopted.

Franco A.'s arrest ultimately led to the fact that Bundeswehr barracks across Germany were searched for Nazi devotional items and soldiers were checked for their convictions. The Ministry of Defense wants to clean up, soldiers like Franco A. should be noticed more quickly in the future. Extreme right-wing comrades are supposed to leave the Bundeswehr.

Hannibal stays.

The code name Hannibal and the real name André S. circulated among security politicians in the Bundestag last year. The MAD has to admit to them that they have known Hannibal for a long time, who is apparently so ready to provide information. And although it is also known there that the north chat group has equivalents in other parts of the country, it is said: People who hoard tin cans are harmless.

The MAD would also like to know from Hannibal: What does he know about this farewell party, which resulted in a court case?

Heroes of the far-right milieu

Spring 2017, a company commander of the KSK celebrates his farewell at a shooting range near Stuttgart. His soldiers let him complete a course, let him shoot arrows and throw the heads of pigs. As a reward, they invited a woman to have sex with. It doesn't come to that, says the woman later. The company commander was too drunk.

She also says that music by the right-wing extremist band Sturmwehr was played at the celebration. The company commander and others would then have shown the Hitler salute.

The MAD has an interest in protecting Hannibal

At the request of the taz, the military counterintelligence service does not want to inform you whether their informant Hannibal also celebrated that evening. The MAD has an interest in protecting Hannibal.

The MAD has almost no sources in the KSK, and contact with Hannibal is valuable. The command, which operates strictly shielded, has a life of its own. In 2004, the notorious KSK commander Reinhard Günzel was dismissed without thanks after he had praised the anti-Semitic speech of today's AfD MP Martin Hohmann in a letter from the Bundeswehr. Günzel later became a hero in the far-right milieu.

Contact by mail

In September we ask the Federal Ministry of Defense about Uniter. An association that Hannibal founded years ago, in which former and active members of special units networked. A spokesman for the ministry replied in writing: The ministry has no further knowledge about Uniter than what is “publicly available”. At this point in time, Hannibal was already the MAD's informant. The MAD reports directly to the Ministry.

Of course, the federal government does not have to give the press any information it has obtained from intelligence clarification. But she doesn't have to lie either.

We are also interested in our inquiry: Does Uniter use Bundeswehr properties? Do the club members practice with armed forces property? “There is no information on this,” writes the ministry. Does the ministry know anything about KSK soldiers receiving further training as preppers? "No findings."

When we finally know Hannibal's real name and contact André S. himself by email in April 2018, we received an answer 23 minutes later. He writes: "In principle we do not write and communicate with the press, since the bulk of the members are subject to secrecy and any connections could affect the lives of members and their families." come, we have to inform the military counterintelligence, etc. "

So Uniter, an association whose founder supplied a nationwide chat network with confidential information from German authorities; who had Franco A., a soldier arrested on suspicion of terrorism, in his chat group; and who also administered the chat group in northern Germany whose members wanted to drive political opponents to camps with Bundeswehr trucks on a "day X" - this association would like to inform the military counterintelligence in the event of press inquiries.

Network the elite of the Bundeswehr

So of course we are interested in what Uniter is all about. Uniter, that means in Latin: "Connected in one". The association wants to network the elite of the German armed forces.

There are also good reasons for this: KSK soldiers often retire from the association at the age of 35, and missions abroad are no longer applicable - and with it foreign salaries and dangerous allowances for soldiers. Suddenly there is less money in the account. Uniter could be of help. In the network, current and former soldiers should support each other. Many of them have founded security companies or martial arts schools, others are still in the military. Ties, cufflinks and signet rings with the Uniter emblem are sold in the online shop: sword and cross surrounded by an oak wreath.

On Facebook, Uniter invites you to march on a ruined castle in Baden-Württemberg to commemorate veterans. Another time, Uniter members meet in a Bundeswehr barracks near Berlin. Here the association is open to anyone interested. Finally, a group invites the taz.

It's a Saturday morning in September of this year. In a martial arts hall in Berlin-Köpenick, a trainer explains that knife fighting takes a lot of practice, years, it is one of the most dangerous disciplines. The men, an airport security guard, a bodyguard and a police instructor, imitate the movements of the Russian. You want to be prepared.

So they practice with plastic knives what it would be like to pull the blade through someone's throat? “To kill someone with a knife, you have to hit them in the thigh, then in the stomach, then in the neck.” This is how the trainer explains it in Russian. Someone has to translate. It sounds like this: "Cut, cut, cut."

Just a game?

Like the chat groups, Uniter is also divided into the districts North, South, East and West. There are also branches in Austria and Switzerland. Again, many members do not know each other beyond their own districts. One of the district leaders east is a police instructor. Uniter has also collected donations for the homeless, the association is in turn part of an order of knights. Several members are also Freemasons.In an interview with the taz, the police officer instructor said unasked: Every new member is checked, extremism is not tolerated. This is what it says in the association's statutes.

Franco A. recommended Uniter to his arms dealer. The association denies that A. was formally a member.

The MAD is interested in Uniter, wants to get a feel for the union, and Hannibal can tell him what he's doing there. Hannibal's attitude, on the other hand, is never the subject of a MAD review.

When the investigators at the BKA asked André S. last year what he and the other preppers were preparing for, he said: These chats are only about simulation games. And he will say that everyone who works in the civil service nowadays has a healthy preparation.

Is it all just a game? Years ago, Hannibal wrote in the Süd-Chat that his parents' car dealership was suitable as a safe house. During a search, the investigators found a box with training grenades from the Bundeswehr's holdings and fuses in their house. What he could say about it, they asked Hannibal in September 2017 and pointed out that he did not have to blame himself. Hannibal says he doesn't want to answer that.

No violent right-wing extremists identified

Two weeks later, at the beginning of October 2017, MAD Lieutenant Colonel Peter W., Hannibal's contact, was questioned by the defense disciplinary lawyers. You accuse him of having revealed internals. Peter W. acts as the contact person for the Federal Public Prosecutor and the Federal Criminal Police Office at the MAD. The Cologne public prosecutor's office has brought charges against him.

The Federal Public Prosecutor does not list Hannibal as a suspect. He has since left the KSK.

When the head of the Military Counter-Intelligence Service, Christof Gramm, was questioned in the Bundestag this Friday, he said: “We have not identified any right-wing extremists willing to use violence.” And: “We do not believe that there is any networking of violent extremists within the Bundeswehr. "