German officer in neo-Nazi scandal

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The Independent Online
Lieutenant-General Hartmut Olboeter, head of the personnel department of the defence ministry, yesterday became the highest-ranking casualty in the undeclared war being waged inside the German armed forces. Gen Olboeter, a 57-year-old Berliner who lists "history and sport" as his hobbies, was suspended pending an investigation into the second neo-Nazi scandal to hit the Bundeswehr within a week.

The general was the head of the army's top academy in 1995, the year when a certain Manfred Roeder was invited to lecture to his staff. Roeder, who had spent eight years in jail for torching a refugee hostel and causing the death of two Vietnamese immigrants, was a known neo-Nazi.

Volker Ruhe, the defence minister, revealed yesterday that up to 30 officers had listened to the lecture, without recognising their illustrious guest's name.

Nor did the subject of his lecture - "German resettlement of the Kaliningrad region" - set any alarm bells ringing. Kaliningrad is the Russian name of the former East Prussian city of Konigsberg, flattened during the Second World War, its Teutonic population driven out and the rubble repopulated with Russians.

The 68-year-old neo-Nazi leader presented himself as representative of a charity named "German-Russian Community Workshop - Association for the Support of North-East Prussia". The goal of this charity is to help ethnic Germans fleeing from hardship in the former Soviet Union to resettle - not in Germany - but in East Prussia.

It was on this subject that Roeder spoke to the academy's staff, and it was for this "humanitarian" cause that his organisation received help: the gift of a van and two smaller vehicles. Before imparting its donation, the defence ministry had checked with another government department. The foreign ministry's verdict was that the "charity's" activities were "in the interest of Germany".

The Roeder affair is the fourth neo-Nazi scandal to pop up in the German media this year without warning. Videos, pictures and lectures of two years ago are being leaked to the press from dubious sources. The result is turmoil, and more revelations are certain to come.

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