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The BBC's Rob Broomby in Berlin
"The Ministry of Defence spokesman said they were extremely vigilant"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 5 September, 2000, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
German officer suspected of racism
German soldiers undergoing training
The army is trying to live down past racist incidents
A new case of suspected racism has emerged from the ranks of the German army.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman has confirmed that a junior non-commissioned officer, based in the city of Mainz, is under investigation following accusations of racial harassment.


When Mehmet staggers from the gas chamber...that's when Germany will be worth living in again

Alleged message from German soldier

He is accused of sending threatening electronic messages to a Turkish fellow soldier on a mobile telephone, including calling for a gas chamber for Turks in Germany.

The case occurs at a time when Germany is engrossed in a wide-ranging debate over ways to tackle right-wing extremism.

Ombudsman

A military court is now investigating the incident, which is alleged to have taken place in February.

One particularly lurid message quoted by the German press reads: 'When Ali is swinging from the oak tree, when Mehmet staggers from the gas chamber, when the swastika is once again used to tar our streets, that's when Germany will be worth living in again.'

Young students protest against neo-Nazi acts
Young students protest against neo-Nazi acts
The German authorities would not confirm the quotation or release the names of the people involved.

The investigation began after the Turkish soldier complained to the parliamentary ombudsman responsible for the armed forces.

The Ministry of Defence spokesman said they monitored everything relating to the suspicion of right-wing activity within the military very closely.

Recent attacks

Left-wing groups in Germany say that the army has long turned a blind eye to cases of racism in its ranks.

But correspondents say it has now become very sensitive to such charges after a number of embarassing incidents.

Memorial to the slain Mozambican immigrant Alberto Adriano
Schroeder said Germany was committed to stamping out racism
Public prosecutors are already investigating a soldier accused of establishing an internet website named heilhitler.com which has now apparently been closed down.

Germany has recently been shaken by a series of extremist or neo-Nazi attacks on foreigners and ethnic minorities.

Last Thursday, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder paid tribute at a memorial marking the spot where a Mozambican immigrant was killed.

His three killers have been sentenced to long jail terms - and Mr Schroeder said he hoped this would send a signal that Germany was serious about stamping out racism.

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See also:

30 Aug 00 | Europe
German racist killers jailed
07 Aug 00 | Europe
Germany agonises over neo-Nazis
23 Aug 00 | Europe
Germany's east-west gulf
18 Aug 00 | Europe
German neo-Nazis suspend demos
31 Aug 00 | Europe
Europe fears spread of racism
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