By Tunç Akkoç
They had shown up before in protest actions against Covid-19 restrictions. Their name is “Veterans for Law and Freedom”. They have established a platform consisting of retired soldiers who served in the armies of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic. Their emblem is a combination of the flags of the Federal and Democratic Republics, of East and West Germany.
This organization has caused great debate in the past days. The German official news agency, DPA, has prepared a report. Following the report, the organization became the number one topic especially in social media.
Basically, the media is reporting about a group established on Telegram, named “Veterans Pool”. The group was established as a communication platform on Telegram and gained more than 10 thousand members – in 1 day!
Following the great interest, the platform has established separate subgroups on the level of German federal states. The group membership is open to the general public; thus, citizens who have not served in the military can join the “Veterans Pool” as well. But commentaries in the platform show clearly that an important number of retired soldiers take part. Several participants introduce themselves by stating their position, time and field of military service in detail.
Covid-19 restrictions targeted
The retired military members have started the organization in Germany inspired by a similar initiative in the Netherlands. They express it on Telegram as such: “We have been inspired by our companions in the Netherlands. We also will place ourselves in a peaceful way in protest actions between the police and our citizens.”
The organizers of the platform express solidarity with protests against Covid-19 restrictions. Germany has gone through a series of public demonstrations in the past months, where participants criticized restrictions as a violation of basic constitutional rights.
“Not going to war, already in it”
Some of the messages from the Telegram platform became public due to media reports. According to the press report, the moderator of the group wrote “We are not going to war, we are already in it”.
In the Veterans Pool platform belonging to the federal state of Berlin-Brandenburg, the following message was written: “Our people need us today. And following the oath we have taken, it is today our duty to protect our people.” Another commentator in the group proposes to lead a “cauldron battle in Berlin”, using the German term “Kesselschlacht”, a war tactics used to encircle the enemy and in the history most prominently used in the battle of Stalingrad.
According to the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, one of the most active people on the platform is Daniel Freiherr von Lützow, a Member of State Parliament in the federal state of Brandenburg for the party Alternative for Germany (AfD). Lützow has served 5 years in the military of the Federal Republic and has been sent to the Kosovo during duty.
Lützow comments in the group the following: “We need to take joint decisions on the federal level and get in motion everywhere at the same time. Like a unit”. Concerning his motivation, he states, “Ever since I was 17, I have been telling ‘give me 100 men, and we will see whether these churls of Antifa (self-declared, informal antifascist group often protesting in illegal ways and clashing with the police) can stand up again.”
German Defense Ministry responds
The rising debate about the platform forced even the German Ministry of Defense to make an official statement. The Ministry said: “There’s some excitement about a Telegram group here too. In this regard, we state: It is not an organization of the Bundeswehr. We distance ourselves from the content. It is clear to us: We will not tolerate extremism and will continue to pursue a zero tolerance line.”
The official association for the military reserve force, known as the Bundesreservistenverband, has also criticized the platform, stating “it tries to recruit soldiers, retired service members and members of the reserve force to participate in actions of disruption against the state”.
The association claimed that the platform was opposing “the constitutional order”.
French military’s letter
The organization of retired German military personnel parallels the letter made public in France in the past week. 18 active soldiers and a number of retired military personnel have warned of the risk of “civil war”, “dangers” of “Islamism and the hordes from the banlieue”. The signatories said “lax” government policies would result in chaos, requiring “the intervention of our companions on active duty in a perilous mission of protection of our civilizational values”.