The Sun is Red Over the Congo

SAARLOUIS/KINSHASA/IRÁKLION | | kongo-kinshasa

SAARLOUIS/KINSHASA/IRÁKLION (Own report) - The German troop contingent preparing for deployment to the Congo, is being led by a notorious elite unit. It is the 26th Airborne Brigade of the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr), which has been at the center of several scandals because of their extolment of the unit's tradition. This was revealed through research by german-foreign-policy.com. Units of this brigade will comprise approx. 300 of the 780 soldiers in the German contingent to the Congo. In its self-portrayal, the brigade boasts of the "military feats" of its Nazi predecessors, during their occupation of Greece. German airborne troops attacked the island Crete in the spring of 1941. During the combat the invader murdered several hundred island inhabitants ("Operation Merkur"). In the Congo, the first mass demonstrations in opposition to the forthcoming intervention of German and allied troops are taking place. Monday, June 12, there were several thousand demonstrators in three cities of the country. Mass demonstrations have been announced for the end of June. Observers in Kinshasa are anticipating the use of European troops against the protestors with the danger of an incalculable escalation. An EU advance commando, including Bundeswehr troops, has already arrived in the Congolese capital.

The 26th Airborne Brigade, which is prepared for the Congo deployment, has been involved in most of the Bundeswehr's foreign operations. This unit, also known as the "Saarland Brigade," operates under the slogan "Operational - Anytime - Anywhere".

Seizure of Key Terrain

Soldiers of the Bundeswehr's 26th Airborne Brigade participated in Kampuchea (1992/93) in the first international mission since World War II, and in the second, in Somalia (1993/94). Officers of the unit served in Croatia in 1995, and a few years later, were engaged in Kosovo. In March 1997 the brigade commander led a spectacular evacuation action in the Albanian capital, Tirana, in which he gave the first combat order to fire in the history of the Bundeswehr. In Afghanistan, the unit is also amassing comprehensive combat experience. The 26th Airborne Brigade belongs to the elite Special Operations Division (DSO) and is comprised of several paratrooper and airborne units. Protection and evacuation operations, are among their fundamental assignments, as well as so-called initial operations (seizure and holding of key terrain to allow the deployment of supplementary military units) and special operations behind enemy lines.

Special Unit

While sectors of the unit were engaged in operations abroad, the 26th Airborne Brigade and their sub-formations were time and again the focus of scandals - that were shielded by the government. In 1995 a televised documentary exposed questionable references to the brigade's Tradition.[1] In a self-portrayal of the brigade, it was boasted that "already in the Second World War the paratroopers of the German Wehrmacht were special." The portrait goes on to say, that the paratroopers' "military feats" on Crete have "become legend" and "are vaunted." At the time, the presiding Undersecretary of State in the Defense Ministry, Dr. Peter Wichert, judged, (August 24 1995) that this is "essentially true from a military-historical point of view and [therefore] gives no cause for reprimand".[2] As a matter of fact, those World War II paratroopers carried out massacres on Crete. Within a few weeks more than 2,000 civilians had been murdered.

Ten to One

During the battles for military control of the island, German commanders ordered mass executions. Thus, for instance, the Wehrmacht Maj. Gen. Julius Ringel ordered that "for each German wounded or killed, 10 Cretans should be shot". Also "farmsteads and villages from which German troops had been fired upon" would be burned to the ground as well as "hostages were to be taken in all localities". Gen. Kurt Student gave the command "to execute all measures with the greatest acceleration, dispensing with all formalities and with the conscious exclusion of special courts." Referring to the general population of Crete, the German officer ruled that normal legal procedure is "out of the question for beasts and murderers."[3] By the end of the war, according to Greek estimates, the civilian population of Crete had lost more than 10,000 people to the terror of German occupation.

Deception

In 1998 another televised documentary exposed extensive activities of the 26th Airborne Brigade on Crete.[4] According to this information, soldiers of the unit are attending to the graves of the Wehrmacht paratroopers, who had been buried on this Mediterranean island. In addition, for several years the brigade has been carrying out so-called leadership training on Crete. The August 1997 training was under the title: "tactical advanced training of first sergeants and other warrant officers of the 26th Airborne Brigade, using Operation Merkur as a war-historical example" - the deadly airborne assault by Nazi military forces. Undersecretary of State, Dr. Wichert, made known on August 14, 1998, that among the objectives of the 1997 "leadership advanced training" was alongside the attainment of "knowledge concerning the military situation, the population and environmental conditions" and the "significance of surprise and deception" is also knowledge of the "meaning of international law in military conflicts".[5]

The SS

National attention was again drawn to the 26th Airborne Brigade in 2003, as Defense Minister, Peter Struck, relieved the commander of the special commando forces, Reinhard Guenzel, of fhis duties, because of his approbation for an anti-Semitic speech.[6] Guenzel had earlier, for several years, been the commander of the 262nd Paratrooper Battalion [7], a formation within the airborne brigade, and had always approved of the customary singing of the unofficial paratrooper hymn "Red is the Sun", a Nazi song composed in 1940. Later he became the deputy commanding officer of the airborne brigade. "I expect of my troops, the discipline of the Spartans, the Romans or the SS", he is reputed to have said during a combat exercise.[8] Another unit under Guenzel's command was implicated in 1997 in one of the Bundeswehr torture scandals.

Focal Point

Alongside telecommunications and medical services, the German soldiers in the Congo are also charged with coordination of the operation with civilian authorities, as well as, so-called psyops (psychological operations).[9] Whereas these tasks will be carried out in multi-national units, the task of military intelligence ("Intelligence, Surveillance, target Acquisition, Reconnaissance") is reserved solely for German units. Another focal point of German forces is the possible evacuation of endangered western personnel, should the population of the Democratic Republic of the Congo resist foreign intervention. This task is reserved for the approx. 300 soldiers of the 26th Airborne Brigade.

Boycott

Even before the main German contingent arrives, the Congolese resistance is taking shape. Already last weekend approximately 700 exile Congolese demonstrated against the military operation in Brussels. Monday several thousand took to the streets in Kinshasa, Mbuji Mayi and Mwene Ditu. Observers anticipate that the protests will persist. Mass demonstrations are planned for June 30. In Kinshasa an escalation is considered not to be precluded, should European troops be called out against the demonstrators in July. It is carefully noted that the French-German military deployment is taking place without London; Great Britain is not sending soldiers. According to information on hand at german-foreign-policy.com angry, opponents of the European troop intervention are, in the meantime, considering a boycott of German goods.

Please read also: Politisch schwieriges Terrain, War Resources (I), Kriegsressourcen (II), War Resources (III), Begrüßt und fortgeschrieben, They are ready und Interview with Dr. Helmut Strizek

[1] Katrin Brüggemann, Peter Kleinert: "Friedensengel". Die Saarlandbrigade - eine Eliteeinheit der Nato, 1995
[2] Deutscher Bundestag: Drucksache 13/2238
[3] Ungesühnt. Die Massaker der Wehrmacht in Griechenland 1941 bis 1944; junge Welt 04.07.2000. Grüne Teufel singen; junge Welt 20.03.2003
[4] Fred Kowasch: "Die Schlacht um Kreta. Traditionspflege bei der Bundeswehr", Kennzeichen D, 22.07.1998
[5] Deutscher Bundestag: Drucksache 13/11361
[6] see also Deutsche Medienhilfe
[7] heutige Bezeichung der Einheit: Luftlandeunterstützungsbataillon 262
[8] Ein General wechselt die Front; taz 24.05.2004
[9] see also Rechtzeitig ordnen and Aufklärung