Investigation launched into racist, Nazi images spread at Defense

The Ministry of Defense is ordering an investigation into abuses in the armed forces, State Secretary Barbara Visser said in a letter to parliament. Reports were received about inadmissible behavior at training institutes as well as another defense department, she said, NOS reports.

According to Visser, the commander of the Dutch Defense academy NLDA received reports that hurtful and abusive visual material is shared within a small group. These include racist and pornographic images and references to Nazi Germany. Behaviors were also reported that may be in conflict with a safe living environment. In another, unspecified defense department, there were reports of inadmissible statements in relation to Nazi Germany. 

According to the Telegraaf, a trainee soldier was running a WhatsApp group in which Hitler, the Nazis and the NSB were glorified.

Ruud Vermeulen, chairman of Dutch Officers Association, sees mainly youthful shenanigans in the incidents, but he also emphasizes that norms and values have priority at Defense. "And in this they committed an offense. They can do two things now: condone or enforce it. And the academy enforces it, rightly", he said to NOS. Vermeulen think the trainees shared pictures with each other for a laugh and did not mean it seriously. "Where you put a number of people, and especially young people, together, you will always have this kind of thing. But different rules apply at Defense. I always compare it to drugs. Drugs are accepted in society, not at all at defense." He expects that if the trainees are found guilty, their Defense career will be over.

Independent committees will investigate the abuses, Visser said. The trainees and staff of the NLDA were informed about the investigations. Visser emphasized that there is no room in the Defense organization for unacceptable and socially unsafe behavior, especially not in at the training institutes. If the results of the investigations give cause to do so, sanctions will be imposed.