For Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) there is no doubt about the danger posed by the 25 putschists who were arrested on Wednesday: “We are not dealing with innocent fantasists, but with terrorist suspects”, Faeser said in Bild am Sonntag.

    He announced on Sunday that, according to estimates by the security services, the number ‘Reichsburger’ increased to 23,000. Of these, 10 percent would be prepared to use violence. The ‘Reichsbürger’, under whose flag the thwarted coup would take place, consider the Federal Republic illegitimate and want to return to the German Reich, which ended in 1918 with WWI.

    The fact that Faeser feels compelled to emphasize once again the danger of the Reichsbürger movement says a lot about the debate in Germany in the days following the large-scale operation on Wednesday.

    In the perception of many, there is a big gap between fantasist and suspect of terrorism. The danger suggested by the deployment of three thousand agents is difficult to reconcile with the ideology of the suspects: one of the largest anti-terror operations in modern Germany targeted a pawnbroker in his seventies who likes to lose his princely title and his (local) power. restored to its former glory in a country modeled on the German Empire, and who consulted an astrologer with divinatory powers before the date of the planned coup. But Prince Henry XIII and his co-conspirators did have weapons; firearms or ammunition were reportedly found at 50 of the 150 sites searched. The lion’s share was legal.

    These weaponized fantasists and their possible range evoke divided reactions. At the forefront of the discussion about practical measures is better security for the Bundestag, which the coup plotters planned to storm in order to handcuff parliamentarians and cabinet members. In recent weeks, the Bundestag has already been better secured with concrete blocks and additional checks upon entry due to the increased threat. The coalition is divided about the extent to which the Bundestag should be further shielded.

    Attitude towards AfD

    This question is also related to the relationship with the right-wing populist Alternative für Deutschland. Among the suspects arrested on Wednesday was a former AfD Bundestag member, Birgit Malsack-Winkemann. She still had access to the Bundestag. FDP parliamentarian Konstantin Kuhle wants AfD members who no longer have a seat to be subjected to stricter scrutiny.

    The AfD faction has not yet commented on the involvement of their former colleague; the presidents denounced the subversive plans in broad terms. Group member Petr Bystron mocked the idea of ​​a “coup by fifty pensioners” and saw it as a sign that the “danger from the right” is being made bigger than it is.

    Björn Höcke, the far-right group chairman in the Thuringian state parliament, warned his supporters against chat groups saying that “elections and peaceful demonstrations for fundamental rights are no longer effective and other methods must now be used”. From such statements, Höcke writes in an e-mail, even if they are made out of desperation or as a joke, “criminal or even terrorist organizations will soon be constructed.” Despite the “extremely repressive atmosphere” for “oppositional” sounds, Höcke wishes his fans a happy advent.

    For some commentators, the mixed composition of the group of suspects is frightening evidence that extreme ideas have now also taken root in society. Among the suspects are real estate prince Heinrich XIII. R. several former soldiers, a police commissioner, a doctor, a pilot, a judge and a tenor.

    Extremists in the army and police

    That astonishment about extremism among people with an academic title seems somewhat naive. Extremists in the police and military, with access to guns, have long been a problem in Germany. Faeser wants to investigate whether people in government service – in the police, judiciary or defense – can more easily be removed from office if they show anti-democratic ideas.

    The suspected AfD politician is a judge; after her term in the Bundestag, the judiciary tried to remove her from her position last October, without success. Two weeks ago in Saxony, a former AfD parliamentarian who wanted to return as a judge was declared unfit by a court in Leipzig. The politician in question is considered “extreme right” by the security services.

    The number of Reichsbürger has been growing since the corona pandemic. They support conspiracy theories that state that Germany has been occupied by the Allies since WWII, or that Germany is a company owned by an anonymous international conglomerate. According to the Reichsbürger, Germany is not a legitimate and sovereign state and therefore the laws of the Federal Republic do not apply. They think their passports are worthless; in some cases they handed it in at the town hall.

    Conspiracies that became fashionable worldwide during the pandemic are in line with that idea. Like QAnon, in which a ‘Deep State’ is also in power and the visible government is only a sham government. In the Netherlands, too, there is a movement of ‘autonomous citizens’ who believe that they no longer have to comply with the law without a passport.

    Faeser, who previously called the Reichsbürger “united in their hatred of democracy”, now wants at least to ensure that such people are no longer allowed to carry weapons. According to Faeser, 1,050 gun licenses have already been revoked. Germany’s gun law must be further tightened to “consistently disarm” the Reichsbürger.

    First a coup, then a new government and a new army: the plans of the German conspiracy theorists were well advanced