What is the Reichsbürger, the ultra movement behind the plan to carry out a coup in Germany

12/07/2022 at 5:52 p.m.


Its members do not recognize the Federal Republic and their radicalization keeps the authorities on alert

The German justice system has informed this Wednesday of the operation that has aborted a plan to carry out a coup d’état, in which 25 people have been arrested. In addition, another 27 people are being investigated for their possible links to the criminal cell. According to the police, behind the attempt is the extreme right group Reichsburger (Citizens of the Reich, in German), an old acquaintance of the German security forces.

A growing threat

The ultra Reichsbürger movement encompasses a heterogeneous nebula of neo-Nazis, Kaiser nostalgics, conspiracists and people with esoteric beliefs who are members of associations with bombastic names such as “the Government in exile of the German Empire”, the “Kingdom of Germany” or the “Free Republic of Germany”. They deny the existence of the Federal Republic because they maintain that the current state is nothing more than an administrative construction still occupied by the US, UK and France, and its members act to recover the German borders prior to the Second World War, which would include areas of present-day Poland. They do not respect the Constitution, they assure that the one that governs is that of Weimar of 1919, and they refuse to pay taxes. In addition, they print their own passports and driver’s licenses. For a long time they were not given much attention, but their increasing radicalization, especially during the covid-19 pandemic with their refusal to abide by restrictions, has increased the concern from the authorities. According to the latest report from the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), these groups are ready and willing to commit “serious acts of violence“.

About 21,000 members

The authorities estimate that some 21,000 people are part of the Reichsbürger, most mensand 5% are classified as extremists. Among them are former soldiers of the Federal Army and the NVA (National People’s Army of the GDR), some with special military training. Its members have also been linked to the conspiracy theories of QAnon, the ultra movement born in USA who maintains that the world is under the power of a gang of pedophiles who kidnap children to drink their blood. QAnon followers participated in the assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The Reichsbürger do not have a common structure and ideology, so they do not have a boss, but rather multiple self-proclaimed leaders. The members of the cell disbanded this Thursday are convinced that Germany is currently run by a “deep state“, as detailed by the prosecution. And to achieve “liberation”, they advocate the imminent intervention of the so-called ‘alliance‘, “a secret society technically superior that brings together governments, intelligence and military services from different countries, including the Russian Federation and the USA”. The Russian embassy in Berlin has rejected any link with this type of organization.

Assault on the Reichstag and attempted kidnapping

In recent years, the Reichbürguer have been linked to at least three worrying episodes. The first took place in 2016, when a police officer was shot dead by a member of this movement during a raid to seize an illegal arsenal of more than 30 firearms. On August 29, 2020, as part of a protest against restrictions to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of protesters broke down the barriers surrounding the Federal Parliament with the aim of storming the historic Reichstag building. According to local media, the trigger for the assault was a message through a megaphone that claimed that Donald Trump had come to Berlin to liberate Germany. In 2022, the prosecution also attributed to people who were followers of the Reichbürger ideology the attempted kidnapping of the Minister of Healththe social democrat Karl Lauterbach. The plan, which included creating conditions of “civil war” in the country carrying out attacks against electrical infrastructures, was disrupted by the police last April, with the arrest of four people. Six months later, the alleged leader of the group, a 75-year-old woman, was arrested.