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Here’s what we know so far about the group accused of plotting to destabilize Germany’s government.

The group is closely associated with the Reichsbürger movement, which rejects the legitimacy of the state (literally, “citizens of the Reich,” or kingdom).

The news on Wednesday that a far-right group was plotting to overthrow the German government in a coup astounded many people around the world, who thought Germany had largely eliminated its extremist right wing.

Here's what we know so far about the group accused of plotting to destabilize Germany's government.
Here’s what we know so far about the group accused of plotting to destabilize Germany’s government.

Experts in Germany and elsewhere who had been following groups inspired by paranoid conspiracy theories and emboldened by the larger movement against pandemic measures said it was only a matter of time before something like this occurred.

So, what is known about the group that was the target of one of Germany’s largest counter-terrorism operations, involving over 3,000 police officers and special forces?

Who are the conspirators?

The plotters, 25 of whom were apprehended during the operation, are accused of being members of an extremist terrorist organization with beliefs based on conspiracy theories. One of its members is a serving special forces officer, and another is an eccentric aristocrat who holds and still uses a historic royal title.

The group, which has not been named by officials, was founded no later than November 2021 and was planning an armed insurgency to install its own government, according to German prosecutors.

A suspect is escorted from a helicopter by police officers in Karlsruhe, Germany, on Wednesday
A suspect is escorted from a helicopter by police officers in Karlsruhe, Germany, on Wednesday

The group is closely associated with the extremist Reichsbürger movement, which rejects the legitimacy of the German state (literally “citizens of the Reich,” or kingdom).

According to Miro Dittrich, an expert at CeMAS, a German organization that monitors right-wing extremism, this is not the first time a far-right group has plotted a coup in recent years.

“Today’s group, on the other hand,” he said, “was larger, further along in the planning, and better connected with people trained in the [use of] weapons.”

The Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the country’s domestic intelligence agency, began tracking Reichsbürger members in 2016 after one of them shot and killed a police officer sent to confiscate his guns.

The agency now estimates that there are approximately 21,000 active Reichsburger members in Germany, with approximately 5% classified as far-right.

Heinrich XIII, who is he?

Heinrich XIII Prince Reusthe, the holder of a royal title that lapsed with Kaiser Wilhelm II’s abdication and the establishment of the modern German state in 1918, is one of the group’s main leaders. The 71-year-old was photographed in handcuffs being led away from a property by police on Wednesday.

According to Carsten Koschmieder of the Free University of Berlin, the movement has gained traction in mainstream society.

“Even if Reich citizens or conspiracy ideologues appear to be insane people,” he said, “many of those arrested come from the middle of society, have normal jobs, friends, and so on.”

He went on to say that what brought them together was a “belief that the Germans are being oppressed by a powerful foreign power,” or that the German state is assisting in this oppression, thus justifying an armed insurgency.

What are their beliefs?

Reichsbürger supporters deny the existence of the modern German state. They argue that the true Germany is the constitutional monarchy that existed prior to the establishment of the modern republic. Others in the movement contend that Germany is under military occupation.

They argue, like the Sovereign Citizen movements in the United States, that modern laws do not apply to them.

“They do not respect the state constitution, believing it to be illegitimate.” They don’t have [license] plates, they don’t pay taxes — they believe the last legitimate state was the Kaiserreich, which ended in 1918,” said Peter Neumann, a security studies professor at King’s College, London.

According to a government report at the time, a civil servant and Reichsbürger supporter lost his job in 2021 after naming his birth state as “Kingdom of Bavaria” when applying for a passport, citing a 1913 law.

Wednesday's operation featured more than 3,000 police officers and special forces
Wednesday’s operation featured more than 3,000 police officers and special forces

However, the movement has become externally politicized and, like the QAnon conspiracy theory, holds Germany hostage by the “deep state.”

And, like Q supporters, Reichsbürger members believe Germany will be liberated from tyranny soon — not by Donald Trump, but by an alliance of US and Russian governments and intelligence services.

“During the pandemic, the Reich Citizens’ Movement grew parallel to the QAnon movement in Germany; they share many stories and are very closely intertwined.”

“Germany has the world’s largest non-English speaking QAnon community,” Dittricht said.

What were their intentions?

According to German prosecutors, the group had detailed plans for seizing power. These included the formation of “homeland security” groups to take and maintain control of the country, as well as weapons training, information technology systems, and an entire shadow cabinet of leaders to take control in the event of a successful coup.

“Members of a military arm’ are to carry out this forcible elimination of the democratic constitutional state,” prosecutors said in a statement Wednesday.

The Federal German Republic would then vanish, rewriting 100 years of history.

“There aren’t many guns in private hands [in Germany], but Reichsbürgers were actively arming themselves — they got sports shooting licenses,” Neumann explained.

“There are also ex-military and police officers who know how to use firearms.” In that regard, they are a dangerous movement that has grown in popularity over the last two years.”

How close to acting were they?

Authorities in Germany have not stated whether the group was ever in a position to launch a coup, or whether such an attempt was ever likely to succeed.

However, the group and its plans were deemed serious enough to justify the largest and possibly most expensive counter-terrorism operation in the country’s history, implying that an armed confrontation on some scale was anticipated.

In 2020, nearly 40,000 protesters marched in Berlin to express their dissatisfaction with the Covid-19 measures. Around 100 to 200 of them attempted to storm the German Parliament, the Bundestag.

The group is closely associated with the Reichsbürger movement, which rejects the legitimacy of the state (literally, "citizens of the Reich," or kingdom)
The group is closely associated with the Reichsbürger movement, which rejects the legitimacy of the state (literally, “citizens of the Reich,” or kingdom)

They were repulsed, and 300 people were arrested, but the size and potential power of the movement were undeniable.

So, what comes next?

“The security agencies have succeeded in putting a stop to this. “But I don’t think this is the last plot like this,” Neumann said. “I would be very surprised if there were no other networks discovered.”

What was Covid-19’s role?

The pandemic fueled far-right movements across Europe. Previously unknown activists found a large audience and a sympathetic audience through social media platforms such as Telegram.

People who were concerned about the state’s overreach quickly discovered far-right voices offering an explanation — which often included conspiracy theories based on the role of shadowy globalists or deep-state actors.

“These people have always existed, but the anti-Covid measures movement has given them tremendous power.” “They were radicalized because it allowed them to claim the right to take action, including armed action,” Neumann explained.

“It enabled them to say, ‘This has gotten so bad that we need to act.'” The pandemic enabled them to expand their movement. They were previously sidelined because they were so insane.”

source: summarybio.com