It is a raid of unprecedented proportions: on Wednesday morning, up to 3,000 officers act against a network of people who are assigned to the “Reichsbürger” scene. The accused are accused of preparing several criminal offenses that endanger the state. In other words: right-wing terrorism.
“Reichsbürger” – anyone who heard this name thought for a long time of weirdos who issue imaginary ID cards, refuse to pay taxes and sometimes appoint themselves Reich Chancellors. They send officials long, formal-sounding briefs that are supposed to justify why the Federal Republic allegedly has no right to exist and instead a German Reich continues to exist – either the Third Reich, the German Empire or the Weimar Republic.
However, some “Reich citizens” do not shy away from violence to fight for their convictions. In 2016, a bailiff tried to seize property in Reuden. Despite two hundreds of police and SEK deployment, a “Reich citizen” opened fire. He was later sentenced to 7 years in prison for attempted murder.
In October 2016, a 32-year-old SEK officer was shot dead by a “Reich citizen” during a raid in Georgensgmünd to secure weapons. The perpetrator is sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and two counts of attempted murder.
In February of this year, a “Reich citizen” in Lörrach evaded control and rushed towards a police officer, seriously injuring him. He does not recognize the representatives of the state. He still has to answer for attempted murder in court. For a long time, Reich citizens were underestimated even in security circles and despite intensive warnings from civil society, and this is now threatening to take revenge.
In recent years, “Reichsbürger” have gained new attention and new followers through the protests against the Corona measures. Reich flags were part of the normal sight of the demonstrations in front of the Reichstag, and “Reich citizens” kept giving speeches there. In August 2020, it was a “Reich citizen” who called for the fall of the Reichstag, shortly afterwards up to 500 people tried to put this into practice. In the past there were repeated calls from the “Reichsbürger” milieu to storm the Reichstag and corresponding announcements. For the first time it is actually tried. The pictures go around the world.
The less people find their way in the complexity and contradictions of the world, the greater their desire for simplified explanations: good or bad, right or wrong, friend or foe. It is seldom about finding differentiated answers, but about orientation. Where people believe that the state has failed or wants to restrict their freedom, the anti-democratic idea of leaving the system, as propagated by “Reichsbürger”, is sometimes very popular.
In the current case, the right-wing extremists were planning to overthrow the federal government and establish a state modeled on the German Reich of 1871. This state was to be legitimized by the appointment of Henry XIII. Prince Reuss as “Regent”. The nobleman from Thuringia has long been spreading conspiracy-ideological “Reichsbürger” theses, including that the Federal Republic is “occupied by the Allies”.
The “Reichsbürger” network is said to have planned an armed attack on the Bundestag and the arrest of politicians. This was supposed to cause unrest, parts of the security forces should have made common cause with the terrorist group out of solidarity and a military transitional government would have paved the way for a “coup”.
Since it was founded in 1998, the aim of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation has been to strengthen a democratic civil society that consistently opposes right-wing extremism, racism and anti-Semitism. The non-profit foundation is under the patronage of Wolfgang Thierse. More information at www.amadeu-antonio-stiftung.de
The idea that a fall as “self-defence” is legitimate in order to replace a supposedly no longer working system has been circulating for a long time. In particular, former and active members of the police and armed forces should feel addressed by this. The insidious logic: their loyalty to the Basic Law obliges them to take up arms against a system that they consider illegitimate.
Former Bundeswehr and KSK soldiers can also be found in the current “Reichsbürger” network. The group planned an “armed arm” to implement the coup fantasies. These people are trained with weapons, they know military tactics. This is no longer about pseudo-briefings to authorities, but about preparing for the targeted killing of people.
For a “shadow cabinet”, the network has provided people with the necessary know-how and the appropriate connections: a lawyer should act as foreign minister, a doctor as health minister. But even university degrees and insights into the burdened “critical infrastructure” do not protect against uninhibited hostility to democracy.
On the contrary: they are supposed to legitimize one’s own agenda, because after all one has “exclusive knowledge” and can no longer be misled by “mainstream media” or the “establishment”. “Wake up” is a common catchphrase used by “Reichsbürger” when they want to express that they have seen through a sinister plan. All others are “sleeping sheep” who would unconditionally follow the herd.
It’s buzzwords like these that make people sit up and take notice when they come up in their own environment. Not everyone who is critical of media reporting or democracy is therefore a “Reich citizen” – but there are topics on which these right-wing extremists like to tie in with their agenda and offer simple explanations. As a rule, there is no point getting involved in substantive discussions with radicalized “Reich citizens”.
It’s part of your own conspiracy thinking that the others don’t know about the supposed “truth” anyway. Once the worldview has been closed, the only thing left to do is prevent the person in question from spreading it further. The more sympathizers become socially isolated, the greater the risk that they will slip completely into the milieu.
As long as someone from your environment sympathizes with the ideas of the “Reichsbürger” but is still open to talks, try it. Especially in a personal relationship of trust you can name contradictions and talk about doubts together. Don’t expect an immediate rethink – listening and respecting each other is an important step in the right direction.