Reich citizens are unpredictable, extremely dangerous and often equipped with weapons. The number of officially registered Reich citizens and self-governments continues to rise, as the report by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution has shown. Unfortunately, that’s not surprising.

Behind their crazy world and delusions is a heterogeneous movement, held together by right-wing conspiracy theories and white-hot paranoia. The scene is correspondingly dangerous beyond its clearly right-wing extremist supporters.

I was able to experience it all up close. I spent most of the past year in the midst of Reich citizen groups and political sects, encountered neo-Nazis and brown esoterics, confused extremists from the extreme fringes of society and people from its bourgeois middle class, desperate seduced people and evil seducers.

Tobias Ginsburg is a theater maker and author. He studied dramaturgy, literature and philosophy at the Bavarian Theater Academy and the LMU Munich. He has been writing and directing plays since 2007. In 2018, his debut book “Die Reise ins Reich” was published, for which he spent eight months undercover in the Reich citizen and neo-Nazi scene chasing the German conspiracy mania.

For example, I was invited to a rifle club. There, in the midst of automatic machine guns, disgruntled motorcyclists wanted to plan the fall of the hated FRG GmbH. The scene is convinced that they want to exterminate the German people. But even at less sinister-sounding events, such as an esoteric meeting of conspiracy theorists, one encounters the militants.

A Reich citizen once proudly explained to me that he had already equipped his basement for the “big bang”. He has enough food to survive for two years after the anticipated civil war, and enough ammunition to keep the system henchmen and hordes of marauding Africans at bay (of course he used a very different word from “Africans”).

And you keep hearing the same sentences – from the die-hard right-wing radicals as well as from the biggest muddleheads: “I have to do something! I have to fight back!”

Of course, anyone who believes that the German people are the victims of a global conspiracy, subjugated by bought puppet politicians, ominous shadow governments and sinister elites, should even be exterminated, believes they have to defend themselves. He thinks he’s acting in self-defense.

Paradoxically, it is often the arsonists, fearmongers and profiteers who advise their followers against immediate action. Logically, because where there is fear, there is good money to be made – but the potential financiers should not be in jail for that. So it is important for most Reich citizens and self-government to prepare for the big “Day X”. For many, however, it comes faster than expected and the paranoia often enough becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because if you mess with the hated state and refuse to pay taxes or fines, the state will actually be on your heels at some point.

And finally, the radicalization of the scene is fueled by society’s ongoing shift to the right. Because all the new-right murmuring and right-wing populist flirtation with conspiracy theories strengthens the scene. Gradually lets their ideas become socially acceptable – you know, all the right-wing horror scenarios of the great “revolution” and the Islamization of the Germans and the subjugation of the people by bloodthirsty elites. You will probably find the same thing further down in the comment columns.

If you really believe in these narratives, really, really honestly – and that’s what most of the so-called Reich citizens do – then it’s logical, no, downright necessary to hole up in the garden shed with a fully loaded gun and live ammunition. The ideological basis of the Reich Citizens’ Movement may be stupid, but there is a system behind it. A system in which the dividing line between confused oddballs and militant right-wing extremists dissolves all too quickly.