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PoliticsWorldCoup attempted in Germany: All that is known about conspirators

Coup attempted in Germany: All that is known about conspirators

The office of the federal prosecutor in Germany said the group had been plotting a coup since November 2021, with its central ‘Rat’ holding regular meetings

Police have arrested 25 people in Germany during raids across 11 states on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government. Preliminary information suggests the force behind the attempted coup is a group of far-right and former military personnel who prepared for a certain “Day X” to storm the Reichstag building and seize power.

Interior Minister of Germany Nancy Faeser assured her people that authorities would respond with the full force of the law “against the enemies of democracy”.

Coup plotter 1

Police say a bourgeois identified as Heinrich XIII was in the core team of plotters. Federal prosecutors say he is one of two alleged masterminds among those arrested who include members of the extremist Reichsbürger [Citizens of the Reich] movement. German police suspected they were behind the violent attacks and racist and antisemitic conspiracy theories the country has witnessed in the recent past. The coup plotters are known to defy the modern German state.

Other suspects who were hatching the conspiracy for a coup were once part of the QAnon movement, the activists of which hold that their country is in the hands of a mythical “deep state” involving secret powers pulling the political strings.

Reichsbürger did not emerge overnight. They pre-date the Covid pandemic. It’s only that they are turning increasingly audacious and radical, with their activists also carrying out a disinformation related to the coronavirus and vaccines to prevent it. The link became obvious when the conspiracy theorists were found involved in a plot to kidnap the German health minister in April. The group runs Telegram channels, many of which identify themselves as “citizens of the Reich” who posit that Covid-19 and vaccines are part of the German state’s ‘sinister plot to control the population’.

They made wild theories also about the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

QAnon was last heard internationally for its alleged involvement in the Capitol Hill riot in the US on 6 January 2021.

Almost a cult, these far-right people in Germany make social media posts in solidarity with the Sovereign Citizens movements that say they are immune to the law of the land. To summarise, they believe evil cartels wish to control their lives and they must topple such regimes. Notably, such people exist in the US too. They were involved in anti-vaccine violence and the riots at the Capitol.

Law enforcement agencies in Germany have identified some 50 men and women as members of the gang, which allegedly hatched the conspiracy to replace the republic with a new nation-state modelled on the Germany of 1871, an empire referred to as the Second Reich. “We don’t yet have a name for this group,” said a spokeswoman for the federal prosecutor’s office. The interior minister said it apparently comprised an organisation “council” and a military arm.

Media in Germany is describing the raids in the dawn of 7 December as one of the biggest anti-extremism operations in modern German history. As many as 3,000 officers took part in 150 search operations in 11 of the 16 states in the country while the police forces in Austria and Italy arrested two people in that connection.

Police arrested 12 of the radicals in Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, both southern states. More than one in five Reichsbürger are thought to be based in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg alone.

Justice Minister of Germany Marco Buschmann says that a suspected “armed attack on constitutional bodies was planned”. Faeser added that the would look into the “abyss of a terrorist threat from the Reichsbürger scene”.

Who are the Reichsbürger?

It’s a group that identifies itself as “Citizens of the Reich”, rejecting the modern democracy of Germany and refusing to pay taxes. They were once considered loonies but now their more active activists pose a high degree of risk, says BfV intelligence chief Thomas Haldenwang.

Until last year, their estimated strength was 21,000 odd Germans, 5% of them reportedly violent. The group is suspected to have grown enormously in size since then, with 10% thought to be violent. Antisemitism of the Adolf Hitler/Nazi kind and conspiracy theories are widespread in this group.

The office of the federal prosecutor in Germany said the group had been plotting a violent coup since November 2021. It said members of its central “Rat” (council) had since held regular meetings.

The Reichsbürger had established plans to rule Germany with departments covering health, justice and foreign affairs, the prosecutor said, adding that the group holds that their goals can be realised only by “military means and violence against state representatives”, with no qualms about even committing murders.

Last April, police got a whiff of the group when they uncovered a plot of kidnapping by United Patriots who were part of the Reichsbürger scene. They had allegedly planned to abduct Health Minister of Germany Karl Lauterbach while also creating “civil war conditions” to bring about an end to democracy in the country.

Authorities suspect a former far-right AfD member of the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, of being involved in the plot and of being lined up as the group’s justice minister.

Among the 25 people arrested is Birgit Malsack-Winkemann who once again became a judge last year, a career she had deserted for the activism she picked up later. A court has turned down attempts to unseat her. The group gave another person with a background in law the responsibility to handle its foreign affairs, with 71-year-old Heinrich XIII as leader.

Other suspects include Heinrich whose custody investigating judges had asked for. Heinrich XIII, who fashions himself as a prince, hails from an old noble family known as the House of Reuss, which ruled over parts of the modern eastern state of Thuringia until 1918.

Their descendants continue to possess a few castles. Heinrich has a hunting lodge at Bad Lobenstein in Thuringia. His family has disowned him. A spokesman told local broadcaster MDR a few months ago that Heinrich was an “at times confused” man who had fallen for “misconceptions fuelled by conspiracy theories”.

The second coup plotter

While the group planned a shadow government, they got an idea of a military arm run by their second ringleader, Rüdiger von P. Active and former members of the military made the group, officials believe. They included former elite soldiers from special units. The aim of the military arm was to eliminate democratic bodies at the local level, prosecutors said.

Authorities in Germany suspect Rüdiger von P of attempting to recruit cops in the northern region of the country and of having an eye on barracks. Police searched bases in Hesse, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria for possible use after the government was overthrown.

Police are probing a member of the Special Commando Forces. The cops searched his home and his room at the Graf-Zeppelin military base in Calw, south-west of Stuttgart.

Yet another suspect is Vitalia B, a Russian woman asked to approach on Heinrich’s behalf. The Russian embassy in Berlin said in a statement that it did not “maintain contacts with representatives of terrorist groups and other illegal entities”.

Germany has witnessed several violent attacks by the country’s far-right recently. In 2020, a 43-year-old man killed nine people of foreign origin in the western town of Hanau. A court jailed a Reichsbürger member for killing a policeman in 2016.

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