Twenty-five people associated with the right-wing “Reichsbürger” movement have been apprehended by the German federal authorities on suspicion of organizing a violent coup to restore an imperial Germany.
The federal German public prosector (Staatsanwaltschaft, StA) said in a Dec. 7 press release that 22 of those arrested were alleged members of a “terrorist organization” and the other three were supporters of the same. One of the alleged supporters detained is a Russian citizen. Apart from Germany, arrests also occurred in Austria and Italy.
According to the StA, the group’s plan was to overthrow the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and replace it with a German Reich, or empire, to be headed by a surviving member of a royal house, Heinrich XIII PR. The full surnames of the detained individuals — including the royal who himself was among the arrested — were not released so as to protect their privacy.
Heinrich XIII PR had alleged contact representatives of the Russian government in an attempt to enlist Moscow’s backing for the coup, but this outreach was rejected, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying that it “appears to be a German internal problem.”
One of those arrested is an active soldier in the Special Force Command (KSK), an elite unit of the German federal military or Bundeswehr. Several others were German military reservists or members of the police.
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While the relevant “terrorist group” was founded in November 2021, the authorities said they are part of a broader movement called the Reichsbürger (Citizens of the Reich) that rejects the FRG as an illegitimate creation of the post-World War II Allied occupation.
According to the German government, supporters of the Reichsbürger movement number around 21,000. While broadly right-wing in stance, the movement is highly decentralized and unified only by its insistence on the sovereignty of an imperial German state.
Most of the Reichsbürger favor a peaceful restoration to power of the monarchy, but about 10 percent of the movement support an armed overthrow of the federal government. The Reichsbürger movement is further marred by the presence of Nazi elements in its ranks.
Meanwhile, in 2017, a 50-year-old man was sentenced to life imprisonment for shooting dead a police officer and wounding two others who raided his Bavaria home the prior year to seize his hunting rifles and ammunition. The authorities said that the man had been planned to attack the police and deemed him unfit under Germany’s strict gun control laws to possess the weapons.
According to estimates by Berlin, membership in the Reichsbürger movement was almost 20,000 in 2018, compared with around 10,000 in 2016.
That year, the German government office responsible for protection of the constitution (BfV) started to monitor the Reichsbürger movement due to the incident in Bavaria. Over the last five years, individuals associated with the movement have been charged with hundreds of violent crimes.
In 2020, the German military disbanded an entire company of the KSK — which performs a role similar to the U.S. Navy SEALS — due to a series of incidents involving far-right extremism.