In this article, you will get all information regarding Why Germany Is Struggling to Address the Reichsbürger Threat

During raids in Austria, Germany, and Italy last week, 3,000 police officers arrested 25 people with alleged ties to a far-right movement known as Reichsbürger, or “citizen(s) of the Reich.”

Those arrested and their dozens of supporters shared a common goal: “eliminating the existing state order in Germany … using violence and military means,” German Attorney General Peter Frank said. Their ideological views range from the rejection of democracy to elements of monarchism, right-wing extremism, historical revisionism, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, and esotericism—a belief that occult, metaphysical, and other similar teachings and practices can lead to self-knowledge and self-realization.

In practical terms, their alleged plan included attacking politicians, storming the Bundestag (Germany’s parliament), overthrowing the federal government, dissolving the judiciary, and seizing the military. It is a scenario that seems, at best, bizarre, considering the stability of these democratic structures that have anchored Germany over the past 75 years. Yet the ridicule the movement received until now allowed it to metastasize, and the German authorities have yet to find a coherent solution for this threat.

During raids in Austria, Germany, and Italy last week, 3,000 police officers arrested 25 people with alleged ties to a far-right movement known as Reichsbürger, or “citizen(s) of the Reich.”

Those arrested and their dozens of supporters shared a common goal: “eliminating the existing state order in Germany … using violence and military means,” German Attorney General Peter Frank said. Their ideological views range from the rejection of democracy to elements of monarchism, right-wing extremism, historical revisionism, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, and esotericism—a belief that occult, metaphysical, and other similar teachings and practices can lead to self-knowledge and self-realization.

In practical terms, their alleged plan included attacking politicians, storming the Bundestag (Germany’s parliament), overthrowing the federal government, dissolving the judiciary, and seizing the military. It is a scenario that seems, at best, bizarre, considering the stability of these democratic structures that have anchored Germany over the past 75 years. Yet the ridicule the movement received until now allowed it to metastasize, and the German authorities have yet to find a coherent solution for this threat.

Unlike the National Socialist Underground, a far-right German neo-Nazi terrorist group founded in 1998 and only uncovered in 2011—to the shock of both the German authorities and the public—the Reichsbürger movement is not a clandestine organization that the authorities were oblivious about.

Parts of the wider public have also been cognizant of their existence, not least because some Reichsbürger are willing to propagate their beliefs not only during rallies or other events but also in TV interviews.

Reichsbürger is an umbrella term for different individuals, groups, and organizations that believe that the Federal Republic of Germany is not a legal state under international law and therefore does not exist. Instead, they view the “German Reich”—usually based on its 1871 borders—as still being the legally valid regime, albeit currently without de facto state power.

The Reichsbürger scene is very heterogeneous, and an archetypal adherent does not exist, making it more precise to refer to it as a movement than a group. However, according to research conducted by the Demos-Brandenburg Institute fur Gemeinwesenberatung (which roughly translates as the Demos-Brandenburg Institute for Advising the Body Politic), a German civil society organization focused on combating the far right and promoting democracy, Reichsbürger disciples do share some key characteristics: They are primarily single, older men who are socially isolated and display exaggerated self-esteem. The same research suggests that they are often paranoid, typically lacking a sense of basic trust, making them prone to conspiratorial beliefs.

Their general ideological heterogeneousness, though, allows for various elements of far-right extremism to be present, including its aggressive nationalism, hostility toward strangers, and trivialization or denial of the crimes of Nazism. Germany’s Ministry of the Interior classified 1,250 individuals associated with the Reichsbürger movement as right-wing extremists in 2022.

Given their worldview and the rejection of the German state, Reichsbürger supporters do not accept state-issued documents such as driver’s licenses and passports but instead often create their own. For example, in 2021, a Lower Saxony police officer who allegedly held Reichsbürger views applied for an ID card as a citizen of the “Kingdom of Prussia” and was suspended from duty.

But what may sound like a mere nuisance has become a serious issue for German authorities. Attacks on government employees, both verbal and physical, are well documented. Reichsbürger supporters’ refusal to pay taxes and fines or comply with court orders and administrative decisions has put bailiffs and police officers in perilous and sometimes fatal circumstances. Near Nuremberg in 2016, for instance, a Reichsbürger adherent murdered a police officer and injured two others.

Only in the aftermath of this incident did the relevant authorities start paying attention to the violence these conspiracy theorists are capable of inspiring. Since then, the Reichsbürger movement has been under observation by authorities nationwide and been declared an “anti-state movement” by Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

Before this incident, the government did not track relevant data on the movement. In a November 2012 parliamentary enquiry by Die Linke (the Left Party) about how many individuals belonged to the movement, the government could not provide an answer.

In the hierarchy of threats to democracy, between radical right, radical left, and jihadists, Reichsbürger were a non-existent factor. After all, arguing that individuals who return their passports, appoint themselves “Reichskanzler” (Reich chancellor), and claim that the Federal Republic of Germany is a subsidiary of the United States pose an imminent threat seemed unreasonable at best.

Gideon Botsch, a University of Potsdam political science professor and expert on right-wing extremism, warned on German radio in 2021 that right-wing terror was generally underestimated by German security authorities, stating that “in Germany, people always assumed: They are too stupid, they can’t do it, they talk a lot, they have violent fantasies—but they don’t implement any of them.”

Since data started being collected by the Ministry of the Interior and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution in 2016, figures suggest that the scene has been steadily growing. The individual state authorities for the Protection of the Constitution assumed the number of Reich citizens grew to 15,600 by January 2018—an increase of 56 percent compared to 2017.

As of December, the Federal Ministry of the Interior suspects 23,000 people of being part of the Reichsbürger movement, with 2,100 ready to use violence. Thomas Haldenwang, president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, confirmed that the movement had become increasingly popular in recent years, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The protests against COVID-19 measures brought new supporters into the milieu. Some people lost faith in the democratic state and became receptive to supposed freedom struggles and the establishment of an alternative state. The rhetoric of the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD)—including its use of terms such as “Corona dictatorship” and equating the government’s public health policies with the 1933 Enabling Act, which paved the way for Adolf Hitler’s dictatorship—undoubtedly contributed to the increase.

Even more concerning than the quantity is the quality of people now pursuing the conspiracy theory. The cell arrested during the Dec. 7 raid did not consist of lower-class working men or uneducated individuals. Among those arrested were a judge who sat in the Bundestag for the AfD, former soldiers, aristocrats, and former members of the police force. In other words, people with contacts, insight into democratic institutions, and financial resources. Some are familiar with or trained in weapons. The involvement of police and armed forces, including special commandos, provided them with heightened capabilities to conduct sophisticated operations.

This brings a different level of intricacy to the equation. For instance, the cell consisted of two wings: one for politics and one for the military. Together, both had been preparing for the overthrow of the political system in Germany since November 2021. Moreover, a targeted attempt was made to recruit soldiers and police officers for the military faction. In summer, the cell held four meetings in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, and in November, the cell attempted to recruit police officers in northern Germany. Armed forces barracks were also scouted out in October for recruitment.

On top of this, the Federal Ministry of the Interior believes that 500 Reichsbürger adherents possess gun permits, even after at least 1,050 members of the movement have had their permits revoked since 2016. Interior Minister Nancy Faeser announced the weekend after the arrests that, among other things, federal gun laws would be tightened as a result. “We are not dealing with harmless crackpots, but with terror suspects who are now all in custody,” she told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

However, German gun laws are already highly restrictive regarding the possession and use of firearms and ammunition. Depending on the type, handling weapons or ammunition is prohibited or requires a permit—especially in the case of firearms. To purchase and own a firearm, you must have an officially issued gun ownership card, for which reliability, expertise, physical fitness, and a special need must be proven. Adults under age 25 must also submit a medical and psychological report to obtain a gun license.

Data shows that, in 2020, around 952,000 private individuals owned a total of 5.3 million firearms and firearm parts, according to the National Weapons Register, the central office for recording the legal possession of weapons in the private sector in Germany. Moreover, the involvement of members of the police and armed forces in the Reichsbürger movement raises the question of whether tightening the gun laws can have the desired impact.

Right now, many politicians are advocating for reforms within the security agencies instead.

Faeser has already presented a draft law to expedite disciplinary proceedings against officials suspected of being anti-democratic. Bavaria’s Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann has also called for more vigilance. “We have already removed Bavarian police officers who were identified as supporters of the Reich citizen ideology from the service,” he said to radio station Bayern 2. It is also important that “every authority, every district court, every tax office, every district office, but also every citizen” reports if they become aware of Reichsbürger activities, Hermann said, according to the German current affairs magazine Stern.

For years, experts had warned of right-wing networks in German security agencies and the armed forces. In July 2020, then-Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer dissolved an entire company of the Kommando Spezialkräfte, the special military command of the German armed forces, after images surfaced of members making the Hitler salute.

These aforementioned factors make the Reichsbürger and the extremists associated with them a threat to the rule of law, even if they can hardly bring it to its knees. However, Germany has not yet found an answer to this threat. While German authorities and politicians possess a sound understanding of radicalization regarding some strains of right-wing extremism as well as Islamist extremism, the gap within the concept of conspiratorial terrorism has yet to be bridged.

Analyses and preventive measures must and will be made and taken. Observation can no longer suffice, considering that crises in a complex world are pushing people away from democracy, sometimes that can seem tedious and complicated—particularly amid a pandemic, energy crisis, and various other challenges people face.

Why Germany Is Struggling to Address the Reichsbürger Threat

For more visit computernetworktopology.com

Latest News by computernetworktopology.com