Germany is slowly unraveling the far-right conspiracy 2023

After widespread police operations, a hitherto unknown German extremist network is back in the limelight.

The Reichsbürger movement—a collection of minor groups and people around the country—promotes odd ideas and denies official authority.

25 individuals were detained last December for conspiring to destroy Germany’s parliament building, topple its constitutional order, and install the group’s leader, nobleman Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss.

When a police officer was shot and injured on Wednesday, German authorities arrested one alleged member and supporter on Thursday.

The shooting “shows how perilous the operations are,” said German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann. Authorities must disarm Reichsbürger.”

CNN examines the movement and its dangers as the crackdown intensifies.

Reichsbürger movement?

The movement’s members believe that modern Germany is not a sovereign state and should not be ruled.

Some believe in the 1871 German Empire, while others want Hitler’s Third Reich restored.

Many are right-wing, populist, antisemitic, and Nazi.

Political scientist and former TU Dresden professor Werner Patzelt calls the Reichsbürger “a loosely connected network of political stupids who think that, or at least behave as if, the Federal Republic of Germany does not exist.”

He told CNN that Germany is still an occupied country under American control or a Frankfurt-based corporation.

“From such fake ‘facts’ they deduce both a ‘right’ not to pay taxes and fines, or to establish ‘provisional political authority.’

It’s mostly operetta. Criminal energy and political foolishness might lead to attacks on finance or police personnel.

Followers refuse to pay taxes or collaborate with the German state by printing their own currency and identity cards.

German journalist Tobias Ginsburg covered the far-right covertly.

“You meet individuals from all walks of life,” Ginsburg added. “I encountered clichés and average people—the downtown doctor, a tax revenue service employee. Some were clueless.”

He considers preventing last year’s coup attempt the “basic minimum” to address Germany’s far-right extremism.

How many followers?

Government data shows 23,000 Reichsbürger, up from 19,000 in 2019.

1,250 are right-wing extremists.

Ginsburg calls the official statistics “conservative” because many members aren’t public.
According to research by the Global Network on Extremism and Terror, the Reichsbürger and QAnon organizations gained influence in Germany during the COVID-19 epidemic, which increased conspiracy beliefs.

Covid-19 deniers and anti-lockdown demonstrators shared Reichsbürger ideology, including defiance of German official constraints.

How risky?

Germany’s Interior Ministry called followers “dangerous radicals who are driven by violent fantasies and possess a lot of weaponry” in a CNN statement.

The group’s guns stockpile worries officials. The administration estimates 400 members have firearms. Since 2016, 1,100 firearms licences have been cancelled.

2,300 followers are violent, up 200 from 2021.

The Institute for Strategic Dialogue also worries about the group’s large number of current or former troops, especially elite groups, who are highly trained and legally able to carry guns.

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