German police Wednesday arrested 25 suspects over plot by far right group Reichsbürger, [Reich Citizen], to overthrow government
3,000 German officers were involved in raids on 130 locations across 11 of Germany’s 16 states
Those arrested included a 71-year-old German aristocrat and a former lawmaker from the right-wing Alternative for Germany party
The far-right gang of terror plotters allegedly led by Henrich XIII, Prince of Reuss, are accused of planning to overthrow the German government and rule through an un-elected Council with Heinrich at its head
Others arrested include former paratrooper named Ruediger v. P. , 69, and AfD ex-member of the Bundestag and Berlin judge Birgit Malsack-Winkemann, 58, and Christian W., a former AfD city councilor
Plot included military arm tasked with establishing new army
The barracks of a unit of Germany’s Special Forces Command, known as the KSK, was among the locations raided Wednesday
German authorities on Wednesday arrested 25 people suspected of plotting to use armed force to storm parliament and violently overthrow the state, marking one of the country’s largest ever raids targeting right-wing extremists.
The far-right group Reichsbürger, or “Reich citizen,” is accused of plotting to overthrow the German government and install a prince as ruler had plans to build its own army after the coup was complete, prosecutors have revealed today.
The coup plotters, allegedly led by Heinrich XIII, Prince of Reuss, had already devised how the post-coup state would be organized with both a military and civil branch that would be split into ministries, German officials said.
Heinrich would lead the civil branch as head of a central ‘Council’ that was due to include judge and former AfD member of the Bundestag Birgit Malsack-Winkemann, 58, as head of the justice department, it is alleged.
Meanwhile the military arm, led by a 69-year-old former paratrooper named only as Rüdiger v. P, would be responsible for establishing a new army recruited from the ranks of the current Bundeswehr defense force and police, it is claimed.
Those arrested included the leader 71-year-old Heinrich XIII, a German aristocrat and a former lawmaker from the right-wing Alternative for Germany party, according to the public prosecutor and officials.
The majority are accused of being part of a “terrorist organization” and are all German nationals, according to the prosecutor’s statement.
Three more people, one of them a Russian national, were detained on suspicion of being supporters.
In addition to the arrests,police searched the properties of a further 27 individuals who are being investigated on an “initial suspicion” of being members or supporters of the clandestine the organization, the statement said.
More than 3,000 police officers were involved in the raids, which took place in 11 of Germany’s 16 states.
German security forces raid home searching for alleged coup plotters
The suspects all subscribe to a variety of conspiracy theories, including QAnon, but draw most heavily from the Reichsbürger movement, which denies the existence of the modern German state, officials said. However, German authorities warned, it would be naive to dismiss them as cranks.
“Of course, there are many busybodies who tell confused stories after drinking alcohol,” Justice Minister Marco Buschmann tweeted.
“Here, however, there were such strong suspicions that the group wanted to take violent action.”
That plot included plans to use arms to storm the Reichstag, Germany’s parliament building, Buschmann said.
The planned insurrection was reminiscent of the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, with German politicians reminding the nation of the likely outcome when extremist and anti-constitutional sentiments are allowed to fester unchallenged.
“At the latest since January 6, 2021, we have known that anti-democratic speech can also be followed by actions directed against democracy and parliament,” said Greens party lawmaker Konstantin von Notz. “Today, the German security authorities have succeeded in putting a stop to such plans to seize power.”
The group is united in a belief that Germany is run by a “deep state,” the prosecutor said, adding that members had been prepared to extreme measures, including the murder of state representatives, to carry out their aim of replacing the existing order in Germany with their own form of government.
They had planned out the structure of the state apparatus they hoped to install, including departments of health, justice and foreign affairs.
Prosecutors said Heinrich XIII, Prince of Reuss, 71, a descendant of a royal dynasty from the German state of Thuringia, was head of the group’s central “council.”
Footage broadcast on German media showed the prince, dressed in a green tweed jacket, being led out of his Frankfurt apartment in handcuffs.
“Since November 2021, the members of the ‘Council’ have regularly met in secret to plan the intended takeover of power in Germany and the establishment of their own state structures,” the prosecutor’s statement said.
Members believed that “liberation” would be assisted by the intervention of the “Alliance”, a secret society of military and governments, including those of Russia and the United States.
Heinrich XIII had reached out to Russian representatives inside Germany, the prosecutor’s office said, while adding that there were no indications of a positive response to his overtures.
German police raid home searching for alleged coup plotters
The former lawmaker arrested was Birgit Malsack-Winkemann, according to a security official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject who at one point had been slated to be justice minister.
At the time of her arrest, Malsack-Winkemann was an active judge at the Berlin Regional Court.
The council also had a military arm, which would have been involved in the armed takeover of the state and was in charge of procuring weapons, the statement said.
This body included former members of Germany’s armed forces, and recruitment efforts were targeted toward members of the military and police.
The security official said the raids were carried out with caution, as some suspects were known to be licensed weapons holders. But it was unclear if any illegal arms were discovered. While most of the arrests were carried out in Germany, one suspect was detained in Italy and another in Austria.
The network was unearthed in relation to investigations into four people who were arrested in April on suspicion of plotting to kidnap Germany’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, the official said.
“We are seeing a dangerous cocktail of people from the Reichsbürger movement, right-wing extremists, neo-Nazis and others who build on this group with their conspiracy theories,” he added. The group included doctors and lawyers “with the prince on top,” he said.
The Reichsbürger, or “Reich citizen,” movement subscribes to a state based on Germany’s pre-World War II borders. Modern laws and governments are considered illegitimate, and some members believe that descendants of former German royal families should be reinstated in their positions.
It is a small extremist fringe but has been growing in recent years, rising to more prominence during the pandemic, when its members took to the street alongside a mix of conspiracy theorists and other right-wing groups.
The movement is made up of small groups active across borders and online, with German intelligence warning that some subgroups have rapidly expanded their ranks.
In 2021, the movement was estimated to include about 21,000 people nationwide, according to a report by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, which estimated that about 10 percent of those were “violence-oriented.”
“The investigations provide a glimpse into the abyss of a terrorist threat from the Reichsbürger milieu,” said German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser.
“The suspected terrorist organization uncovered today is — according to the state of the investigations — driven by violent overthrow fantasies and conspiracy ideologies”, Faeser said.
The barracks of a unit of Germany’s Special Forces Command, known as the KSK, was among the locations raided Wednesday, Der Spiegel magazine reported. The German Defense Ministry disbanded one unit of the elite counter-terrorism force and announced a restructuring in 2020 because of the suspected extreme right-wing ties of its members. According to
German newspaper Die Zeit reports that shortly before the raids, one of the defendants posted on Telegram that public prosecutors, judges and health authorities would “soon find themselves in the dock at Nuremberg 2.0,” in reference to the trials of Nazi war criminals held after World War II.
While some politicians have raised doubts about the capabilities of the group to carry out its plans, others like Greens parliamentarian Sara Nanni counter that “The fact is: no matter how crude their ideas are and how hopeless their plans, even the attempt is dangerous!”
The suspects were appearing in court on Wednesday and Thursday. Eight of the accused are being held in pre-trial detention, the prosecutor said.