Thousands of police carried out a series of operations in Germany, this Wednesday (07/12), to arrest right-wing extremists who planned to overthrow the state with an armed coup.
Federal prosecutors said about 3,000 police raided 130 homes, apartments and offices in 11 of Germany’s 16 states against supporters of the far-right Reichsbürger (“Citizens of the German Empire” movement). The group’s members reject Germany’s postwar constitution and call for the government’s overthrow.
Justice Minister Marco Buschmann described the searches as an “anti-terrorist operation”, adding that the suspects may have planned an armed attack against state institutions.
Prosecutors said 22 German nationals were detained on suspicion of “affiliation with a terrorist organization”. Three other people, including a Russian national, are suspected of supporting the organization, officials said.
The magazine Der Spiegel said the locations targeted by the search operation include the headquarters of the Special Forces Command (KSK), the elite force of the German Armed Forces, in the southwestern city of Calw. In the past, the unit has been investigated over the alleged involvement of some soldiers with the extreme right.
Federal prosecutors declined to confirm or deny whether the barracks was targeted in the raid.
Along with the arrests in Germany, prosecutors said one person was detained in the Austrian town of Kitzbuehel and another in the Italian town of Perugia.
Investigators suspect members of the group had concrete plans to storm the German parliament building in Berlin with a small armed group, the prosecution said.
The plot revelations evoked memories of the storming of the entrance to the Houses of Parliament by protesters in August 2020 during protests against pandemic restrictions, as well as the attack on the US Capitol.
In the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, searches were carried out at the home of a policewoman suspected of being linked to the group. North Rhine-Westphalia’s Home Secretary Herbert Reul spoke about the operation.
“There was a gang of terrorists operating here. It is difficult for me to accept that there are perpetrators with such an absurd and inhumane ideology that they do not contemplate committing mass violence and even murder. I am particularly appalled by the fact that the accused also include people who, as members of the military and security authorities, have access to weapons. However, the arrests also show that the authorities are vigilant,” he said.
Leader tried to contact Russians
Prosecutors identified the group’s leaders as Heinrich 13th PR and Rüdiger von P., in line with German rules on privacy. The magazine Der Spiegel reported that the former was a well-known 71-year-old member of a small German noble family who bears the title of “prince”, while the latter was a 69-year-old former paratrooper commander.
Federal prosecutors said Heinrich 13th PR – whom the group planned to appoint as Germany’s new leader – had contacted Russian officials with a view to negotiating a new order in the country once the German government was overthrown. He was allegedly assisted by a Russian woman, Vitalia B.
“According to investigations, however, there is no indication that the persons contacted responded positively to his request,” prosecutors said.
Another person detained by police on Wednesday was identified by prosecutors as Birgit M.-W. The magazine Der Spiegel said the woman is a judge in Berlin and a former member of parliament for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. The party has come under increasing scrutiny from German security services over its ties to right-wing extremists.
According to prosecutors, the plot provided for Heinrich the 13th to assume leadership of the German state if the coup was successful, while Rüdiger would be appointed head of the military wing.
“Suspects believe in conspiracy theories”
Prosecutors said the detainees last year formed a “terrorist organization with the aim of overthrowing the existing state order in Germany and replacing it with their own form of state, which was already in the process of being founded”.
The suspects were aware that the objective could only be achieved by military means and force, prosecutors said. Therefore, the group sought to recruit members of the German Armed Forces, the Bundeswehr, and the police to achieve its goals.
According to authorities, the group’s members believed in a “conglomeration of conspiracy theories consisting of narratives of the so-called Reichsbürger, as well as QAnon ideology”, according to a statement by prosecutors.
They added that the suspects are also convinced that Germany is currently governed by members of a so-called “Deep State” (Deep State, in free translation). Similar and unsubstantiated claims about the United States have been made by former President Donald Trump.
According to the group’s members, “liberation” is promised by the imminent intervention of the “Alliance” – a technically superior secret alliance formed by governments, intelligence services and militaries of several countries, including Russia and the United States.
For them, the fight against the remaining institutions and representatives of the state, as well as the safeguarding of power, should be taken over by the group and a Germany-wide network of security companies founded by the association.
To this end, a transitional government should be formed by the group, which, according to its members, should negotiate the new state order in Germany with the victorious allies of the Second World War, according to the “classic narrative of the citizens of the German Empire”. From the group’s point of view, the central contact for these negotiations was currently – and exclusively – Russia.
fc/jps (epd, ap, rtr, ots)