In a nationwide raid, 25 suspected members and supporters of the terrorist organization were arrested early Wednesday.
Officials said the network, part of a broader right-wing movement, was already well established with a concrete plan to overthrow the German state by force and install a new government.
What we know so far
The raids were announced by the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office and German Justice Minister Marko Buschmann. Bushman said the investigations were directed against a suspected terrorist network with known links to the Reichsbirger movement. He said that raids were carried out on persons suspected of planning an armed attack on state institutions.
“As of this morning, a major anti-terrorist operation is underway. The federal public prosecutor is investigating the suspected terrorist network from the Reichsberger scene,” Bushman wrote. “There is a suspicion that an armed attack on constitutional bodies is planned.”
The search operation is reported to have included 130 properties belonging to 52 suspects in 11 German states.
The arrested suspects, as announced by prosecution officials, “belong to a terrorist organization established by the end of November 2021 at the latest, which has set itself the goal of overcoming the existing state order in Germany and replacing it with its own form of state that has already been worked out in the framework.”
Of the 25 arrested men and women, 24 were from Germany, and one suspected fan was from Russia. One arrest took place in Austria and one in Italy. There are 27 other suspects, the federal prosecutor’s office said.
Two ringleaders identified
Prosecutors identified the suspected ringleaders only as Heinrich XIII PR and Ruediger v P., in accordance with German privacy rules. Newspaper magazine Der Spiegel reported that the first is a known 71-year-old member of a German noble family, while the second is a 69-year-old former paratrooper.
According to prosecutors, Heinrich XIII PR, whom the group planned to install as the new leader of Germany, made contact with Russian officials who were trying to establish a new order in Germany after the government in Berlin was overthrown. The Russian Vitalya B. allegedly helped him in this.
A soldier currently serving in the Bundeswehr Special Forces Command (KSK) as well as several Bundeswehr reservists are also among the suspects in the case, a spokesman for Germany’s Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD) told the DPA news agency.
A search was carried out in the soldier’s house and his barracks in the province of Baden-Württemberg.
The trigger for the raids was an investigation into another group of Reichsbergers planning to kidnap German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach.
Belief in violence to overthrow the ‘deep state’
The group targeted members of the Bundeswehr and the police because they wanted to achieve their goals. It formed a “military arm” and a council presided over by Heinrich XIII PR
For the realization of their plans, the members of the group were ready to use military means and violence against state representatives, as well as violence. According to investigators, members of the group “followed a conglomeration of conspiracy myths consisting of the so-called ‘Reichsbirger’ narrative as well as the ideology of Canon.”
Prosecutors added that the group’s supporters believe Germany is ruled by a so-called “deep state,” similar to the baseless claims made about the United States by former President Donald Trump.
The Reichsberger movement consists of numerous small organizations and individuals, mainly in the states of Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Bavaria. They do not accept the legality of the Federal Republic of Germany or any of its state bodies.
The movement claims that the pre-World War II German constitution was never properly annulled and that the formation of the former West Germany in 1949, and now the unified Germany, was therefore never valid.
rc/msh (AFP, Reuters, dpa)