Police today foiled an alleged plot to storm Germany’s parliament and overthrow the government in what was the latest effort by authorities to tackle a rising tide of far-right extremism in the country.
The insane scheme was concocted by dozens of individuals, according to prosecutors, linked to the “Reichsbürger” or “Citizens of the Reich” movement.
Supporters of the Reichsbürger seek to bring down modern democratic Germany and create a new state similar to the pre-war monarchical Reich that existed from 1871 to 1918.
Prosecutors claimed that members of the group were associated with various far-right extremist groups and believed in a “conglomerate of conspiracy theories as well as QAnon ideology.”
German security forces raid a house in a major operation to foil a plot to overthrow parliament
But the arrest of 25 people – including German aristocrat and leader Prince Heinrich XIII of Reuss – is just one more step in an ongoing battle to contain extremism in a nation still haunted by the specter of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.
Germany has seen something of a far-right resurgence in recent years, driven in part by the European migrant crisis.
Since former Chancellor Angela Merkel opened borders to migrants in 2015, there has been a boom in support for fringe political parties and an increase in hate crimes, characterized by a string of high-profile terror attacks and murders. .
In February 2020, a man named Tobias Rathjen shot dead eleven people at two shisha bars in the city of Hanau in a targeted attack motivated by his hatred of migrants.
The massacre came nine months after pro-migrant politician Walter Luebcke was shot dead outside his home by a far-right sympathizer, and four months after another far-right gunman attacked a synagogue in the city of Halle.
Henrich XIII, Prince of Reuss, was reportedly arrested at his home in the state of Thuringia, where his family owns land, with police raiding a ‘forest palace’
German special police forces patrol and search the area of Bad Lobenstein, Thuringia, after anti-terror raids across the country today
The German government acknowledged the problem in May last year, revealing figures showing a huge increase in hate crimes and announcing that political extremists are “the greatest threat to our country”.
The Home Office reported a dramatic annual increase in anti-Semitic crimes which had jumped 15.7% in 2020, with 2,351 incidents in total – 94.6% of which were committed by people linked to political groups in ‘far right.
Of the total, 62 were acts of violence while the majority were anti-Semitic hate speech and other related crimes, often on social media.
Horst Seehofer, Germany’s interior minister at the time, said: ‘This development in Germany is not only troubling, but given our history, deeply shameful.
“It shows once again that right-wing extremism is the greatest threat to our country.”
There have also been a number of near-misses in which German authorities narrowly managed to prevent a tragedy caused by extremists.
In May this year, German investigators foiled a “Nazi terror attack”, arresting a teenager who planned to detonate 16 pipe bombs at his former school.
Essen city police raided the teenager’s bedroom, discovering the explosives as well as anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim material and other weapons.
A car with dead bodies stands outside a bar in Hanau, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. Several people were shot dead in Hanau by an extremist gunman
Far-right gunman Stephan Balliet opened fire on a German synagogue in October 2019 during Yom Kippur – trying and failing to enter and massacre worshipers – before shooting dead two people and injuring two others on the outside. ‘outside
A protester with an iron cross draped over his back in front of the Reichstag during a demonstration in August 2022
In the same month, a bombshell report released by the German Interior Ministry revealed that the growing popularity of far-right ideals had permeated the public sector.
A three-year investigation from July 2018 to 2021 by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution – Germany’s domestic intelligence service – found that a total of 327 employees of Germany’s federal and state security authorities had connections with “right-wing extremists”. organisms.
Among those employees were 83 people in military counterintelligence, 18 in the federal police and one each in Germany’s domestic intelligence services, foreign intelligence service and Reichstag police.
Up to 30 were suspected or known members of the Reichsbürger movement behind the alleged plot to carry out an armed attack on the Reichstag foiled by German police this morning.
The German domestic intelligence agency attributes some 21,000 people to the Reichsbürger movement, of whom around 5% are considered right-wing extremists and 10% considered potentially violent.
Since 2016, German authorities have revoked more than a thousand gun licenses from people they say subscribe to Reichsbürger ideology after a member shot and killed a police officer.
But in light of today’s events, the The German government is preparing to crack down harder on extremism, according to Interior Minister Nancy Faeser.
Memorial graffiti in memory of those killed in a terrorist attack in Hanau is pictured
Leaked footage obtained by a German investigative reporter showed Nordkreuz members performing military drills in preparation for ‘Day X’ – the day they believe the far-right must take control of Germany
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser wants to table new legislation that would make it easier to fire civil servants with links to extremist groups
The The Bundestag, Germany’s federal legislative body, has already put in place regulations designed to prevent extremist groups from airing their views and recruiting new members.
Germany’s penal code prohibits public denial of the Holocaust and the publication of any Nazi Party-related material, and requires social media companies to adhere to strict regulations to limit the spread of hate speech and extremist political ideologies.
Today, Faeser plans to introduce a new bill to parliament in the coming days that would make it easier to dismiss civil servants and public sector officials considered enemies of the constitution – a measure aimed at limiting the influence of people with extremist views in the public sector.
“The investigations provide insight into the abyss of a terrorist threat from the Reichsbürgermilieu,” Faeser said this morning in a statement following the arrest of Reichsbürger members suspected of creating a terrorist organization.
The legislation may also strengthen the power of German authorities to tackle groups such as the “Nordkreuz” or the Northern Cross – a particularly well-armed and prepared extremist faction created by a German special forces operator and composed mainly of military personnel. current or former intelligence and police officers.
In 2021, leaked footage obtained by a German investigative journalist showed Nordkreuz members performing military drills in preparation for “Day X” – the day they believe the far right must take over Germany.