Why "Reichsbürger" are dangerous even without a putsch - and where the scene made a mistake
Created: 2022-12-20 07:47
By: Max Mueller
With Henry XIII.
Prince Reuss, a ringleader of the "Reich citizens" was arrested.
© Boris Roessler/dpa (Montage)
Despite the arrests, the "Reich citizens" pose a constant threat, says conspiracy expert Josef Holnburger.
He reveals what made the scene strong - and how the state is getting it under control.
Cologne – It's been a few days since German authorities arrested several "Reich citizens".
But the discussion does not stop.
Again and again the question arises as to whether the scene would have been able to organize a putsch.
Or maybe it still is?
It doesn't even need an overthrow for it to become extremely dangerous, says Josef Holnburger to the
"Anders Breivik murdered 77 people in the hope that everyone would then read his manifesto," said the political scientist, who has been researching the spread of disinformation and conspiracy tales for years.
"Precisely because it is a group made up of a judge, police officers and former military personnel as well as arms salesmen, you have to take it very seriously." The danger is therefore greater than with comparable extremist groups.
"They wanted to penetrate the Bundestag and take hostages - a direct attack on our democracy," said Holnburger.
Expert on "Reichsbürger": Even a failed putsch is dangerous
The expert is convinced that an attempted coup would not have been successful.
Nevertheless, one should not forget that even when a coup fails, people usually die.
“We saw this in January 2021 when numerous people stormed the Capitol.
Here, too, there were plans in advance.
Gallows were taken to the storm.
Five people died.
And had the strikers gotten their hands on Nancy Pelosi or Mike Pence, the death toll might have gone up even more — even if that coup didn't succeed," says Holnburger.
Josef Holnburger has been researching conspiracy ideologies and right-wing extremism for years.
It has been known since 2016 at the latest that even the German "Reichsbürger" do not shy away from deadly violence.
At that time, Wolfgang P. shot a SEK officer in Georgensgmünd, Bavaria, when the police wanted to take his weapons away from him.
The authorities only noticed Wolfgang P. because he refused to pay his vehicle tax.
He chased customs from the yard and told the officers they were "entering foreign state territory."
Typical behavior for Holnburger: "Reich citizens believe that the rule of law would not apply to them."
Misconception of the "Reich Citizens": No majority in the population
It's not the only misconception.
"Regarding the plans of the group that has now been arrested, it can be observed that they always thought that they had a majority of the population behind them or that they could organize quickly as soon as they were 'in power' themselves," says Holnburger.
That can be ruled out, but does not reduce the danger: “Anyone who thinks they have the majority behind them probably feels more entitled to act.
Possibly with violence,” says Holnburger.
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"Reichsbürger": How state and society are now required
The question remains how to deal with this danger.
Holnburger holds everyone accountable here: "The group said they had quiet sympathizers behind them who were only waiting for a major event." It is precisely at this point that it is important for civil society to become louder and distance itself from such ideas.
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Fancy a voyage of discovery?
And the authorities?
Lower Saxony's Prime Minister Stephan Weil (SPD) advocates a closer look at the rest of the scene by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution.
Such demands come too late for the expert.
“Individuals from the group have long expressed fantasies of overthrow, sometimes on demonstration stages.
And for a long time there were no consequences,” says Holnburger.
The legal proceedings would have taken a long time - a fatal signal for the "Reich citizens".
"The group often interpreted it to mean that there was secret support for them from the police and other law enforcement agencies," says Holnburger.
"The state's inaction encouraged them to act themselves."
In plain language, this means that the state now has it in its own hands - all the more exciting is the legal work-up.