Status: 20.11.2023, 21:59 PM
By: Peter Sieben
The Reichsbürger scene organizes and radicalizes. Bailiff Frank Neuhaus regularly experiences this: one group in particular is dangerous.
Arnsberg/Berlin – It cannot be ruled out that the fox and the hare have already said good night to each other in Arnsberg. The city in the Sauerland region of North Rhine-Westphalia is an idyll. There are pretty half-timbered houses with slate roofs, a chapel with onion towers, lots of forest and meadow. A place where people go on holiday. And yet Frank Neuhaus sometimes feels queasy when he goes to work in the morning. Namely, whenever he suspects that today he is dealing with a citizen of the Reich. "I always hope that he doesn't have a gun and is standing behind the door with it," says Neuhaus, who works as a senior bailiff. In his job, he has had to deal with citizens of the Reich again and again for years. Some people in life crises and with financial problems are particularly susceptible to the conspiracy ideologies of the scene. It's particularly bad at the moment, he says.
Citizens of the Reich send threatening letters in Fraktur script
In his job, he is responsible for, among other things, foreclosures, for which he has to visit debtors who do not pay their mobile phone bills, for example, at their home addresses. "Before that, I announce myself. And then I notice immediately if they are Reich citizens." They then send him pages of essays in which they explain that the Federal Republic of Germany does not exist and threaten him. The letters are often written in ancient Fraktur script, with the imperial eagle coat of arms on the letterhead. The senders call themselves "natural persons" as distinct from "legal persons" and attach invoices: For alleged violations of their human rights, Neuhaus is then supposed to deliver hundreds of thousands of euros in the form of gold and silver to them, for example.
Citizens of the Reich like to make their own identity cards. Because the word "identity card" proves in its logic that Germany is actually a limited liability company, and the population the staff of the company. © Julian Stratenschulte/dpa
One could almost smile at such omissions. But Frank Neuhaus is no longer in the mood to laugh. "These are not harmless weirdos. Such people endanger democracy." Sometimes they yell at him when he shows up or build up menacingly in front of him. "They then ask me to leave their territory, otherwise there will be consequences." The only thing that helps is to retreat, and in case of doubt, Neuhaus will come back with the police.
Meeting of Reich Citizens in Wemding: Scene Networks
Experts have observed that the scene has become even more radicalized and organized for months. Just a few days ago, 300 citizens of the Reich met in Wemding, Bavaria, to discuss "possible paths to the German Reich." Citizens of the Reich doubt the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany, some want to create their own state. "There was a lot of activity on Telegram in the run-up," says political consultant and extremism expert Johannes Hillje. The platform is often used by the scene because even extreme posts are rarely deleted. "There are large groups there through which the scene networks and organizes."
Bailiff on Reich Citizen: "Significantly worse since Corona"
According to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, about 2022,23 people in Germany were associated with the scene in 000, and the trend is rising. "Since Corona, things have gotten much worse," says Frank Neuhaus. The conspiracy theories of the Corona deniers had found fertile ground among Reich citizens. "The mindset is: If there is a big conspiracy behind everything, then I am not responsible for my precarious situation. And if the German state doesn't exist, then it can't collect debts from me." If such debtors absolutely do not want to provide asset information, there is sometimes the threat of an arrest warrant. "Some people then realize: Oh, the state apparently exists after all," says Neuhaus.
Violent Reich Citizens Want War Against "Left-Green Republic"
Others are incorrigible. "There's a group of people who really believe and have internalized all of this. Those are the worst," says Neuhaus. They have in mind a war against the "left-green republic". Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser (SPD) had already announced months ago that she wanted to take tougher action against Reich citizens, the danger of a coup was real. In December 2022, there had been a major raid against the scene. The Office for the Protection of the Constitution considers around ten percent of the scene's supporters to be potentially violent, and more than five percent are considered right-wing extremists. Bailiff Neuhaus knows some of them, too: "The Reich War Flag hangs over the sofa." The former war flag with the imperial eagle and the cross of the Teutonic Order is now primarily used as a symbol by violent supporters of right-wing extremist ideologies.
The fact that citizens of the Reich paralyze the judiciary with page-long briefs and threaten civil servants is a huge problem nationwide, says Neuhaus, who is chairman of the German Bailiffs' Association in North Rhine-Westphalia. "When I ask 100 colleagues who has ever been threatened by a citizen of the Reich, they all raise their hands." (pen)