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Germany Arrests 25 in Coup Plot

On December 7 2022, 25 people in Germany were arrested in early morning raids in connection with an alleged plot to overthrow the government:

Germany arrests 25 accused of plotting to overthrow the government from worldnews

In addition to the above post on r/worldnews, a tweet about the arrests in Germany was shared to r/UkrainianConflict (with a slightly more detailed description and reference to a “violent coup”):

This morning in Germany, 130 homes raided, caches of weapons seized, 52 arrested as a mix of pro-russian nuts, Qanon nuts, former AFD members, former East German military nuts, descendents of German nobility..all planned a violent coup from UkrainianConflict

The post to r/worldnews linked to a BBC article about the arrests. An archived copy of the reporting (initially titled “German raids target group who plotted coup”) began:

Twenty-five people have been arrested in raids across Germany on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government.

German reports say the group of far-right and ex-military figures planned to storm the parliament building, the Reichstag, and seize power.

A German man [Heinrich Reuss] referred to as a prince called Heinrich XIII, 71, is alleged to have been central to their plans … The plotters are said to include members of the extremist Reichsbürger (Citizens of the Reich) movement, which has long been in the sights of German police over violent attacks and racist conspiracy theories. They also refuse to recognise the modern German state.

Early morning coverage indicated that at the time of publication, the organization’s timeline to engage in the coup attempt was unknown. The New York Times reported that the alleged collaborators believed German was “ruled by members of a so-called deep state”:

In early-morning raids carried out across the country, some 3,000 police and Special Forces officers detained people believed to be members and supporters of the group, which prosecutors said had been formed in the past year and was operating on the conviction that “Germany is currently ruled by members of a so-called deep state” that needed to be overthrown. Prosecutors said that two other people had been arrested outside Germany, one in Austria and another in Italy.

[…]

The group’s plans included an armed attack on the German Parliament building, known as the Reichstag, the prosecutors said, and members had organized arms training and attempted to recruit personnel from the German security services. The prosecutors added that the group’s members had also formed a sort of shadow government that they intended to install if their plans were successful. It remains unclear, however, how close they were to acting on those ambitions.

CBS News reported that the group was “influenced by QAnon conspiracy theories and espousing a doctrine similar to that of far-right groups in the U.S. and across Europe,” going on to describe putative broader plans to inflict stochastic terrorism on the public at large as part of the alleged coup.

One element of the reporting — about purported plans to “attack the national power grid” — was uncomfortably similar to a recent attack in Moore County, North Carolina:

The investigators’ trail leads to a member of a former Germany royal family as the purported figurehead, a former parliamentarian from the far-right AfD political party, and of particularly concern to the investigators, to former members of the German military’s special forces.

Current members of Germany’s special security services struck in the early hours of Wednesday morning, in what was a potentially dangerous series of raids.

[…]

The group stands accused of planning to storm the Reichstag, or parliament building, as part of a wave of attacks aimed at precipitating civil war-like conditions in Germany. It also allegedly planned to attack the national power grid and to depose the federal government and take power by force.

The prosecutor’s office said the group had already selected members to fill important ministerial posts in the new regime, from the moment of the “takeover.”

Investigators have described the operation against the group as unprecedented in Germany: “Beyond all dimensions in terms of scope.”

Other reports noted that elements of the alleged coup were modeled on the January 6 2021 Capitol insurrection in the United States, part of a global “conglomerate” of disinformation narratives:

Peter Frank, Germany’s public prosecutor general, said the ringleaders of the group were being held in police custody. He confirmed reports that an armed wing of the group, which was meant to form the basis of a new German army and included former active members of the military, had planned to violently storm the German Bundestag or parliament.

“Those who have been arrested are supporters of conspiracy myths, from a conglomerate of narratives relating to the ideologies of the Reichsbürger and QAnon ideologies,” he told reporters in Karlsruhe.

The German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, told public radio he was “deeply concerned” by the alleged plot, describing it as a “new level”.

[…]

Investigators say they quickly established strong ideological links between the members, who included Reichsbürger, as well as members of the coronavirus denial Querdenker movement and supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory.

The group, under the leadership of Heinrich XIII and a former commander of a paratrooper battalion, had been preparing for so-called “Day X”, on which about two dozen people were to storm the Reichstag building, home to the German parliament, and to handcuff and arrest MPs and parliamentary staff in an operation taking as its example the 2021 attack on the US Capitol.

That reporting also made reference to “deep state” conspiracy theories, as well as QAnon-like rumors of imminent revelations and ensuing chaos:

The group was said to be convinced modern Germany was run by a “deep state” conspiracy that was about to be exposed by an alliance of German intelligence agencies and the militaries of foreign states including Russia and the US.

“Everything will be turned upside down: the current public prosecutors and judges, as well as the heads of the health departments and their superiors will find themselves in the dock at Nuremberg 2.0,” one of the suspect said in a message posted on Telegram minutes before the start of [the December 7 2022] raids, Die Zeit reported.

A separate BBC piece about the Reichsbürger movement reported the group has ties to the German military, reiterating an array of conspiratorial ideologies shared by similar anti-democracy groups in the United States and elsewhere:

Of the 21,000 people in the Reichsbürger “scene”, around 5% are believed to be right-wing extremists and 10% potentially violent.

They also have links to the German military, says Miro Dittrich, an expert who tracks the group as well as other conspiracy theorists.

The pandemic, he believes, has served to further radicalise the group as well as increase support … Reichsbürger members demonstrated alongside anti-vaxxers and Covid deniers (indeed some share those positions) as well as QAnon supporters during mass street protests in the last few years. They were there when a mob from a Covid demonstration tried to storm the Bundestag in August 2020.

[…]

Plenty of people have told me that the Covid vaccine is a poison or repeated the commonly voiced conviction that the German government plans to “replace” the “native” population with foreigners.

Just last week, at a small protest against high energy bills, one man expressed the view that Germany’s foreign and economy ministers were preparing to declare war on their own country.

A December 7 2022 profile on the Reichsbürger movement further detailed the group’s connection with the military:

The group’s affinity for firearms and for stockpiling weapons has left authorities concerned. The [most recent] report on the Reichsbürger [by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV)] said they are ready and willing to commit “serious acts of violence.”

Police have found large caches of weapons and ammunition during house searches — and Reichsbürger members are continuing to arm themselves.

Since a significant part of the group consists of former soldiers of the Bundeswehr and the NVA (National People’s Army of the GDR), among them men with special military training, the group is considered particularly dangerous … In recent years, Reichsbürger followers have carried out attacks on police officers during raids — with defendants often arguing that they have a right to defend “their property.”

A Reuters “explainer” on the beliefs of the Reichsbürger movement bore a remarkable resemblance to QAnon-style views of governance and democracy:

Members of the Reichsbuerger (Citizens of the Reich) do not recognise modern-day Germany as a legitimate state. Some of them are devoted to the German empire under monarchy, while some are adherents of Nazi ideas and others believe Germany is still under military occupation.

They are convinced Germany is ruled by a “Deep State”.

[…]

Some Reichsbuerger demand the enthronement of the great-great grandson of Emperor Wilhelm II, forced to abdicate in 1918 as a consequence of World War One, as new German emperor. The great-great grandson was not among those detained on Wednesday [December 7 2022].

Other members of the Reichsbuerger argue Germany is still occupied and under military occupation. The leader of that part of the movement was arrested in 2021 after issuing “death sentences” against politicians and journalists on Telegram, the [German intelligence organization] Verfassungsschutz said.

In a tweet, Germany’s Federal Minster of Justice Marco Buschmann thanked the office of the Attorney General, and asserted that Germany’s democracy is “defensive”:

At this point I would like to thank the [Attorney General] and the police authorities involved for the professional implementation of the Anti-Terror #Razzia. This was a logistically highly demanding measure that was carried out successfully. It proves: Our democracy is defensive!

German domestic policy spokesman Stefan Müeller was quoted by hessenschau.de on the arrests, in an article automatically translated by Google. Müeller reiterated that the alleged coup plot showed that there was a major risk to global democracy:

Today’s raid shows how great the danger to our democracy is from right-wing extremists, Reich citizens and other extremist groups.

The scope of the arrests in Germany was large; the situation remained fluid on the day of the raids. CBS News concluded by reporting that scale of the operation presented “a considerable logistical challenge for the judiciary and law enforcement authorities,” adding that all arrestees “must now be brought before an investigating judge by the end of the following day, [December 8 2022], under German law.”