Germany launches fresh raids against ‘Citizens of the Reich’
German authorities have launched raids across eight federal states against the so-called Reichsburger (Citizens of the Reich) group. The far-right revisionist movement, which rejects legitimacy of the German government, is under investigation after reportedly sending death threats to state officials.
Citing the Munich Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Upper Bavaria North Police Headquarters, Bild reported on Thursday that as many as 280 officers had been mobilized to conduct the raids, during which they seized computers, laptops, smartphones, and storage devices.
Some 20 people have now been accused of creating a criminal organization and attempting to block or hamper the communication channels of German authorities by issuing mass appeals by telephone and email, the outlet reported.
“The overarching goal of the people involved was to destabilize the Federal Republic of Germany and its state institutions and to prevent lawful state action through the procedure described, or at least make it more difficult,” Bild quoted German officials as saying.
According to a police statement seen by the outlet, the accused are believed to have been connected to a number of Reichsburger Telegram channels which authorities have monitored since 2021. Through these channels, the suspects are believed to have spread their ideas and “conspiracy theories typical of Reich citizens.”
The channels also offered assistance to “victims of state actions” and appeals on their behalf to German authorities, accusing the state of human rights violations and war crimes. In some of their messages, Citizens of the Reich members reportedly even issued threats to government officials.
Last year, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser told Bild there were an estimated 23,000 far-right extremists in Citizens of the Reich, as she called for a comprehensive crackdown on the movement.
“We are not dealing with harmless nutcases, but with terrorism suspects, all of whom are now in custody and awaiting trial,” Faeser said at the time.
Citizens of the Reich was initially founded in 1985 and believes that the post-World War II German government is illegitimate. The group only recognizes the Weimar Constitution of 1919 as well as Germany’s borders during the Second Reich period, also known as the German Empire. Followers of the movement often refuse to pay taxes and clash with the authorities.
Last year, 23 individuals with ties to the group, including several ex-military officers and a former lawmaker, were arrested for allegedly plotting to storm the German parliament with the goal of assassinating top officials, overthrowing the government, and sparking a civil war.
In January 2023, five more Reichsburger members were charged with treason for allegedly plotting a government coup and aiming to trigger “civil war-like conditions."