The Federal Criminal Police (BKA) have reported that followers of the Reichsbürger movement could commit “extreme violence, including terror acts,” according to the German newspaper Welt, which cited a 2016-17 report compiled by law enforcement.
Somewhere toward the middle of Germany’s right-wing political spectrum, followers of the Reichsbürger movement are not organized in any sense, but share a common self-image as subjects of an illegitimate postwar government.
Reichsbürger believe the federal republic founded in 1949 is not a legitimate state because Germany never signed a peace agreement with the Allies, that the Basic Law requires a popular referendum to be transformed into a legitimate constitution, and that the country should restore its 1937 borders.
The Reichsbürger boast such famous sympathizers as the soul singer Xavier Nadoo, and some have turned violent – including a former Mister Germany accused of attempting to kill a police officer last summer.
The BKA has classified a similarly minded “sovereign citizen” movement as having an even “higher escalation potential.”
“While Reichsbürger have an authoritarian understanding of the state and at a minimum consider officials fundamentally necessary, the sovereign citizens reject (foreign-)state paternalism and are in cases even prepared to defend their autonomy with armed violence,” Welt quoted police as reporting.
Police agencies infiltrated
Germany’s domestic intelligence agency estimates that there are about 12,800 active Reichsbürger, about 800 of whom it classifies as right-wing extremists.
The movement’s crimes are well documented. Welt reported that Reichsbürger and sovereign citizens have committed more than 13,000 offenses, about 750 of which were violent, with more than 700 of the acts targeting government employees.
Most famously, a police officer was killed in a shootout with Reichsbürger in October. More disturbingly, it has emerged that some Reichsbürger are, in fact, officers themselves.
The BKA reports that the movement could try to capitalize on the racist backlash to the recent arrival of displaced people in large numbers to recruit new members.
“In the view of extreme-right ideologues, German citizenship should be tied to an ethnically defined ‘people’s community’ in order to combat ‘genocide’ through ‘mass immigration,'” Welt reported, quoting the BKA.
mkg/jm (AFP, dpa)