by Ralph Schoellhammer
Wednesday, 7
December 2022
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17:15

The Reichsbürger coup attempt is a warning to Germany

Democracy is at its most fragile during periods of economic crisis
by Ralph Schoellhammer
Prinz Heinrich XIII

Was Germany on the brink of experiencing its own January 6th moment today? German authorities arrested 25 individuals suspected of being a part of the “Reichsbürger” (Citizens of the Reich). Their aim? To storm the Berlin parliament and establish a new government around Prinz Heinrich XIII, a 71-year-old member of a former aristocratic German family, House Reuß.

The Reichsbürger is a far-Right fringe movement with an estimated 21,000 members across Germany and Austria. Among the wannabe revolutionaries are a former member of the Bundestag for the Right-wing AfD (Alternative for Germany), a judge, and an ex-soldier of the KSK, the elite unit of the German army. Despite the relatively small size of this group, the people arrested have skills in the use of firearms and would have had access to the layout of the parliament. This meant that they could have wrought severe havoc and potential loss of life in their coup attempt.


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The ideology of the Reichsbürger is a wild amalgamation of conspiracy theories paired with a general rejection of the German state, as well as the belief that the “German Reich” never ceased existing and should be re-established with a revival of the monarchy and within the borders of 1919 or 1937. One of many splinter groups had similar plans in Austria, leading to arrests and prison sentences of 14 years in 2019. What all these groups share is the idea that both Germany and Austria are governed by a “deep state” acting against the interests of the people, a theory that has been gaining traction since the pandemic.

While one should not take such incidents lightly, the actual chances of a successful coup would have been very slim. None of the major institutions in Germany were successfully infiltrated, so the worst possible outcome would likely have been a hostage situation in the Bundestag. Neither the army, police nor those who are in charge of critical infrastructure are bound to have sworn allegiance to a 71-year-old self-declared monarch. Indeed, not even Heinrich’s family support him — he was disowned and labelled a “confused old man.”

It is, however, also a warning shot to the German political class to get their act together. Over 60% of Germans are dissatisfied with the current coalition government, and the city of Berlin has to re-run federal and local elections from September 2021 because on election day such chaos ensued – from missing ballots to unorganised voting places – that a court voided the results and ordered new elections.

German history is full of failed coup attempts, whether it be the Kapp Putsch of 1920 or Adolf Hitler’s first attempt in the failed Beer Hall Putsch in November 1923. The putschists were also widely mocked at the time, but the economic crisis of the late 1920s and early 1930s paved the way for many of these fringe personalities to take over the government — mostly without a coup or other illegal methods.

The biggest threat to German democracy is not the strength of these radical movements, but the weakness of a government that more and more people feel no longer has their interests at heart. A revolution in the country might seem a far-fetched idea at the moment, but things can change quickly, as they did in the past.

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Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 month ago

I’m pleased to see this article, giving an early insight into the events in Germany, and following on the back of the article on Unherd about the problems associated with the East German integration following the fall of the Berlin Wall.
A post appeared in Comments yesterday which posited Germany as a “far more successful country” than the UK, to which i replied about our thousand-year history of hard-won democracy, current travails notwithstanding. This news from a country formed only in the 19th century and responsible for the onset of two World Wars and thus the abomination that became the EU in order to control it (from which we are now thankfully freed) puts some further perspective on what constitutes a successful country. Germany has been lauded for decades as an example of success compared to the UK, forgetting that it was the US-led Marshall Plan which kick-started its economic revival and that it has depended on a US/UK military presence on its territory since then for its security.
Despite everything, we in the UK have a great deal to be thankful for, but it’s our resilience and expenditure of blood and resources along with the US in maintaining freedom from tyranny into the 21st century that gives us the right to be thankful.

Last edited 1 month ago by Steve Murray
Chris W
Chris W
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I agree with virtually everything you have said above. But today, using the system of measure we have developed, Germany is more successful than the UK.
From your viewpoint, the success will go to their heads and they will fail again but first they will pull everyone else down with them. Despite this, when Labour gets in there will be another referendum and we will go back to Europe. They will be happy for us to go back, cap in hand, because it will be the ultimate humiliation.
So, that will be the third time in 110 years that Germany has pulled us all down. This time there will be no help from the USA, which has problems bigger than ours’. Is it inevitable? If not, what can be done?

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris W

I very much doubt we’ll ever see EU laws darken our doors again. Greater co-operation is required – from the EU! – for all our benefit, and the UK remains open to all reasonable aspects of co-operation that don’t require our compliance with failing European mechanisms.
In both world wars, the US had to be goaded towards assisting in what, in the end, was to their benefit so no, not expecting any assistance from across the Atlantic, especially now any benefit would be much less easily defined.
But neither will Germany “pull us down”, which might well have happened if we hadn’t left the EU. The idea we’d go back “cap in hand” is ridiculous. To ask for what? We don’t do subservience. If there’s any lesson from history, it’s that.

Emre S
Emre S
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Greater co-operation is required – from the EU!

Splendid isolation only works if a country is a hegemon – that Britain is not any longer, not for a long while.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

‘Despite everything, we in the UK have a great deal to be thankful for. ‘

You do indeed but easy off on the jingoism if you please. Germany was not solely to blame for two world wars. The Marshall Plan helped undoubtedly (Britain got more BTW) but Germany’s social contract and other post-war enlightened policies were the key factors. Britain’s less successful standing may have something to do with the loss of their colonies?

I might mention that Britain took car manufacturing plants lock stock and barrel as reparations from Germany – fairly maybe, and the Germans had to develop from scratch again with modern technology, giving them an advantage. And so on.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 month ago

No jingoism involved, simply adding balance to the issues raised. There’s absolutely no doubt that our colonial past impacts upon our present, in ways which are both beneficial and to our detriment, but the suggestion that Britain was a net beneficiary of US largesse is laughable – we were paying off the war debt right through to the 1980s, by which time Germany, which was able to start afresh with a virtual clean slate in an attempt to avoid the mistakes of the Treaty of Versailles, was able to take an economic lead. That no longer applies, and the issues that we’re seeing highlighted in these articles are German chickens coming home to roost. I wish Germany well, but its attempts along with France to dominate the EU over several decades, after Britain had bankrupted itself to preserve freedom in Europe before the US was dragged into the effort just don’t sit right with those of us who know what actually happened.

Last edited 1 month ago by Steve Murray
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 month ago

Britain was paying off its war debt to the US for decades, by which time Germany, allowed to start from scratch in order to avoid the mistakes made with the Treaty of Versailles, had taken an economic lead. Enlightened policies are easily come by when you’re seeking to avoid an abhorrent recent past.
What we’re now seeing though is some German chickens coming home to roost. I wish Germany well, and now it’s finally starting to pull it’s weight within NATO we all need it to succeed.

Last edited 1 month ago by Steve Murray
Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Which 3 countries get the most aid during the Marshall Plan?
The share of the aid per country, based on the accumulative total, is as follows:
United Kingdom: 23.99%
France: 20.41%
Italy: 11.35%
West Germany: 10.46%
Netherlands*: 8.15%
Greece: 5.32%
Austria: 5.10%
Belgium and Luxembourg: 4.20%

Last edited 1 month ago by Dermot O'Sullivan
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 month ago

I think you have been mis-informed.
Germany’s manufacturing base was in much better shape in 1945 than it was in 1939 and Germany was primed for the future. Germany was further aided by having no defence spending post 1945 while for the UK it continued to run at 25% of GDP into the 1950’s

joe hardy
joe hardy
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

A thousand year history of democracy?

Bernard Capaldi
Bernard Capaldi
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I like the clarity of your thoughts on this issue. UK citizens have much to be thankful for. We too easily forget the pedigree of our inheritance and remain modest about what we are and have

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago

Absolutely throw the book at these law breakers. But you’re 100% correct that the seeds of this supposed revolt have been sown by the ruling class.

Although Germany isn’t there yet, the prospect of people being unable to hear their homes in the winter should be absolutely terrifying to the ruling elite.

When you make people suffer economically, people will eventually revolt. That’s the bottom line.

Here in Canada, the ruling elite at the federal level are completely disconnected from the general populace. Both leaders of the ruling coalition, Trudeau and Jagmeet Singh, are trust fund babies who went to private school and never held real jobs before entering politics. How can they possibly relate to the concerns of working class people? They don’t know any outside their political bubble.

They can afford to invest themselves in luxury beliefs like catastrophic climate change and net zero, social justice, shutting down the economy and whatever ideology is trending today.

The vast majority of their constituents cannot. Unless things change, anger and unrest will follow.

Justin Clark
Justin Clark
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Jim, what I still do not understand is, why (why why!) did the Canadian people vote Trudeau back in… Perhaps post-covid and with the WEF exposed, he’ll be voted out by the majority next time.

Jane West
Jane West
1 month ago

What you’re describing by this organized group is not a “January 6th moment.” What happened in the US was not an organized plot. The FBI investigation showed there was no organized effort, It was a couple of hundred unarmed, misguided people who turned a peaceful protest into an embarrassing day for the US.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 month ago
Reply to  Jane West

Quite right. There were no former aristocrats in the rag tag group of overweight, balding, unarmed lite beer drinkers in the Washington group of average Joe’s.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 month ago

“Was Germany on the brink of experiencing its own January 6th moment today?”
The events of January 6th poised no threat to the state whatsover. so let’s stop pretending that it did. And as for the threat posed by a pack of heavily armed kamikaze monarchists – Well, this is just scaremongering.
Nonetheless, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, so I will be keeping a watchful eye on The Richard III Society in future. Just to be on the safe side.

Matthias Popp
Matthias Popp
1 month ago

Oh dear. The “article” reads like a copy of mad green-red German government propaganda trying to suppress discussion of yet another murder of a 14-year-old girl by an immigrant and preparing the ground for framing any future demonstrations against fuel shortages and cost of living crisis as “Nazi”. 19 (after 6 have already been let go again) elderly monarchists in posession of safety vests and spread out over all of Germany, Austria and Italy arrested in their homes – an “attempted coup”? Who are you trying to take for a ride?

Serge Vandenplas
Serge Vandenplas
1 month ago
Reply to  Matthias Popp

My thought exactly. The whole story is ridiculous, both in planning and in the intervention of some 3.000 police to catch 25 morons of whom only 6 have been retained in custody, and for what exactly? For expressing their wet dream on the internet? Read the comments section in Die Welt to see how serious the Germans take this new proof of utter cluelessness and scaremongering of their government.
Ignoring the real problems at stake has become an international sport in Europe and Germany is leading the championship.

Tyler 0
Tyler 0
1 month ago

This certainly appears to be an pre-planned and organised coup attempt; whereas I know of no evidence that Jan 6th was any such thing. There is no doubt though, that participants in both events had hopes, or dreams, of overthrowing the elected government. But both groups are similar in that neither have effective insider support among officials in the machinery of government, in the military, in the media or in any major institutions or centres of power – no coup could possibly succeed without significant support from some or all of these, surely.
The reality is that these institutions now belong broadly to the progressive left, in the US at least, and likely in Germany. I think had the US election gone the other way, and Jan 6th been a protest AGAINST an “unthinkable” 2nd term Trump presidency, an insurrection might plausibly have ended in a coup, with insider support, by the institutional left, not the right.
Such a thing could still happen.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 month ago
Reply to  Tyler 0

You make a very good point. If there had been a coup similar to January 6th made against Trump would the media have framed it differently?

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 month ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Yes indeed. It would have been termed a defense of democracy.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago
Reply to  Tyler 0

Well said. I don’t get the Trump Derangement thing. I don’t doubt he would like to be president for life, but he literally has zero institutional power. Military leaders, the FBI and CIA, the bureaucracy, the media, big tech, all hate the guy. He could never pull off a coup.

Please don’t take this as an endorsement of Trump. I think he’s a sociopathic narcissist who only cares about himself. As bad as he is, the progressive left is far more dangerous because they control all the institutions, Frankly, I’m sick of defending the guy.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

The point needs to made, I think, that on a single day in mid-2015, even on the threshold of a single moment, Donald Trump was transformed before our eyes. He went from a darling of polite society, the first on everyone’s guest list, to the one person crossed off all such lists. We woke up in the morning only to find a whole new Donald Trump. We could could no longer hear his name, or see his face, without the word “fascist” pouring out of our mouths. Where did the light come from? What caused us suddenly to see what we had formerly not seen, or at least not seen so clearly? He stepped over the line, didn’t he? The line, that is, between the private and the public? Since then we have struggled mightily to pin evidence on this man. We have manufactured all manner such evidence, but evidence of that kind resists pinning. “What is to be done?”

Brett H
Brett H
1 month ago

What can so easily come out of actions like this is that the government will find it necessary/convenient to introduce more draconian measures restricting our long held and accepted civil rights, all in the name of protecting us of course.

James Athill
James Athill
1 month ago

Well… coups certainly aren’t what they used to be.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 month ago

Was Germany on the brink of experiencing its own January 6th moment today?
So we can expect to see a fancy dress party at the Reichstag then.
You have to wonder whether there was ever any genuine coup plot or whether this is another case of a government using the law to bring down right wing critics

Paul Walsh
Paul Walsh
1 month ago

I guess its not surprising that they think some deep state conspiracy is behind it, they seem to have even more incompetent leadership than us. Lets hope we all get our act together soon.

Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
1 month ago

Wir schaffen das.

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
1 month ago

Perhaps they should have put their effort against the World Economic Forum first.

M. M.
M. M.
1 month ago

Last edited 1 month ago by Matthew M.
joe hardy
joe hardy
1 month ago
Reply to  M. M.

You are right about closing the border, MM, but very wrong about hispanics rejecting western civilization. Latin America is the amalgamation of Spanish colonialism and indigenous culture. People migrate here to take part in the benefits of the enlightenment movement, namely free market
capitalism and the relative lack of government corruption. Latin cultural infiltration should be welcomed in the U.S. because traditional values are held in high regard.
I married a beautiful Mexican princess because her people taught me that our children were not ,in fact, a clump of parasitic cells, but a gift from the Divine. We now have a beautiful family.
In my limited understanding, these hispanics are more true to western civilization than, say, the post modernist feckless revolutionaries.who seek to burn it all down to the foundation.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 month ago

“the people arrested have skills in the use of firearm”
So not quite a January 6th moment then is it, given the utter lack of guns used by or found on the “insurrectionists” on the 6th

harry storm
harry storm
1 month ago

The late great comic Norm Macdonald on Germany:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXdtafGdIVM&ab_channel=RayDorschner

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago

If there is such a thing as a ” funny” German that I have ever encountered, it had to be the Schoffel and tweed coat and cap clad Aristo Old Amplefordians, from the oldest German families, often ex line Cavalry officers, who are just a tad too crisp, neat and tidy!!!

Roger Bond
Roger Bond
1 month ago

And a White Russian baron who was eventually jailed for murder.

Andy E
Andy E
1 month ago

I must admit I went to the comments section just to see if there any, anyone at all considering this “coup” of 25 people to be a real thing. After I saw the Euronews report I was laughing so hard I almost choked on my breakfast toast.

Roger Bond
Roger Bond
1 month ago

There is a wider dimension which cannot be ignored. This attempted putsch has been frustrated but what if – like Hitler’s Nazis before them – the judges are lenient on the plotters?
They too may learn the lesson that Hitler and the Nazis learned: that getting elected is the only way to get – and keep – power.
Their message – like Hitler’s Nazis before them – is that democracy does not work in Germany and that a stronger state is necessary.
How many Germans – especially Eastern Germans – will disagree with that?
The article refers to a previous but similar failed effort in Austria.
In Italy, the fascists are running the government.
Viktor Orban, premier of Hungary (a former part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) is hardly a democracy champion.
And Russia’s Putin and fellow-travellers: need I say anything?
THE problem appears to be an overall decline of democracy in the West – even Boris Johnson sailed very close to the wind when UK PM – while the forces of state fascism appear to be on the rise.
Germany today is a lesson for all our tomorrows in the West.

M. M.
M. M.
1 month ago

Ralph Schoellhammer wrote, “The biggest threat to German democracy is not the strength of these radical movements, but the weakness of a government that more and more people feel no longer has their interests at heart.”

The residents of Germany are responsible for its quality of life. Since no foreign power is imposing the current government on the citizens, that government and its actions are precisely what the citizens want. If the government no longer has their interests at heart, then the citizens should vote for politicians who adhere to their interests.

The divide between government actions (e.g., opening the border to more than one million anti-Western migrants in 2015) and what the European-Germans (i.e., Germans of European ancestry) want will widen if they decline to shut the border. The offspring of the anti-Western migrants will become a significant percentage of the population and will have sufficient electoral power to force the government to act in a way that harms the interests of European-Germans.

In California, the Hispanics and their offspring have already steered the state government to act in a way that harms both European-Americans and East-Asian-Americans. Most Hispanics reject Western culture. Most European-Americans and East-Asian Americans identify with Western culture.

By 2040, the United States will cease being a Western nation, due to open borders. By 2040, most Americans will reject Western culture (as the American population is swelled by anti-Western migrants from primarily Latin America and secondarily South Asia), and Hispanic culture will dominate. In California, 40% of the residents are currently Hispanic. Most residents of the state already reject Western culture, and Hispanic culture dominates.

The German fate will become the American fate unless European-Germans take responsibility for their votes. They must elect politicians who will (1) shut the border and (2) distance Germany from the United States. A Germany based on Western values is superior to a Germany based on, say, Middle-Eastern values.

Get more info about this issue.

Last edited 1 month ago by Matthew M.
M. M.
M. M.
1 month ago

Last edited 1 month ago by Matthew M.
Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago
Reply to  M. M.

WTF is this? Hispanics are the single biggest demographic group moving away from the Democrats. The shifting voting record clearly illustrates this. If anyone is trying to uphold western culture and conservative values, it’s the Hispanics. It sure ain’t wealthy white voters living in gated communities. Way way before 2040, Hispanics will be majority Republican.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

M.M. has been posting similar for a long time. If you’re new to Unherd, best ignore it, as the rest of us do.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Lol!! I am new to the site. Kinda blew my mind. Borderline racist and completely untrue. I’ll defend the guy’s right to say it though. Best to ignore it.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

what does racist actually mean? He is actually right!

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago

He’s wrong by a country mile, Hispanics are probably the most traditional conservative demographic in the US. They do not reject western culture. They embrace it. That’s why they hate the term LatinX.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

no! he is a top fellow!

M. M.
M. M.
1 month ago

Last edited 1 month ago by Matthew M.
Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago
Reply to  M. M.

hear hear!