Reichsbürger arrests: what are the lessons?

The German police launched nationwide raids on Wednesday, targeting a group from the far-right Reichsbürger ("Citizens of the Reich") scene. Around 3,000 officers searched 150 properties in several federal states and arrested 25 suspects. The group was allegedly planning a coup to abolish the current state order in Germany, and is being described as a "real threat".

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Hürriyet (TR) /

Ridiculous coup fears

Hürriyet pokes fun:

“The German public prosecutor's office classifies these 50 people as the most serious domestic threat in recent years. ... Interestingly, however, none of these 50 Reichsbürger (Citizens of the Reich) has committed a single murder. They are not public servants, and there are just a few retired soldiers among them. ... The tragic charges include: refusing to pay taxes because they do not recognise the Federal Republic of Germany, declaring their own national territory, printing their own passports and driving licences, resisting and organising protests against Covid measures, and being prepared to commit serious acts of violence. ... Yes, you have read correctly: because of such behaviour you can be accused of planning a coup d'état in Germany. What a joke, eh?”

Kaleva (FI) /

Desirable impact on protest voters

The suspects' links to the AfD should give pause for thought, says Kaleva:

“What makes the coup plans really worrying is that former Bundeswehr soldiers and even the former AfD member of parliament Birgit Malsack-Winkelmann are said to have been involved. She seems to be enthusiastic about creating an alternative Germany. All in all, the AfD has moved further and further to the right over the years and also has a radical wing whose supporters openly talk about Austria belonging to a 'Gesamtdeutschland', ['all-Germany', a term referencing the Nazi concept of an expansive German empire]. It is to be hoped that the people who voted for the party mainly out of protest will now realise to whom they have given their support.”

Trouw (NL) /

Dangerous spread of right-wing delusions

Trouw warns that the threat posed by the far right should also be taken seriously in the Netherlands:

“These people oppose today's democracy, the legal system and the media. A small group of agitators openly spreads conspiracy theories, stirs up unrest and feeds distrust of the state. ... This far-right movement encompasses conspiracy theorists who believe in the great replacement theory, Covid deniers and reactionaries. ... What makes the movement increasingly dangerous is that supporters can also be found in political parties, the police, the army and the media. This is how extreme views become ever more widespread, as if they were normal.”

De Telegraaf (NL) /

Far more than obtuse skinheads

De Telegraaf is alarmed by the fact that lawyers, a judge and former AfD members of parliament are core members of the Reichsbürger group:

“These are all prominent people who had sworn an oath on the constitution and were supposed to protect the state in an emergency. A growing group in society, however, does not want to defend German democracy but to destroy it. Conspiracy theorists from the same scene already tried to storm the Bundestag in 2020. ... According to the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the Reichsbürger already have more than 20,000 followers, many of whom are armed. They are not afraid to use these weapons against the state. ... And more and more soldiers, police officers and secret agents are joining the group.”

Göteborgs-Posten (SE) /

Democracy not under threat

The affair should neither overdramatised nor downplayed, says Göteborgs-Posten:

“We must be able to allow two thoughts to enter our heads at the same time. On the one hand, violent extremists pose a potential threat to individuals, not least government officials and politicians. On the other hand, they hardly pose a threat to democracy itself unless they are supported by powerful interest groups. The second idea is important precisely because extremists will do anything to exaggerate their importance in order to boost their visibility and gain new supporters.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

A damaging spectacle

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung criticises that several media outlets were informed about the operation in advance and present during the raids:

“Obviously, the investigating authorities as well as the accompanying media were focused on strong images and their popular education effect. Anyone who is led away in public is expelled from society for the time being. In a liberal constitutional state which is based not least on the presumption of innocence, such an advance conviction is no trifling matter. ... It leaves an unpleasant aftertaste, the conflicted impression that the security authorities wanted to flex their muscles for all the world to see, muscles that are used far less energetically when it comes to other threats.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Hard to believe but true

Gazeta Wyborcza is stunned:

“The whole thing seems almost unbelievable, but the conspirators' plans were already well advanced: dormant cells throughout the country were poised to incite an uprising and take over the military and administrative structures. They even intended to storm the Bundestag.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

Prevent the young from joining the far right

La Vanguardia calls on Europe to be vigilant:

“The rise of the far-right in Europe is unmistakable. Giorgia Meloni governs in Italy. ... The Sweden Democrats have become the second strongest parliamentary group. ... Hungary and Poland are in the hands of illiberal governments. ... Marine Le Pen pushed her share of the vote in the second round of the presidential elections up to 41 percent. Vox is the third largest party in the Spanish Congress. ... Germany, and of course the EU, cannot ignore these warning signs. They must confront those who attack their basic principles and prevent the young, who are subjected to a constant borbardment on social networks where the line between truth and lies is already blurred, from joining the anti-democratic forces.”

Financial Times (GB) /

German democracy alive and well

Politics and society in today's Germany are a far cry from the instability of the Weimar Republic, the Financial Times assures its readers:

“German democracy remains alive and well, one of the most robust systems in the western world and unquestionably Germany's strongest since the birth of the modern nation-state in 1871. ... Extremists such as those arrested this week have no representation in the Bundestag and practically no public support. Even the less radical but hard-right Alternative for Germany party saw its vote fall in last year's national elections.” (DE) /

Not something to be laughed off

The danger emanating from the right should not be underestimated, warns:

“It was not a quarter to twelve: the attempted coup was not imminent. But anyone who tries to laugh this off is making a mistake. ... The remarkable thing about this group is its composition: the Reichsbürger (the self-annointed 'Citizens of the Reich') joined forces with people from what is considered the centre of society - lawyers, doctors, plus quirky esoterics and former soldiers with access to weapons. Some of the people in this group were already present as agitators at Covid-related protest events. ... The constitutional state must answer such people with all its might. That is what it has done today.”

Ukrajinska Prawda (UA) /

There is a "Russian lead"

Ukrayinska Pravda says potential links between the Reichsbürger movement and Russian authorities should not be overlooked:

“Although the first details of the investigation are only just emerging, a 'Russian lead' is already discernible. In particular it appears that the planned new 'leader' of Germany had contacted Russian authorities to get support for his plans. ... This is an extremely important detail. According to the investigation, Henry XIII contacted Russian officials in Germany with the help of a Russian citizen known as Vitalia B. (who has been detained as an accomplice). How successful the negotiations were is not yet known.”