Report: Far-right Reichsbürger movement is growing, building army

German media have reported that the anti-government group has grown by 56 percent to 15,600 members. Security services are concerned that propaganda about a 'Reichsbürger army' will inspire attacks.

Germany's most idiosyncratic far-right movement has increased its membership by about 56 percent in a single year, local media reported on Friday. The Reichsbürger group is also trying to build an army and preparing for a "day of reckoning," according to news magazine Focus.

Reichsbürger is used as a label for a loosely connected group of Germans who believe that the 1871 borders of the German empire are still in effect and that all of the country's governments since (and including) the Nazis have been illegitimate, many also subscribe to anti-Semitic ideologies.

They believe that the current Federal Republic of Germany is a puppet government controlled by the Allied powers of World War II.

'Preparing for Day X'

Usually dismissed as a disparate association of ideological radicals, the Reichsbürger have increasingly been in the headlines after a series of violent incidents in the past two years, including the murder of a policeman in the Bavarian town of Georgensgmünd.

After putting in information requests to Germany's domestic security agencies, Focus reported that the number of Reichsbürger adherents had grown to 15,600 by January – up more than 50 percent from the same time last year.

The biggest number of supporters resides in Bavaria, which has about 3,500 Reichsbürger members.

"They have begun preparing themselves for Day X," Focus writes, referring to an imagined day of reckoning or uprising against the German government. They are also apparently trying to form an army.

While the organization's disjointed nature makes the threat of significant violence relatively low, security services are worried that the Reichsbürger's militia propaganda will inspire lone-wolf attacks and increase illegal weapons trafficking. More than 1,000 Reichsbürger members have one or more legal weapons licenses.

Law and Justice

What do Reichsbürger believe?

Reichsbürger translates to "citizens of the Reich." What unites this loose movement is rejection of the modern Federal Republic of Germany. They believe the 1937 or 1871 borders of the German Empire still exist and today's country is an administrative construct still occupied by the Allied powers. Many subscribe to far-right or anti-Semitic ideologies. Their conspiracy theories have been debunked.

Law and Justice

How much of a threat are they?

The Reichsbürger scene is a disparate, leaderless movement totalling about 15,000 supporters, according to German intelligence officials. Of those, about 900 have been identified as far-right extremists and 1,000 have a license to own firearms. Authorities are concerned about some members' potential to become violent and have conducted several raids on Reichsbürger suspects to sieze weapons.

Law and Justice

Who are its members? One was Mr. Germany

Adrian Ursache, a 42-year-old former winner of the Mister Germany beauty pageant, is also a Reichsbürger member. He is currently facing trial for attempted murder after an August 2016 gun battle with police as they tried to evict him from his home. Typically, Reichsbürger refuse to recognize any state apparatus, printing their own passports and driving licenses.

Law and Justice

Jailed for murder

The case of Wolfgang P., who in October 2017 was sentenced to life in prison for murdering a police officer, is seen as a turning point for how German authorities deal with the extremist group. P., an alleged Reichsbürger member, shot at officers who were raiding his home to confiscate weapons.

Law and Justice

What are the authorities doing about it?

German authorities have been accused of long underestimating the threat posed by the Reichsbürger. Since the murder of the police officer in Bavaria, law enforcement has been cracking down on them more vigorously. In the past year there have been several raids on Reichsbürger targets. Some German police and military forces have also probed whether they may have Reichsbürger among their own ranks.

 

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