Day X and The Decaying German Political Consensus

The police operation to liquidate the extreme right Reichsbürger sect is the clearest indication yet of a political order at risk of implosion


It was the day meant for talking about the German coalition government. It was the first anniversary of the Social Democrats, Greens and Liberals taking charge of the largest economy in the Eurozone. About the government which promised an unprecedented sum for military expenditure.

This Wednesday, the Bundestag was taking stock of a decision that was being punished in the polls. Despite this, the media led with the biggest raid against the extreme right in the history of the country.

The searches took place in the early hours of the morning in 130 houses and offices in eleven states of the country. These were accompanied by similar actions in Austria and Italy. According to the Attorney General’s office, the 25 detainees were part of a terrorist organization planning to storm parliament, stage a coup d’état and impose a new government for which they already had some candidates.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser thanked “more than 3,000 police officers” for “their dangerous action today to protect our democracy”. The fifty or so suspects wanted to impose a monarchy in Germany, headed by Prince Heinrich XIII of the Reuss-Greiz house. Heinrich, a real estate businessman, was arrested in Frankfurt, and an arms cache was reportedly found in his palace in Thuringia.

The Berlin judge belonged to the right wing of the AfD, the so-called Flügel… In September 2021 the AfD won the Thüringen elections, helped by speeches from Höcke about “bloodletting” which would lose “some parts of our population” who did not want to participate in the authoritarian government …

According to the public prosecutor’s office and information leaked to der Spiegel, the Minister of Justice was to be a Berlin judge named Birgit Malsack-Winkemann, who was a member of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in the German parliament. Malsack-Winkemann was also arrested at her home in the wealthy district of Wannsee.

There were reports that an opera singer was to be the Minister of Culture. A pilot, several doctors, businessmen, and army reservists made up the cadre of alleged coup plotters seeking to re-establish a Deutsche Reich, a German empire.

The group apparently fits into the ideology of the Reichsbürger, translated as “citizens of the realm”. The Reichsbürger are a quasi-sect which believes that the Federal Republic of Germany is still occupied by the victors of World War II and rejects all of its institutions. Some of its members even carry passports, driver’s licenses or money invented for such a Reich.

According to far-right experts, the Reichsbürger began to radicalize in 2010 and since 2016, when one of them killed a policemen, they have been listed as dangerous. Reichsbürger members have been found with weapons caches and plans to overthrow the government. The Reichsbürger have a variety of beliefs, but are not the only forces behind the disbanded group. This arrest has shown that their political plans also includes maintaining a street presence.

Protests against Germany’s foreign policy, against arms shipments to Ukraine and against sanctions which punish the German economy are being organised by a mix of neo-Nazis, conspiracy theorists, new right and anti-Vaxxers. These people have united in a terrorist group, which is also organising through social networks.

The Berlin judge belonged to the right wing of the AfD, the so-called Flügel. The most prominent member of die Flügel is Björn Höcke, a politician from the state of Thuringia. In September 2021 the AfD won the Thüringen elections, helped by speeches from Höcke about “bloodletting” which would lose “some parts of our population” who did not want to participate in the authoritarian government which he thinks that Germany needs.

Höcke’s project, which only has space for Germans, follows an extremist conspiracy theory which plans enforced repatriation. This is an ideology which reflects the anti-refugee protests which swept the country after the arrival of hundreds of thousands of people via the Balkan route in 2015. This is how the AfD became the third force in the Bundestag.

The movement named Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA) and its marches played a key role in creating the ideological breeding ground from which several far-right terrorist groups were born, attacking refugee shelters and even going so far as to murder the CDU politician Walter Lübcke in cold blood. Lübcke was a member of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic party,.

One of the terrorist groups also had plans to provoke a civil war on Day X and set up their alternative state. These plans were uncovered after the arrest of a soldier named Franco A. who intended to pose as a refugee in order to provoke such an attack.

These PEGIDA protests, which had most support in former East Germany, were based on campaigns against the building of mosques in the early 2000s. During the pandemic, right-wing protests were transformed into marches of vaccine skeptics and people complaining against anti-vaccine measures. There was also a radicalization among the anti-vaccine movement that resulted in the assassination attempt on the current Minister of Health, Karl Lauterbach.

After German reunification, the right-wing extremists were at their strongest thanks to the power vacuum in the East of the country. Former Stasi employees report that information gathered by the Stasi was not properly passed on to the new German authorities. As a result, several pogroms took place in the East and a terrorist group called the NSU was formed. The NSU murdered immigrants throughout the country. The exact involvement of the secret services has still not been clarified.

In the early 1990s, the extreme right was still a rather marginal phenomenon, even though racism and xenophobia already had a strong hold over a large part of the population. The protest movements that have continued since then have led to a regrouping of the extreme right, ideologically supported by the so-called New Right of the Identitarian Movement, with the group of thinkers around the so-called Institute for State Policy.

While the Right is heating up the atmosphere and gathering forces, the Left looks unable to offer an answer to the discontent. One part of the progressive electorate votes for the Greens and another for the left-wing party Die LINKE.

The Greens are pushing military escalation and believe that the country has to sacrifice part of its welfare. Die LINKE in a deep crisis, with one part supporting the government’s measures in line with NATO, while another part is even considering the formation of a new party.

In troubled waters, the Right is rubbing its hands together and the Christian Democrats are once again leading the polls. The extreme Alternative for Germany (AfD) is also gaining support and would become the fourth power in parliament. This would still not create a CDU-AfD majority. In any case, until now, no party has collaborated with the AfD at the federal level.

The news of the raid on Wednesday also overshadowed the lecture given the day before by Clemens Fuest, president of the Leibniz Institute for Economic Research (ifo), entitled “Why the German and European models are in danger”. The expert warned that high energy prices after abandoning the cheapest Russian sources result in a “welfare loss” and that the state will have to ensure that these prices are lowered to prevent more companies from leaving the country.

Food inflation is much higher than the official total and in a situation of further inflation and crises the extreme right could continue to rise in the country.

This article first appeared in Spanish on CTXT. Reproduced with permission.