Corona crisis: covid-19 spurs the reichsburger scene

The so-called Reichsburger and self-governing citizens have been a growing conglomeration of right-wing extremists since the outbreak of the Coronavirus more active than ever. The government measures against the pandemic would have led to "increased dynamics and activity" in parts of the scene, according to the response of the Federal Ministry of the Interior to a question from the Left Party in the Bundestag. The state's Corona measures offered Reichsburger "the opportunity for new propaganda against the Federal Republic".

The Federal Office for the Protection of calculates to the milieu about 19.000 people to. Another figure shows how alert the security authorities have become: between September 2018 and September 2020 – in two years – the Joint Counter-Extremism and Counter-Terrorism Center in Berlin dealt with Reich citizens 100 times.

On the outside steps of the Reichstag

Verbal radicalism seems to have increased, the 19-page ministry response says. The Verfangsschutz identified Reichsburger at the "Storming of Berlin" on 29. August – and also among the 300 to 400 demonstrators who waved black-white-red flags on the outside steps of the Reichstag. From the point of view of Reichsburger it is the supposedly only legitimate flag and a symbol of identification.

Several federal states want to follow Bremen's example and ban the showing of the Reich war flag ban in public. Lower Saxony and Bavaria have announced it, in North Rhine-Westphalia this is also emerging. Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) wants to insist on "a uniform approach throughout Germany" at the conference of interior ministers at the end of the year.

"Conspiracy-affiliated milieus"

Authorities observe how a part of the scene seeks connection to "conspiracy-affiliated milieus". The milieu of "Reich citizens and self-governors shows a great affinity for Conspiracy theories", communicates the Ministry of the Interior. Contents of the "QAnon" movement would be taken up and spread.

Most recently, it had been noticed in various contexts that well-known "Reichsburger and self-governing citizens" use the slogan "WWG1WGA. The acronym stands for the slogan, which begins "QAnon"Where we go one, we go all", in German: "Wohin wir gehen, gehen wir alle".

In Germany, the world's second-largest following.

The largest German-language Telegram-Channel of the movement has more than 120.000 subscribers: Esotericists, anti-vaccinationists, right-wing extremists and, of course, Reichsburger.

The messages sound mostly enigmatic, brought to a denominator: "QAnon" supporters believe in all seriousness that an elite of pedophile politicians in the U.S. has a Child trafficking ring Operates. Allegedly, the U.S. movement already has its second-largest following worldwide in Germany. If they publicly profess, you can recognize them by a big "Q" for example on T-shirts.

The Reichsburger find other set pieces of their ideology at the AfD. The federal government has information about contacts to individual members of the youth organization "Junge Alternative" and to supporters of the disbanded "wing". There are also personal relationships and a "certain affinity" with Russia. It shows itself in "cries for help" for the "liberation" of Germany.

Disputes with the authorities and offices

Reichsburger get their teeth into disputes with authorities and offices. However, the vast majority of followers are not "openly ready for violence," according to the Federal government. In 2019, they committed 677 crimes, mostly coercion, threats or propaganda.

However, the security authorities also counted 132 violent crimes. In the first 8.5 months of this year, Reich citizens committed significantly fewer crimes, a total of 362. This has to do with the fact that at the beginning of the pandemic – in the Lockdown-phase – the offices were closed and also as good as no demonstrations took place.

"Fragmented, multi-layered and confusing

The scene is "not homogeneous, but fragmented, multi-layered and confusing," according to the government's response. Meanwhile, the scene surrounding the large-scale demonstration against the Corona measures End of August in Berlin yet "capable of a joint and coordinated appearance," gives the left-wing politician Ulla Jelpke To consider. Also read: How right-wing extremist soldiers infiltrate the Bundeswehr

This was evident in the rioting in front of the Russian Embassy or the media storming of the Reichstag steps. "There is obviously more organization and coordination here than the federal government wants to admit."

Elements of the Reichsburger ideology adopted

With the "Lateral thinkers"-movement, the Reichsburger received a new platform – and vice versa, says Jelpke. This had adopted elements of the Reichsburger ideology: "The fairy tale of Germany's lack of sovereignty and the non-existence of a catch-all was thus able to penetrate parts of the movement against the Corona containment measures."

The irrationalism of their ideology and their organizational fragmentation are no weakening for Jelpke. Rather, they made up the unpredictability of the Reichsburger. Jelpke: "We have to do here with ticking time bombs.

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