The largest counterterrorism raid in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany took place on December 7, 2022. It was directed against a network of Reichsbürger (Citizens of the Empire) called the Patriotic Union. More than 3,000 police officers, including SWAT teams and special forces, searched apartments, houses, and offices in 11 of the 16 German federal states. Twenty-five people were arrested, including one each in Austria and Italy. Among the arrested was the alleged ring-leader, Heinrich the 13th, Prinz Reuß who has strong anti-Semitic and pro-Putin sentiments. Until the abolishment of the monarchy in Germany in 1918, his family had ruled a small part of eastern Germany for centuries. Also arrested were a former member of the Bundestag and now suspended judge, former officers of the German armed forces, a police inspector, a doctor, a gourmet chef, a lawyer, a pilot, an opera singer, a clairvoyant, a roofer, and an employee of an advertising agency. Some of the defendants are also part of Querdenken, a German movement driven by conspiracy narratives, that featured in organized protests by networks, groups, and individuals during the pandemic against government measures to contain the coronavirus. In total, more than 50 people are under investigation.
This article assesses the alleged plot by the Reichsbürger group called Patriotic Union to overthrow the German government that was thwarted in December 2022. The article first outlines what is known about the plot. It then in turn examines the history, the ideology, the adherents, and the threat posed by the Reichsbürger.
The German Federal Prosecutor General accuses the defendants of having created a terrorist organization and aiming to overthrow the existing state order in Germany, possibly by using military means and violence against state representatives. Among the discussed actions were entering the German Bundestag building (the federal parliament) and taking its members hostage.
During the raid, police forces seized 97 guns, more than 25,000 pieces of ammunition, helmets, uniforms, night-vision devices, machetes, daggers, radios, blank vaccination cards, computers, cell phones, hard drives, and illegal narcotics. More than 400,000 euros in cash and around 100 pounds of precious metals, mainly gold bars and coins, were also found. However, it is unclear if these valuables were intended to finance the alleged terrorist group. Most of the weapons were legally owned. A list with names and addresses of politicians and their staff were found as well.