Germany steps up search for members of Reichsbürger movement

Published 02.08.2017 23:49

German authorities are increasingly concerned over the Reichsbürger movement as a total of 718 people in Saxony belong to the far-right movement, according to the Federal Police Office for the Protection of the Constitution. In Bavaria, the numbers are going up as around 3,000 people are reported as being part of the movement.

On average, the members are almost 50 years old and male, the report suggested. Most of the "Reichsbürger" live in Central Saxony, the Vogtlandkreis as well as in the counties Bautzen and Görlitz, the report also noted.

"This shows us that we have this scene on the radar and take seriously the threat against our free democratic basic order," said Interior Minister Markus Ulbig, who is currently also chairman of the Interior Ministers' Conference.

According to the report, the BKA expects a total of around 13,000 crimes, including 750 violent crimes, from the Reichsbürgern and the "Selbstverwaltern" (self-governing). The "self-administrators" are, as a rule, even more dangerous than the "imperial citizens."

"While imperial citizens have an authoritarian understanding of the state and the authorities at least consider it necessary, self-administrator [foreign] state refuse and are partly prepared to defend their autonomy even with arms," the Welt am Sonntag reported in a quote from the report. However, according to the BKA, the borders between the two right-wing streams are fluid.

The BDK also makes the distinction between different kinds of Reichsbürgern. While most of them are just vocal, many of them, deemed "Selbstverwalter," are feared to be willing to engage in violence. Many members of the organization, labeled as a terrorist group by German authorities, have been caught in possession of illicit firearms and ammunition.

Since 2016, German authorities have conducted an increasing number of nation-wide raids targeting right-wing groups, including houses, apartments and other properties believed to be owned by members of such groups, targeting the Reichsbürgerbewegung specifically.

The members of the Reich Citizens' Movement do not recognize the modern German state as legitimate, citing technicalities about the fall of the Third Reich in May 1945, saying that while the Wehrmacht top brass did surrender to the Allies, the political leaders of the government, such as ministers or Adolf Hitler himself, never surrendered to the Allies. Hitler also considered the surrender of Heinrich Himmler and Herman Göring as high treason, expelling them from the government before the Reich's collapse.

The Reichsbürgerbewegung also believes that the legitimate borders of Germany are those of 1937, before the annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland. They also refuse to acknowledge the modern constitution and pay no taxes, claiming to be following the laws of the Third Reich's constitution.

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