According to the German domestic intelligence service, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, [Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz], there are about 18,000 people supporting or otherwise associated with the loose anti-government Reichsbürger movement, 950 of whom have been classified as "far right extremists."
The number is about 80 percent more than it was in 2016, but however alarming as that increase may sound, the BfV said that investigations into the Reichsbürger movement revealed more of its members, as opposed to the movement itself having a mass influx of new members.
Investigations into the Reichsbürger movement intensified after one of their members shot dead a police officer in Bavaria in 2016 after resisting arrest and confiscation of assorted and illegally hoarded weapons. Reichsbürger roughly translates to "Citizen of the German Reich." The case of Wolfgang Plan, who murdered the police office in Bavaria, lead to the wider crackdown that the BfV is conducting on the Reichsbürgers. He was sentenced in October 2017 to life imprisonment. Since 2016, German authorities have conducted an increasing number of nationwide raids targeting right-wing groups, including houses, apartments and other properties believed to be owned by members of such groups, targeting Reichsbürgers specifically.
On average, members are almost 50 years old and male, according to an earlier report released by Germany's domestic intelligence service. Most of the Reichsbürgers live in Central Saxony, the Vogtlandkreis and the counties of Bautzen and Görlitz, the report says.
The extremist group known as "Reichsbürger" is considered a terrorist organization in Germany where its members procure arms and ammunition. Reichsbürger members do not recognize the modern German state as legitimate, citing technicalities about the fall of the Nazi Third Reich in May 1945, stipulating that while the Wehrmacht top brass did surrender to the Allies, the political leaders of the government, such as ministers and Adolf Hitler himself, never surrendered. Hitler also considered the surrender of Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Göring as high treason, expelling them from the government before the Reich's collapse.
The Reichsbürger movement also believes that the legitimate borders of Germany are those of 1937, before the annexation of Austria, the Sudetenland and eventually the rest of Czechoslovakia. These borders, as opposed to those of post-war Germany, include Eastern Prussia, now controlled by Russia, as well as Western Prussia, ceded to Poland. Other Reichsbürgers believe that the 1871 borders of the German Reich under Otto Von Bismarck are in fact the correct ones; they included the historically much-disputed region of Alsace-Lorraine, now controlled by France.
They also refuse to acknowledge the modern constitution and pay no taxes, claiming to be following the laws of the Third Reich's constitution.
The Reichsbürgers have no leadership or "cells," but are loosely associated with each other only by their common ideas that aren't even concrete. Some Reichsbürgers are monarchists; others believe that Germany was wronged in 1945 due to the expulsion of millions of Germans from Prussia and other historically German lands, while some are presumed to be outright neo-Nazis. Their common characteristic is that they reject the German government as legitimate, but as far as other opinions go, the Reichsbürgers are a mixed bag. A few hundred of their members are licensed gun owners.
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