When the news of German police arresting 25 people in a nationwide raid broke on Wednesday, it sounded like the plot of a mediocre spy movie: a group of people including a former member of parliament, a low-level aristocrat and former military officers plotting to overthrow the government of one of Europe’s most stable democracies to install a new German Reich. Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction, however, and what sounds almost amusing in its absurdity is considered a serious terrorist threat by German officials.
More than 3,000 police officers, including special forces, were involved in the searches of more than 130 objects across 11 of Germany’s 16 federal states, making it one of the largest counter-terrorism operations ever in the country. “The investigations gave us a glimpse into the abyss of the terrorist threat posed by the ‘Reichsbürger’,” Germany’s Minister of the Interior, Nancy Faeser, said in a statement. “The uncovered alleged terrorist organization is driven by fantasies of a violent coup and conspiracy theories,” Faeser added, saying that the country would “fight with full force against enemies of democracy.”
While the “Reichsbürger” (literally “citizens of the Reich”) movement has gained notoriety in Germany in recent years, and is officially observed by the country’s domestic intelligence service as a potential threat, it is lesser-known outside of Germany’s borders. The following infographic provides some background information on the group, its motives and beliefs.