NYTIMES: Germany Arrests Dozens Suspected of Planning to Overthrow Government Many of those detained had military training and were believed to belong to a recently formed group that operated on the conviction that the country was ruled by a “deep state.”

Dec. 7, 2022Updated 6:08 a.m. ET

BERLIN — Special Forces in Germany have arrested 25 people suspected of supporting a domestic terrorist organization that planned to overthrow the government and form its own state, the federal prosecutor said on Wednesday.

In early-morning raids carried out across the country, some 3,000 police and Special Forces officers detained people believed to be members and supporters of the group, which prosecutors said had been formed in the past year and was operating on the conviction that “Germany is currently ruled by members of a so-called deep state” that needed to be overthrown. Prosecutors said that two other people had been arrested outside Germany, one in Austria and another in Italy.

Among those detained were a member of the far-right Alternative for Germany party who had served in the German Parliament, a member of the German nobility and a Russian citizen accused of supporting the group’s plans. Federal prosecutors said that they were investigating a total of 52 suspects.
The group’s plans included an armed attack on the German Parliament building, known as the Reichstag, the prosecutors said, and members had organized arms training and attempted to recruit personnel from the German security services. The prosecutors added that the group’s members had also formed a sort of shadow government that they intended to install if their plans were successful. It remains unclear, however, how close they were to acting on those ambitions.

The prosecutors described the group, which they did not identify, as being influenced by the ideologies of the conspiracy group QAnon and a right-wing German conspiracy group called the Reichsbürger, or Citizens of the Reich, which believes that Germany’s post-World War II republic is not a sovereign country but a corporation set up by the victorious Allies.

Many of those arrested had military training and included former German soldiers, including from the army of the former East Germany, and were known to have been heavily armed with weapons acquired illegally. The group was most likely formed in late 2021, the prosecutors said.

Its aim was “to overcome the existing state order in Germany and to establish its own form of state, the outlines of which have already been worked out,” the prosecutors said in the statement.

“The members of the organization were aware that this goal can only be achieved through the use of military means and violence against state representatives,” the statement added. “This also included commissioning killings.”
Among those arrested was a man who had tried to make contact with representatives of the Russian government over the plans, according to the statement, though there were no indications that they had received a positive response from the Russian sources they had contacted.

German news media widely identified the man as Prince Heinrich XIII of Reuss, a descendant of a former German royal family. The Reuss family has long distanced itself from Heinrich XIII because of his involvement in the Reichsbürger scene.

Another of those detained, identified by prosecutors as Birgit M.-W., was suspected of being appointed to head the justice arm of the group. German media identified her as Birgit Malsack-Winkemann, a judge in Berlin and member of Alternative for Germany. She served as member of Parliament from 2017 to 2021.

A Russian citizen, whom the prosecutors identified as “Vitalia B.,” was “strongly suspected” of supporting Heinrich XIII in trying to establish contacts with Moscow.

The group, which included people who had taken part in demonstrations against coronavirus lockdowns, was fueled by conspiracy theories, the authorities said.

According to the members of the group, liberation is promised by the imminent intervention of the “Alliance,” a technically superior secret coalition of governments, intelligence services and militaries of various states, including Russia and the United States, according to the prosecutors.

Germany’s intelligence services have for years said that the greatest threat to the country came from domestic, far-right extremist groups.
Right-wing extremists in 2019 killed a local politician in the German state of Hessen, and in the same year attempted to attack a synagogue.

Security analysts have warned about the potential for far-right groups to merge with pandemic anti-vaccine conspiracists. In 2020, far-right supporters, Q-Anon backers and anti-vaccine activists at a protest against coronavirus measures in Berlin attempted to storm the Reichstag.

The police say that they have also investigated several smaller suspected plots against state leaders in the past year.
In April, officers arrested four people who had been plotting to kidnap the health minister, Karl Lauterbach, and cause nationwide power outages. The police said that the suspects were linked to the Reichsbürger and anti-vaccine movements.
Germany Arrests Dozens Suspected of Planning to Overthrow Government