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Suspicions of state security set-up in Germany’s far-right ‘coup’

Updated: Mar 16

A massive police raid foiled extremist plans to topple Germany’s government.

But the timing of the plot and its absurdity raised questions about a state security role in instigating it – something seen many times in Germany’s past.

On the morning of December 7th, 2022, Germany’s security services conducted the largest police raid in their history, as 3,000 officers stormed 130 properties spanning almost the entire country, as well as Austria and Italy.

When the police sweep was over, 25 individuals had been arrested for plotting to overthrow the German government. They stood accused of plotting to storm parliament, arrest lawmakers, and declare the restoration of the country’s monarchy by force, led by aristocrat Heinrich XIII Reuss.

However, a closer examination of the police action and its timing raises serious questions about the legitimacy of the alleged coup, and whether the German security state played a role in instigating it.

If so, it would fit within the historical pattern of the government’s infiltration of extremist movements since the post-war period. In 2003, a German court was forced to abandon a case against a notorious neo-Nazi group when it determined the organization was at least partially, if not wholly, controlled by state assets.

The suspects accused of plotting to overthrow Germany’s government are part of a movement known as Reichsbürger, or Citizens of the Reich. This group is said to reject the legitimacy of the Federal Republic of Germany, and contends the country is not in fact a sovereign state, but a corporation created by the US and Britain after World War II.

Now be afraid, very afraid!

That’s just one striking aspect of an event so shot through with farcical elements and headline clickbait, it appears to have been custom-made to generate media frenzy. A celebrity gourmet chef recruited to “take over the canteens of the new German Reich” is among those arrested, as is a former MP of the right-wing Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). So is a Russian citizen, the girlfriend of Reuss, who reportedly contacted Moscow’s embassy in Germany to discuss a new post-coup world order.

Authorities had clearly set out to court intense news interest, inviting packs of journalists to document the raids in real-time, therefore ensuring outlets across the world were almost instantly plastered with photos of the plotters being escorted away handcuffed. In all, 125 officers were deployed for each suspect taken in for questioning – an obviously extraordinary, excessive ratio.

Given the speed with which major German news outlets such as Der Spiegel published detailed, lengthy reports on the raids, some have even suggested certain articles were prepared in advance of the police swoop, and that journalists and editors had been awaiting the day for some time. Eerily, in a since-deleted tweet on December 6th, ARD journalist Georg Heil fortuitously predicted, “I suspect there will be a lot of ‘exclusive’ news tomorrow.”

Numerous government officials have aggressively pushed the line that the plotters “are not harmless, crazy people,” and the media has treated the putsch with utmost seriousness. However, the German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle has conceded that Reichsbürger did not even have a remotely realistic prospect of overthrowing the government. More generally, DW acknowledged, a coup d’etat could “hardly succeed in Germany,” as “the state order and the constitution are too solid.”

Though only a handful of weapons were seized in the police raids, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser has declared Germany’s already strict gun laws will be tightened even further in response to the supposedly thwarted insurrection. It is almost certain Berlin’s security and intelligence services will be granted enhanced capabilities to surveil and harass citizens and suppress unrest too, given they are highly opportunistic in criminalizing dissent at politically expedient junctures.

In April 2021, as the German government prepared to impose harsher pandemic restrictions in the face of staunch opposition from the public, and a plurality of political parties across the political spectrum, Berlin’s domestic security service, known as the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, or BfV, established a new, dedicated monitoring category for lockdown opponents.

The agency argued that opposition to lockdown orders represented a subversive threat to the state, but that it did not fall under pre-existing categories of concern such as the far-right, far-left, or Islamic terrorism.

The move effectively outlawed all anti-lockdown agitation in Germany, while classifying anyone arrested for such activity – of which there had at that point been thousands, despite Germany’s Constitutional Court ruling a year earlier that Covid-19 restrictions did not extend to demonstrations – would be guilty of extremist endeavors.

It also guaranteed expanded powers and bureaucratic resources guaranteed to the BfV, which put them on display this December when it took down the Reichsbürger’s supposed insurrection plot.

After frenzied media buzz, “coup” disappears from headlines

One of the most remarkable aspects of the “coup” is how quickly it vanished from headlines after the initial series of raids.

After a surge of minute-by-minute reporting, an event of purportedly seismic, historic significance – declared by Bloomberg columnist Andreas Kluth to represent Berlin averting the establishment of a “Fourth Reich” – has ceased to be of any interest at all to mainstream journalists, including those within Germany itself.

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