German police announced Thursday that they searched 20 apartments of suspects linked to the far-right Reichsbürger movement. The movement has been accused of attempting to destabilize the Federal Republic of Germany and its state institutions.
This latest series of raids took place in eight of Germany’s 16 states and was initiated in 2021 after police detected suspicious activity on the Telegram messaging service. The group uses Telegram channels to disseminate their conspiracy theories. Recently, police said the operators of these channels had attempt[ed] to block their communication channels by making targeted (mass) contact with authorities and thus unlawfully influencing their decisions. Several suspected members of the organization have been identified and laptops, computers, phones and external data carriers have been seized, but no arrests have been made.
The Reichsbürger movement, meaning “Reich Citizens,” emerged in the 1980s and is an umbrella term for several different groups operating within Germany who believe that the 1871 borders of the German Empire still apply today. They do not recognize the current government or any other German government since the Nazi regime. While they were once considered to be a fringe organization, the movement has grown in recent years and have become increasingly violent, espousing racist and antisemitic Nazi ideologies.
Back in 2017, a 50-year-old man, who was allegedly a member of the movement, was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a police officer. Police have previously carried out raids and issued arrest warrants in December 2022 for 25 individuals accused of attempting to overthrow the German government. A man was also arrested in November 2021 and later charged with “the formation of a criminal organization, incitement to hatred and coercion.”
In May, Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution—or the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV)—warned against rising levels of anti-government extremism in the midst of provocation from authoritarian states, such as Russia.