Extremism: Every second person considers "Reichsbürger" to be dangerous

About half of the German population believes that so-called Reich citizens pose a serious threat to democracy and its representatives.

Extremism: Every second person considers "Reichsbürger" to be dangerous

About half of the German population believes that so-called Reich citizens pose a serious threat to democracy and its representatives.

In a recent survey by the opinion research institute YouGov, 53 percent of the participants took this view. 31 percent of those surveyed do not see such a risk. 15 percent of the participants in the representative survey commissioned by the German Press Agency were undecided on this question.

According to the information, the danger is estimated to be somewhat greater in the west than in eastern Germany. While around 56 percent of the population in the West believes that these extremists pose a serious threat to democracy and its representatives, only 44 percent of people in the new federal states believe this.

Only a minority think that "Reich citizens" could pose a threat to themselves. According to a survey, 63 percent of people in Germany do not see such a personal risk. Almost one in five respondents (19 percent) said they felt somewhat threatened by these extremists. Only 7 percent of adult citizens are of the opinion that "Reich citizens" are very threatening to them personally.

A well-known AfD politician is also among those arrested

"Reich citizens" are people who do not recognize the Federal Republic and its democratic structures. Federal prosecutors arrested 25 people last Wednesday, including former officers and police officers. She accuses 22 of those arrested of being members of a terrorist organization that wanted to overthrow the political system. Three arrested are considered supporters. The 23 suspects arrested in Germany are in custody. The federal prosecutor also spoke of 27 other suspects.

A well-known AfD politician is also among those arrested. The Berlin judge Birgit Malsack-Winkemann is a member of the party's Federal Arbitration Court and was in the Bundestag for the AfD between 2017 and 2021.

Every second person (50 percent) takes the view that the AfD is partly responsible for the radicalization in the "Reichsbürger" scene. Almost every fourth (24 percent) does not believe that. About the same number of people (26 percent) either had no opinion or did not provide any information.

Among those surveyed who stated that they voted for the AfD in the 2021 federal election, the proportion of those who assessed "Reich citizens" as a threat to democracy was very low. Green voters held this view most frequently.

Politicians from various parties warned against dismissing the network that has now been discovered as a harmless association of crazy pensioners. It was previously known that around 90 weapons had been found among the suspects, including swords, crossbows and firearms. In addition, one of the accused is said to have had access to other weapons as an arms dealer.

"There are still many unanswered questions"

From security circles it was said that among the accused were numerous people who could handle weapons - either due to previous professional experience or as a marksman or hunter. According to the information, one of the alleged conspirators, who is in custody, is a man from Baden-Württemberg, who had attracted attention in the past with fraud and bodily harm, among other things.

"There are still many unanswered questions, but it is becoming increasingly clear how deep and dangerous this conspiracy quagmire is," said Marcel Emmerich, chairman of the Greens in the interior committee. Emmerich emphasized: "It wasn't kitchen knives, air guns and a small group of crazy people, but a three-digit number of people with over 200 weapons ready to fire, with knowledge and access to the security authorities." Right-wing populists belittled Reichsbürger, their actions and plans, because "the ideological intersections between Reichsbürger and AfD are obvious". The party is "a security risk for the Bundestag and the people who work there"

"This is not a cabaret, this is not fun"

The domestic political spokesman for the SPD parliamentary group, Sebastian Hartmann, said: "The dimension of this right-wing extremist network is enormous, in terms of the number of people who belong to it and also with regard to the willingness to use violence. There is an abyss." It is all the worse "when the AfD and other actors from the right-wing spectrum play down the obvious". For example by saying that the accused are mentally ill and not of sound mind. Right-wing media also spread the narrative that "there were a few harmless pensioners" - smoke candles are ignited.

Meanwhile, AfD chairwoman Alice Weidel criticized Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser (SPD). Other issues would be left out, such as open borders and crime. Faeser should deal with it "and not with such a, I'll say now, desired "walker putsch". Weidel said at the same time that she didn't want to trivialize it.

Union faction leader Friedrich Merz said he welcomed the fact that Faeser and her country colleagues acted "with all severity" against the "Reichsbürger" scene. "This is not cabaret, this is not fun," emphasized the CDU chairman, whose name was on a list found on one of the suspects in the case. "This is a serious threat to our security - not to our democracy. The interference with the rule of law by these ladies and gentlemen certainly doesn't go that far."