In the most recent arrest of three “Reichsbürger” two came from Baden-Württemberg. Why does the federal state in southern Germany have a “Reich citizen” problem?
The investigators struck on Monday: In the small town of Frickingen on Lake Constance, the officials arrested a suspected “Reich citizen”. She is a former Bundestag candidate for the controversial party “Die Basis” and is said to belong to the group of Heinrich XIII, who was arrested last December. Prince Reuss, who is said to have planned to overthrow the federal government. A second of the three people arrested across Germany also comes from Baden-Württemberg.
Once again, the federal state is in focus. It is not the first and not the last case with “Reich citizens” in Baden-Württemberg. In February 2022, a man who is also assigned to the scene ran over a police officer during a vehicle check in the Lörrach district and seriously injured him. He has since been sentenced to ten years in prison for attempted murder.
Again and again sensational cases
April 20, 2022, just before 6 a.m. Police special forces gather in front of a property in tranquil Bobstadt, a district of the no less tranquil town of Boxberg in North Württemberg. They announce themselves via megaphones, then storm a farm in the middle of town. The man who lives there is said to have violated the weapons law and also belongs to the “Reichsbürger” scene. He opens fire a short time later. From heavy weapons of war.
The shooter only surrenders after lengthy negotiations. The balance of a police operation that got completely out of hand: two injured officers, a burned-down building, hundreds of emergency services on site, with heavy equipment, some even from neighboring federal states. And at the latest now the certainty: “Reichsbürger” pose a great threat in Baden-Württemberg.
The “Reichsbürger” from Boxberg is led to the court hearing.
Then in December 2022 the numerous arrests in the course of the investigation into the Reuss group. One of the focal points even then: Baden-Württemberg. One of the main suspects: a former Bundeswehr soldier from Calw.
And the group continues to cause a stir in the country. In March of this year, another suspected “Reich citizen” shot at the police in Reutlingen during a search as part of the same investigation. Investigators later find heaps of weapons on him, too. At the time, Baden-Württemberg’s Interior Minister Strobl spoke of a “terrifying” and “perverse” arsenal. The CDU politician emphasizes the danger of the scene.
Surprising only at first glance
But why is Baden-Württemberg such a focus? A country that is one of the wealthiest in the entire Federal Republic? Where unemployment is low and median income is high? The Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the State Ministry of the Interior currently speak of 3,800 “Reich citizens” in the state – an absolute priority throughout Germany.
Experts see the roots in the country’s checkered history. Traditionally, esoteric and alternative worldviews, such as anthroposophy, are very strong in southern Germany and in the Alpine region, says Michael Blume, political and religious scientist and since 2018 the state government’s commissioner against anti-Semitism.
The people here have always attached great importance to autonomy and independent living, says Blume. Added to this is the topography: the southern federal states are far away from the political centers. “In regions where people organize themselves between the mountains, there is voluntary work, civil society, parliaments. But unfortunately there is also a tendency towards conspiracy myths and the esoteric,” says Blume.
You can see that in Baden-Württemberg, but also in Bavaria, Austria and Switzerland. That doesn’t mean that every esoteric can become a dangerous enemy of the state, but the potential for radicalization is greater. For example, anyone who buys alternative medicine because they don’t trust the doctors is generally more prone to questioning other institutions and could end up in a kind of radicalization spiral. “Reichsbürger are unfortunately an extreme expression of this,” says Blume.
The latest example of this radicalization: the city of Heilbronn closed an esoteric tea shop last week. The owner had no longer paid sales tax. In a shop window notice she writes about her “belonging to the Kingdom of Germany”.
A sign at the esoteric tea shop in Heilbronn
world view most diverse currents
Those who have drifted so far that they cling to the conspiracy myths of the “Reich citizens” often put together a world view influenced by many different tendencies, says Blume: “A bit of esotericism, a bit of Germanism, a bit of anti-Semitism, so that for one fits – even if you look at it from the outside and say it doesn’t fit in the front or the back.”
The shooter from Boxberg is a good example of this: large Germanic runes hung on a wall of the farm in Bobstadt, where he lived with another family. ancient writings”.
In addition to the weapons, the officials also found a large number of Nazi memorabilia on the premises, and the man is said to have attended at least one rally with a right-wing extremist background. tagesschau.de There are also photos showing him at a “lateral thinker” demo against the Corona measures – with a shamanic drum in his hand. “This mixture then often creates a tendency towards violence and coup fantasies,” says political scientist Blume.
The prosperity in Baden-Württemberg does not contradict these extreme characteristics, says Blume. On the contrary: the socio-economic structures often even favored radical views. “Anyone who has built a house also has something to lose,” Blume summarizes in a simplified manner. “Reich citizens” are often by no means poor and uneducated people, but people who have achieved something in life and now believe they have to defend it against a conspiracy.
A good breeding ground for radical views: That’s why the “lateral thinking” movement emerged in the Stuttgart area. This is one of the reasons why there are numerous thriving publishers in Baden-Württemberg that publish conspiracy myths and radical views – and do business with them. Because that is also part of the story: “It is also so strong in southern Germany because you can really make money with it here,” says Blume.