the far right

German QAnon Spinoff Plotted Coup to Put Fake Prince in Charge

Photo: Christian Mang/REUTERS

The United States sends billions in industrial parts, natural gas, and medical supplies to Germany every year. Increasingly, we’ve also been exporting some of our dumbest ideas. On Wednesday, German special forces arrested 25 people who were allegedly plotting to overthrow the government and install a disgraced aristocrat as head of state. They were apparently influenced by the American-born QAnon conspiracy, which has gained a serious foothold within the country’s far right over the past two years.

In pre-dawn raids on Wednesday, roughly 3,000 special-forces and law-enforcement officers rounded up the coup plotters. Their plan, according to a statement from Germany’s Federal Prosecutor General, was “to overcome the existing state order in Germany and to establish its own form of state” through violence and “commissioned killings.” Among those detained were former German soldiers in possession of weapons caches, as well as Birgit Malsack-Winkemann, a member of the far-right Alternative for Germany party who served in the German parliament from 2017 to 2021 and is currently a judge in Berlin. Another reported detainee is Heinrich Reuss, a self-styled prince whose family once ruled over a region in central Germany.

Prosecutors state that Reuss, a 71-year-old minor aristocrat ostracized by his family for promulgating conspiracy theories, was a ringleader in the plot. The ideas behind the scheme stem from the Reichsbürger movement, a QAnon spinoff that claims the current German government is a front set up after WWII as a corporation run by the Allied nations. (A bananen republik, if you will.) The movement’s goal was to install Reuss as the figurehead of the new nation, modeling the state on the Second Reich — the period between German unification in 1871 and 1918. Reuss had even tried to contact members of the Russian government to inform them of the coming revolution, though he did not hear back. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office estimates that as many as 52 people were in on the plan.

The Reichsbürger movement has been a growing force among far-right agitators in Germany, with adherents appearing at an anti-COVID-lockdown demonstration in August 2020 where they tried to storm the Reichstag. In April, Reichsbürger supporters allegedly plotted to abduct the German health minister as part of a plan to instigate a civil war.

German QAnon Group Plotted Coup to Put Fake Prince in Charge