Questions being raised over raid against German right-wing Reichsbürger group, Left party MP and media outlets warn of PR stunt

Masked police officers lead Prince Heinrich XIII Reuss, center, to a police vehicle during a raid against so-called "Reich citizens" in Frankfurt, Germany, December 7, 2022. (Boris Roessler/dpa via AP)
By John Cody
8 Min Read

There is growing skepticism over the largest police raid in German history, involving 3,000 officers targeting the allegedly right-wing extremist Reichsbürger scene, including concerns that the raid is being used as a “PR stunt,” a criticism expressed both by a range of politicians and media outlets.

A number of journalists have expressed their skepticism about the raid — which focused its efforts on the 71-year-old aristocrat Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss, who lives in Frankfurt am Main — including Die Welt reporter Anna Schneider, who described an “extremely peculiar hysteria and staging of this spectacle.”

Tagesspiegel has reported that “such a large group of people has rarely been informed beforehand” about a police raid” and that “normally, the plans for searches are only pushed through to a handful of journalists whose work explicitly deals with security issues. In addition, the information about the ‘Reichsbürger’ raid also reached political circles — and unusually early.”

In addition, the Editor-in-Chief of Cicero Magazine Alexander Marquier, wrote on Wednesday last week, “Today I spoke to a number of colleagues from other media — including those media that were at the forefront of the exuberant coverage of the plan to overthrow the government. In unison (and of course only in confidence) it was said: It all seems completely exaggerated to us, but when the competition reacts so dramatically, we can’t cook things on a low flame.”

His insider commentary on the media response to the case seems to indicate that even those journalists participating in the coverage of the raid knew the government was trying to whip the population into hysterics around the Reichsbürger group.

The latest information from the German media indicates that there was no “acute” threat that the group was going to carry out any imminent attacks on the German government, but that prosecutors had simply decided they had enough information to charge the group on terrorist-related charges. The German Federal Prosecutor now says the group planned to recruit thousands, but had only managed to recruit eight people into its “military arm.”

As Remix News previously reported, there was a remarkable lack of TV crews for the far more numerous number of Islamic suspects taken into custody and tried over the last years. Up until June 30, 2022, there have been 226 investigations launched by the Federal Public Prosecutor, with 131 targeting radical Islamists, 68 against foreign extremists, and only nine against right-wing extremists.

Susanne Gaschke, of the Neue Züricher Zeitung, also wrote that the “organized media support of the operations” is fundamentally problematic, as “it could have meant an incalculable risk to the success of the whole operation, or because it indicates that the matter wasn’t that dangerous after all. In the latter case, the impression could arise that this is primarily — or in addition to — a political public relations exercise.”

‘It looks like a PR campaign’

The interior policy spokeswoman of the Left Party in the Bundestag, Martina Renner, criticized the interior ministry’s handling of the raid, saying that the names and addresses of the suspects involved in the case had been leaked to the media “for two weeks.” In fact, Renner, who has no law enforcement or security position as a politician, said that she herself knew about the largest raid in the Federal Republic of Germany’s history “since the middle of last week.”

Renner is now going public with what she knew about the raid beforehand, which was apparently common knowledge for much of the German political class and media.

“The information was spread so widely that it looks like a PR campaign. It can serve as proof of work for the responsible authorities and ministries,” she said, also criticizing the “risk that this created for the operation and the task forces” and noting that this is “absolutely out of proportion.”

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Government agencies must use “counter-terrorism (operations) with the utmost sensitivity, in no case should it become a show,” said Renner, referring to the extensive media coverage of the incident coupled with the fact that media crews had clear advance knowledge of the raid.

The left-wing politician labeled the advance information provided to the media “irresponsible,” even though the prosecutor in the case had “classified the plans for the raid as secret.”

“Secrecy is difficult, however, when targeted persons and times are leaked beforehand. Here, there was a risk that an operation that had been planned for months would end up going wrong,” she said.

Tighter gun laws and AfD ban being pushed

Germany’s left-wing government may have had a number of reasons to maximize this case to its advantage. The idea that “right-wing” terror groups are threatening to upend Germany’s democracy has long been promoted by Germany’s left-liberal political establishment, especially by the controversial German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser. In the wake of the raid, she is working to enact a number of reforms, including further restrictions on Germany’s already tight gun laws.

“These are not harmless crazy people but suspected terrorists,” said Faeser in an interview with Bild am Sonntag in which she also called for new measures to crack down on gun ownership in the country.

She has called the “far right” the “biggest threat” to German democracy in the past, despite data proving her thesis suspect. She has also called for more censorship, a ban to the free speech Telegram app, along with teaching about the dangers of right-wing extremism to children in kindergartens.

The government and many media outlets are also working hard to tie the entire incident to the Alternative for Germany (AfD) even though the party has banned members from being in the Reichsbürger movement long before the raid.

In fact, Left Party interior policy spokeswoman Martina Renner, the same politician who claims the raid looks like a “PR stunt,” is also saying that an AfD ban still needs to be looked at considering a former AfD MP was involved in the alleged coup plan.

“I’m in favor of us talking about whether the legal and political prerequisites for tackling an AfD ban are in place,” said Renner in response to an interview question.

With the AfD growing in popularity in the polls, the government may be growing concerned the political party may represent a rival source of power in the near future. The Reichsbürger case, regardless of how tenuously connected it is to the AfD, may now serve as another pretext to throw democracy out the window and work towards a ban against one of the most popular parties in Germany.

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