- Paul Kirby
- BBC news reporter
German authorities raided the entire territory and arrested 25 people on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government.
Reports in Germany say a group of far-right and military veterans plans to storm the Reichstag and seize power.
A 71-year-old nobleman known as Prince Heinrich XIII is said to be at the center of the plan to overthrow the government.
He is one of two alleged ringleaders of those arrested in 11 German states, according to federal prosecutors.
The masterminds are said to have included members of the extremist Reichsbürger (Reichsbürger), a group long on the radar of German police for staging violent attacks and promoting racist conspiracy theories. They also refused to recognize modern Germany.
An estimated 50 men and women have been charged as members of the alleged subversive government group that is said to have plotted to overthrow the republic and replace it with a new state modeled on Germany in 1871, called the Second Reich.
A spokeswoman for Germany’s federal prosecutor’s office said: “We do not yet have the name of the group”.
German authorities dispatched a total of 3,000 police officers to take part in 130 raids across much of the country, with two people arrested in Austria and Italy. Those detained will be interrogated at a later date.
German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann tweeted that a major counterterrorism operation was underway and that someone “planned armed attacks on constitutional institutions” was suspected.
The federal prosecutor’s office said the group had been planning a violent coup since November 2021, and members of its “central committee” had been holding regular meetings since then.
Prosecutors said the group had drawn up plans to rule Germany, including the health, justice and foreign affairs ministries. Members knew they could achieve their goals only through “military means and violence against representatives of the state,” including killings.
Investigators are thought to have only known about the existence of the group after they busted a kidnapping plot by a group calling themselves the United Patriots in April last year.
The group also planned to attack power stations in April this year, causing a nationwide blackout to “create the conditions for a civil war” to end democracy in Germany, and had planned to kidnap Health Minister Karl Lauterbach.
The latest plot also allegedly involves a former member of the lower house of Germany’s right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, who would be installed as justice minister for the new Reich if Prince Heinrich succeeds in taking power.
Heinrich XIII came from an old noble family known as the House of Reuss, which ruled parts of modern-day eastern Germany’s state of Thuringia until 1918. All male members of the family were named Heinrich plus a number.
According to reports, in addition to forming a shadow government, the organization planning to overthrow the government also plans to establish a military branch. Active and former military members are an important part of the coup plan. They include former elite soldiers from special forces. Prosecutors said the military branch’s goal was to eliminate democratic institutions at the local level.
A member of a special commando unit is also among those under investigation, and police searched his home and room at a military base southwest of Stuttgart.