Last Wednesday, 3,000 German police conducted raids on 150 different buildings – busting an attempted coup to take over the state. Weapons were found in at least 50 of the properties and 25 people have been arrested for planning the putsch. After months of talk about “climate terrorists”, this was a reminder of what actual terrorists look like.
The plotters cut a pathetic figure. Their plans apparently included getting microchips removed from members who had been vaccinated, and once they had stormed the Bundestag, they expected a secret world government called “The Alliance” to step in and recognise their new regime.
But their plans were detailed: they had a whole cabinet worked out for after the putsch.
The ringleader and designated head of state was a 71-year-old whom the German press is referring to as “Heinrich XIII P.R.” We think it’s probably safe to reveal that his full legal (!) name is Heinrich XIII Prinz Reuss. He descends from a noble house that once ruled over a non-contiguous mini-state in what is today Eastern Thuringia.
Get this: All male members of this house are named Heinrich with a Roman numeral, but the numeration restarts every century. There are currently 30 living Heinrichs, and the house is headed by a Prince Heinrich XIV, who has sharply criticized his distant cousin and is not, as one would assume, the son of the XIII.
The coup plotter is clearly confused — raised in such a bizarre family, who wouldn’t be? Heini believes in antisemitic conspiracy theories about the First World War being started by the Rothschilds — and clearly wants his house returned to the position it lost due to Germany’s 1918 revolution. In the coup cabinet, Heinrich XIII was set to be head of state.
Germany kinda-sorta got rid of its aristocracy with the revolution of 1918. The nobles lost power, but all those dukes and barons were allowed to keep their titles and their castles — and they still own a large swatch of Germany’s forests. Clearly, this wasn’t enough for Heinrich.
The Police Chief
Michael Fritsch used to be a police officer in Lower Saxony — a Kriminalhauptkomissar (or chief detective). During the pandemic, Fritsch began protesting against public health measures and became convinced that the Federal Republic of Germany doesn’t exist.
Fritsch joined the movement of Reichsbürger, or citizens of the Reich. These very German conspiracy theorists take the country’s fetishism for documents to an extreme: taking some typos in international treaties as proof that the modern German state doesn’t exist. Fritsch got in trouble when he applied for a new ID with his birthplace listed as “Prussia.” He was also a candidate for the far-right party die Basis.
Just six months ago, Fritsch got fired from the police service, though the case is on appeal. After the coup, he was going to be in the regime’s chief of police.
Head of the New German Army
Maximilian Eder is a retired colonel of the German Bundeswehr. In the 1990s, he helped found the special forces KSK, and he was deployed in Kosovo. He’s got a history of weird behaviour. Eder recently made news by showing up in the Ahrtal after the floods, wearing his uniform and pretending to lead a military mission.
Just days before the arrests, Eder posted a video from Croatia where he announced that a great upheaval would begin in the coming weeks. He was arrested in Italy. Most disturbingly, he seemed to know about the raids in advance: he told his neighbor a week earlier that they could expect a visit from the police. This is the guy the plotters had picked to set up a New German Army.
The Commissioner for Spirituality
Ruth Hilde L. is an astrologist who uses tarot cards to predict the future. Using her “L Method,” she’s said that the years 2022-24 will see great upheavals — just like those that began in 1914. She is also a member of the far-right party Alliance for Germany (AfD). Unfortunately for her, her tarot cards seem to have failed to predict the raids. She was going to serve as a commissioner for spirituality in the new government.
The Military Arm
Rüdiger von Pescatore was also part of the German army’s elite: he commanded a unit that became the KSK — until he was fired in 1996 for stealing weapons and munitions. Von Pescatore had been active in a veteran’s group opposing public health measures. He was the head of the conspiracy’s “military arm” that was going to set up its own “home protection companies.”
The Foreign Minister
A lawyer referred to in the press as “Paul L.” makes a serious impression online as an expert in digital law. He got a PhD from the University of Hannover about “state surveillance of voiceover IP.” He was responsible for encrypted communications in the network, and was set to be the foreign minister.
The Justice Minister
Birgit Malsack-Winkemann is a judge on Berlin’s district court, where she deals with building permits. For four years, she was also a member of the Bundestag for the far-right party AfD. Despite her many overtly racist speeches and a Telegram channel spreading QAnon conspiracy theories, a court just decided she could return to the bench. She was going to be justice minister.
Malsack-Winkemann is not the only German judge with far-right views. After the defeat of fascism, the new West German government kept most of the Nazi judges in office. In 1954, 75-90% of judges had been active in Nazi times. Ever since then, this caste has been administering itself. The “independence of the judiciary” means that judges, often with far-right views, are independent of any meaningful democratic control.
The Health Minister
Melanie R. is a family doctor in Lower Saxony, and hadn’t gotten on anyone’s radar as a far-right activist, except for a former relationship to Michael Fritsch. But she provided lots of cash to the conspirators, and was picked to be health minister.
The Cultural Minister
René R. is a classical singer from the Black Forest — before getting arrested, he was scheduled to sing at an advent concert in a church. A Covid skeptic, he was going to be the cultural minister of a far-right Germany.
This list could go on and on. The cabinet list also include a number of former members of the special forces unit KSK — and at least one active member.
Where do these dark forces come from? Basically, this was a conspiracy of wealthy losers: weirdos who disdain everyone they consider below them, while feeling bitter towards elites for not recognising their status.
And while these people might seem incredibly silly, don’t forget just how clownish the original Nazis were. Parading around in fantastical uniforms, they were led by a failed playwrite, a morphine-addicted former fighter pilot, and an occasionally homeless former corporal who couldn’t paint a landscape to save his life. Their idiotic views didn’t prevent them from taking power once German elites thought they could be useful.
We need to dry out the swamp from which these privileged obscurantists have crawled. I’d start with a program of democratization. This means:
- Disband the KSK. Germany’s special forces have produced so many Nazi scandals that it’s become impossible to keep count. Are there actually any KSK soldiers who aren’t Nazis?
- Democratise the judiciary. Why should a clique of conservative men have a monopoly over justice? The United States shows that the legal system can include some democracy, including the election of judges and decisions by juries.
- Abolish aristocratic privileges. Their royal crests might seem like harmless cosplay, but these networks have real economic and political power. All their lands and castles need to be put into public ownership. Also, Austria has a law prohibiting all silly aristocratic names. I could never name my kid “XIII,” and no one else should be allowed to.
- Eliminate extreme wealth. At the end of the day, this was a conspiracy of wealthy people — they were communicating on satellite phones that cost €1,500 a pop. Their strange misadventures might seem like a potential third season of The White Lotus — except they can have deadly consequences.
As inequality soars around the world, the rich keep sliding to the right. We need taxes and expropriations to make society more egalitarian and more democratic. That’s how we’ll stamp out right-wing terrorism.