Prince Heinrich Trial Begins: Attempted Coup and Establishment of 'New Reich'

They do not recognize democratic Germany, they want to restore the Reich, and they allegedly planned a coup d'état. This Monday, the trial of the group surrounding the rich noble descendant and others begins

by Sededin Dedovic
Prince Heinrich Trial Begins: Attempted Coup and Establishment of 'New Reich'
© Thomas Lohnes / Getty Images

They don't recognize democratic Germany; they want to restore the Reich and allegedly planned a coup. This Monday, the trial begins for a group around a wealthy noble descendant and others. It sounds absurd, but insiders say it's no joke.

They probably aimed for nothing less than a coup in Germany. A group called the Reich Citizens, gathered around Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss, likely aimed to storm the German Bundestag and arrest parliament members. Their targets were particularly Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens), and the leader of the opposition Christian Democrats Friedrich Merz.

However, a suspected far-right terrorist group called the "Patriotic Union" was thwarted by a raid across the country on December 7, 2022. At that time, 25 people were arrested, including Reuss. Most have been in custody since then.

382 firearms and nearly 150,000 rounds of ammunition were seized. The first of three trials against this group, estimated to consist of around two hundred people, begins this Monday (April 29) before the Higher Regional Court in Stuttgart.

Police stand outside a residence that they raided in Berlin, Germany. Law enforcement agencies© Carsten Koall / Getty Images

To many, it all seems ludicrous.

Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss (72), a real estate trader from Frankfurt, is considered the group's leader, intended to become the "regent" of the new Reich. According to the indictment, the group expected some kind of signal from conspirators to seize power as early as September 2022.

Conspirators included secret groups formed by members of foreign governments, militaries, and intelligence services. After Reuss's group was arrested, further raids followed, including in November of last year. Following that, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) stated that the presence of the "anti-state right" requires us to "defend our democracy anew every day." Prepared for violence, Reuss's group allegedly fantasized about using Bundeswehr helicopters, piloted by supporters in the German military.

They allegedly even planned a violent takeover of the German arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch, headquartered in Oberndorf. The accused are charged with membership in a terrorist organization and high treason. All three trials together will likely be mammoth proceedings where the ideology of the Reich Citizens group will also be a central issue.

According to the indictment, the ideology includes this: Prince Reuss believes that Germany is ruled by some kind of "deep state" aiming to organize the murders of children and young people on a large scale.

: The presiding judge Joachim Holzhausen (C) opens the Reichsbürger (Empire citizens) trial on April 29, 2024 in Stuttgart,© Thomas Lohnes / Getty Images

According to their beliefs, the flood in the Ahr Valley in western Germany in the summer of 2021 was merely an attempt to cover up the murder of children by flooding old government bunkers.

Allegedly, within Reuss's circle of supporters, there was talk of six hundred dead children. The State Prosecutor's Office is convinced that the group intended to counter this with a violent seizure of power. At that time, the conspirators wanted to negotiate a new peace treaty with former war victors from the US, France, and the UK, but especially with Russia.

To prepare for the whole affair, the group apparently held shooting exercises and spied on the Bundestag premises to be ready for the day they took power. Former Member of Parliament for the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), Birgit Malzak-Vinkemann, a former judge, is also accused.

She will be tried in Frankfurt alongside Prince Reuss. In the new state of the Reich Citizens, Malzak-Vinkemann was supposedly to be the Minister of Justice. Security agencies estimate the total number of "Reich Citizens" in Germany at 20,000, of which about 2,300 are ready for violence.

Their commonality lies in the rejection of democracy, monarchist tendencies, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism.

Parts of this image have been pixelated to obscure the identity of individuals for legal reasons.) Defendants arrive on the firs© Thomas Lohnes / Getty Images

Reich Citizens do not recognize the post-war order and the Federal Republic of Germany as the legitimate successor to the German Reich.

In some cases, Reich Citizens openly threaten or commit violence, also threatening abduction, such as that of the federal health minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD). Author Tobias Ginzburg secretly investigated the milieu for eight months, and during the pandemic, he also mingled with radical anti-vaccination activists and conspiracy theorists.

In March of last year, when asked if the movement indeed poses a danger to DW, he said, "It's not as easy to answer as it initially seems. Because the Reich Citizens are not a united movement, they do not have identical extremism.

It's more a conspiracy theory deeply rooted in German history and National Socialism." But the group shares the fantasy of all right-wing extremist activists: "It's the idea of a homogeneous society, without others, without foreigners." In December of last year, a German prince attempted to seize power in Germany.

Prince Heinrich XIII is a descendant of a 700-year-old noble family that once ruled a small state in eastern Germany. He, along with the military leader of the conspirators, Rüdiger von P, a retired German paratrooper who gathered like-minded German special forces around him, including active officers of the Special Forces Command, as prosecutors highlighted, was accused of founding last year a "terrorist organization with the aim of overthrowing the existing state order in Germany and replacing it with its own form of state, which was already in the process of being established." The entire plan was hatched at the hunting lodge of an aristocrat in Thuringia, where plans for a coup were discussed.

Reuss repeatedly emphasized that modern Germany is not a sovereign state and is under the control of the United States and the United Kingdom. Source: DeutscheWelle