More Germans reject Berlin rule
Membership of groups that reject the authority of the German state has surged, the BfV, Germany’s domestic intelligence service has warned, fuelling concerns about the threat of extremist violence.
The number of Reichsbürger “Reich citizens” had risen by 65 per cent in a year, the agency reported.
Peter Fitzek calls himself “king of Germany” and runs a hectare-sized micro-state founded in 2012 near the eastern city of Wittenberg.
He said he was independent of German law and government and had his own flag, crest, constitution, bank, separate health insurance and pension system and e-mark currency.
“I have nothing to do with the far right,” Fitzek told the Financial Times. “I am completely peaceful and would never use violence. All I have done is to make an offer to people.”
Fitzek said Germany was an “administrative construct”, like a club.
“If the club president does things I don’t like or if the club starts pursuing goals that my conscience cannot support, then I leave that club. The same should be the case with the federal republic.”
The BfV has warned about an unsettling trend of Germans questioning the authority of Berlin’s rule.
Separatists, who are referred to as Reichsbürger or Selbstverwalter (self-administrators), are seen as a symptom of the same dissatisfaction with the political class that has enabled the rise of Alternative for Germany (AfD), the far-right party that won 13 per cent of the vote in the September 2017 general election.
The movement has been blamed for high-profile crimes, including 10 murders committed by the so-called National Socialist Underground (NSU), whose only surviving member was sentenced to life in prison in June.
“What you see is a deeply rooted dissatisfaction that becomes so radical that people want to drop out of the federal republic altogether,” said Dirk Wilking of the Demos Institute in Potsdam, who has written a book on Reichsbürger.
The researcher said they do not pay speeding tickets, television licence fees or taxes. “Then come the fines, and ultimately they are driven into bankruptcy,” Wilking said. “They drop out of the system but in the end they face ruin.”
Fitzek was convicted of embezzlement and illegal banking activities last year and given almost four years in jail, which was later overturned.
He is subjected to BfV monitoring and engages in “efforts to thwart the constitution”, according to the spy agency.
Fitzek said he had not paid income tax for at least 10 years.
Wilking related the movement to the wider trend towards populism.
“It is also an expression of the deep mistrust towards the institutions of the state. In the case of the AfD, that mistrust drives them into parliament,” he said. “In the case of the Reichsbürger, it drives them out of the state altogether.”
The recent BfV report estimated the movement had 16,500 members, of whom around 900 were classified as right-wing extremists.
The agency highlighted the movement’s fragmented, individualistic nature but also numerous commonalities. “What unites the members of this scene is their fundamental rejection of the legitimacy and sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Germany, and the existing legal order,” the report said.
Protesters say Germany was never properly founded. Picture credit: Wikimedia