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Police wounded by 'Reich' proponent

October 19, 2016

Four police officers were wounded when a member of a far-right group opened fire as officials served a warrant. The man was slightly wounded himself and taken into custody.

Georgensgmünd Reichsbürger schießt auf Polizisten Bayerns Innenminister Joachim Herrmann
Image: picture alliance/dpa/D. Karmann

The Bavarian interior minister, Joachim Herrman (pictured above), said on Wednesday that authorities needed to take the danger presented more seriously in light on Wednesday's attack. He said they should examine the extent to which Reichsbürger members were owners of weapons.

A press release from the police department of Middle Franconia on Wednesday detailed a shooting that left four officers wounded and one member of a far-right movement in custody. One officer's injuries are life-threatening, although his condition was stable after an operation.

Police raided the residence of a 49-year-old man in the community of Georgensgmünd on Wednesday to secure weapons that the man had been deemed unfit to continue holding. The weapons were otherwise legal; the man is a hunting enthusiast with licenses for numerous firearms.

As police carried out the raid, the man opened fire. He was slightly injured before being taken into custody.

Georgensgmünd is about 40 km (25 miles) south of Nuremburg in the state of Bavaria.

'Citizens of the Reich'

Police say the suspect belongs to the "Reichsbürger" movement, which translates as "Citizens of the Reich." Members deny the existence of the current Federal Republic of Germany, established after World War II, and maintain that the German empire (or 'Reich') continues to exist as it stood in 1937.

However, Herrmann warned that the group should not simply be dismissed as an "association of crackpots," as some of its members are clearly capable of carrying out violent crimes. 

Berlin's state intelligence service described the movement in a recent report as "an extremely diverse range of small groups and individuals who believe in an ideological mixture of conspiracy theories, anti-Semitic and anti-democratic views, and who have been behaving increasingly aggressively for some time."

It is not the first time members of the Reichsbürger movement have clashed violently with police. Politicians and law enforcement officials are taking note, saying many members of the movement can be considered right-wing extremists.

At a press conference on Wednesday at the district administration offices in Roth, a spokesperson for the state of Bavaria's Office for the Protection of the Constitution said authorities did not rule out that "persons involved in this scene have undergone a process of radicalization."

Ulla Jelpke, a politician from Germany's The Left party, told the AFP news organization that it was time for security authorities and the government to lay to rest the "fairy tale" that Reichsbürger members could simply be considered "troublemakers and nutcases."

"Behind the crazed ideology of the Reichsbürger are often brutal right-wing extremists who do not shy away from violence," Jelpke added.

However, the Federal Interior Ministry in Berlin did not deem the movement to be as significant a threat. A spokesperson said the ministry holds the number of members to only be in the triple digits. However, they also acknowledged that there were likely to be many more Reichsbürger sympathizers who, "using pseudo-legal embellished arguments, promote absurd justifications for the continued existence of the German 'Reich.'"

Taking a stand against xenophobia and intolerance

mz,dm/jm (dpa, AFP)