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Reichsbürger adherents lose their weapons permits

May 22, 2018

As sympathisers reach out across social media and messaging services, the number of Reichsbürger supporters appears to have grown to 18,000. A number of them hold weapons but 450 have lost their permits.

Reichsbürger banner
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/N. Armer

The German Interior Ministry on Tuesday said that approximately 1,200 Reichsbürger and 750 right-wing extremists currently have a permit for one or more weapons.

The revelation came as part of its response to a parliamentary question from the Green party on the dangers of right-wing terrorist structures and right-wing militancy in Germany, as the Greens had expressed concern over an increase in the number of acts of violence perpetrated by right-wing extremists.

The key information 

  • The ministry said 450 weapons permits had been withdrawn from Reichsbürger individuals and associates since November 2016.
  • Permits were withdrawn from 59 right-wing extremists between January and November 2017.
  • The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV)'s 2016 annual report put the number of Reichsbürger at 10,000, with 500 to 600 of them classified as right-wing extremists.
  • The rise to the current estimate of 18,000 is partially explained by an increased use of social media and online messaging by sympathisers, rather than adherence to a formal group structure.

Green concerns

Greens parliamentary group spokeswoman Irene Mihalic, told Zeit Online: "The amount of arms held by right-wing extremists and Reichsbürger remains extremely worrying."

In expressing concern over the figures presented, Mihalic said: "It is incomprehensible that only 59 right-wing extremists were deprived of weapons permits," She asked: "What about the other 691 allegedly armed Nazis?"

Who are the Reichsbürger? Reichsbürger (Citizens of the Reich) describes a loosely connected network of people who deny the German government's legitimacy and consider the 1937 borders of the German Empire still exist. They regard the government as an administrative body in a foreign-occupied country. Many Reichsbürger hold far-right or anti-Semitic views.

Closing in: Despite the lack of a formal group structure, investigators have increasingly been able to find Reichsbürger and right-wing extremists holding permits for weapons as the nature of the Reichsbürger scene has become clearer to them.

Ongoing investigations: Mihalic also expressed concern about investigations being led by the Attorney General into right-wing terrorists. There are 14 ongoing cases but only 26 people classified as a danger in relation to right-wing, politically motivated crime. Although in comparison to other types of threat the numbers are low, compared to previous years they are rising.

jm/rt (AFP, KNA)

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