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Image: Picture-Alliance/dpa/N. Armer

Reichsbürger theories debunked

Kate Brady
October 20, 2016

Following the fatal shooting of a German police officer by a member of the Reichsbürger group in Bavaria, the far-right movement is in the spotlight again. DW takes a closer look at some of their theories.


'The German Reich still exists'

The legal transition from Nazi Germany to the Federal Republic was anything but simple. While some legal experts say the German Empire has perished and its successor is the Federal Republic of Germany, others claim that the German Reich still exists, but in the form of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Germany's Left Party (Die Linke) last year submitted a question to the Bundestag - Germany's lower house of parliament - regarding the "continued existence of the German Reich." The party asked whether Berlin would publicly reject the claim to prevent it being "instrumentalized by neo-Nazis and the so-called 'Reichsbürger movement' for their territorial heresy against neighboring EU countries."

In response, Germany's Constitutional Court ruled that the "German Reich did not perish, nor did the Federal Republic of Germany become its successor. Instead, it is identical to a subject of international law."

In short, the Federal Republic of Germany is a legitimate state with laws to which citizens must adhere. The dispute as to whether the German Reich still exists has no effect on day to day life in Germany.

'Germany isn't a republic, but a company registered under 'Deutschland GmbH''

The company "Deutschland GmbH" did, in fact, register in Frankfurt on August 29, 1990. But is the destiny of Germany's 80 million citizens really in the hands of a dubious company, registered with capital of 50,000 Deutsche Marks? Nein.

Ein Sack voll Geld von der Deutschen Bundesbank
'Deutschland GmbH' belongs entirely to the German stateImage: picture-alliance/chromorange

The full name of the company in the commercial register is actually the "Federal Republic of Germany Finance Agency GmbH" and belongs entirely to the German state.

"Deutschland GmbH" keeps a check on Germany's finances, ensuring that old loans are cleared, new ones are recorded and surplus money is invested in the market as profitably as possible.

Contrary to the popular belief among some Reichsbürger, the agency doesn't make any independent decisions about Germany's debt, nor does it control any tax authorities.

'German citizens are employees of a company'

The name given to German identity cards is "Personalausweis." A misinterpretation of the word "Personal" has been enough for some Reichsbürger to claim that German citizens are in fact employees of the aforementioned "Deutschland GmbH."

Symbolbild Personalausweis Deutschland 26.09.2014
A German I.D. is known as a 'Personalausweis'Image: picture-alliance/dpa/K. J. Hildenbrand

One flick through the dictionary, however, and any German can find that, in this case, "personal" is derived from the late Latin "Personalia," which translates as "personal thing," as opposed to the Medieval Latin "personale," meaning "personnel" or "staff."

The expression "die Personalien aufnehmen" meaning "the personal details" is also known in German, proving that Germany's I.D. cards are not for members of staff at "Deutschland GmbH," but a document containing personal data.

'The Federal Republic of Germany is not a sovereign state'

After the Second World War, the Allies retained several rights to influence Germany. So, even up until German Reunification, there was a thread of truth to this claim. But on September 12, 1990, France, the UK, the Soviet Union and the US gave up their rights over Germany when they signed the "Two-Plus-Four Treaty" with East and West Germany.

Foreign Ministers (l-r): Roland Dumas (France), Eduard Schewardnadse (Soviet Union), Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, James Baker (US) Hans-Dietrich Genscher (West German) Lothar de Maiziere (East Germany) and Douglas Hurd (UK)
Foreign Ministers of the Two-Plus-Four Treaty and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev (center) on Semptember 12, 1990Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Article 7 of the treaty reads:

(1) The French Republic, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America hereby terminate their rights and responsibilities relating to Berlin and to Germany as a whole. As a result, the corresponding, related quadripartite agreements, decisions and practices are terminated and all related Four Power institutions are dissolved.

(2) The united Germany shall have accordingly full sovereignty over its internal and external affairs.

'Germany doesn't have a peace treaty'

Yes, this is true. But more than seven decades on since the end of the Second World War, the relationship between Germany and the former allies has been redefined and a peace treaty is no longer necessary. In 1945, the victorious powers issued unilateral declarations of peace and 45 years later, the argument was settled once and for all in the form of the aforementioned "Two-Plus-Four Treaty."

'Germany's Basic Law isn't a constitution'

Symbolbild Verfassung Grundgesetz Deutschland
Germany's constitution is known as the Basic LawImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Germany's Basic Law (Grundgesetz) was agreed upon in by the Allies in May 1949 as a temporary constitution. People doubting the document's legitimacy often quote Paragraph 146 which clearly state that the Basic Law is no longer valid if "a constitution comes into force which has been decided on by the German people in a free decision" - meaning effectively that the basic law could be replaced.

Nevertheless, since German Reunification more than a quarter of a century ago, the Basic Law has remained the valid constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany.

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