Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss: Who is the ‘ringleader’ of the far-right German conspiracy – and what is the Reichsburger movement? | world news

German authorities claim to have foiled a plot by a far-right terrorist group to overthrow the government.

More than 3,000 police officers took part in raids across the countrywith a self-proclaimed prince among 25 people arrested.

But who is Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss – the alleged 71-year-old mastermind – and what is the Reichsburger movement that allegedly inspired the plan?

Photo: AP

The ‘ringleader’ and the Ruess House

Heinrich XIII comes from an aristocratic German family that dates back to the 12th century, the House of Ruess, and authorities say the plotters planned to appoint him as head of a new government.

According to the German news site Bild, he had been in contact with Russian officials with the aim of negotiating a new order in the country.

His descendants once ruled parts of the East Germanybut this ended when the country became a republic and their lands became part of the state of Thuringia in 1920.

All male family members are named Heinrich (Henry), with the first child in each century known as Heinrich I, the second Heinrich II and so on.

It is said to be in honor of the Roman Emperor Henry VI who gave the family their titles. The numbering system resets roughly every century – or when it hits 100.

A lodge in Saaldorf, Thuringia, believed to belong to Heinrich, was raided. Photo: AP
A lodge in Saaldorf, believed to belong to Heinrich, was among the properties looted.  Photo: AP

Heinrich XIII still appears to be wealthy and a hunting lodge in Thuringia believed to belong to him was among the properties searched on Wednesday.

Born near Frankfurt in 1951, he married an Iranian and has a son and a daughter in their thirties.

Details of how he earns a living are unclear, but there are reports that he works in real estate and finance.

The current head of the House of Reuss, Prince Heinrich XIV, distanced himself earlier this year from his relative.

In an interview with German site OTZ in August, he described him as a “confused old man” who believed in conspiracy theories and said he had not been in contact with the family for 14 years.

What is the Reichsburger movement?

The plotters planned to use “violence and military means” and were “driven by fantasies of violent overthrow and conspiracy ideologies”, prosecutors said.

“Those arrested adhere to conspiracy myths consisting of various accounts of Reichsburger ideology as well as QAnon ideology,” prosecutor Peter Frank said in a statement.

Reichsburger translates to “Citizens of the Reich” and adherents believe that the post-WWII German state is illegitimate and a puppet state created by the Allies.

Reichsburger was largely a loosely structured movement made up of splinter groups and individuals.

Police escort a person to a helicopter during Wednesday's raids
Police escort a person to a helicopter in Karlsruhe during raids on Wednesday
Police secure the area after 25 suspected members and supporters of a far-right group were arrested in raids across Germany
The police also carried out operations in Berlin

It is estimated that there are around 20,000 members in Germany and the country’s intelligence agency estimates that 5% are far-right extremists with racist and anti-Semitic views.

Some refuse to pay taxes, reject German laws, or spam government departments and courts with made-up demands as a sign of disobedience and to crash the system.

The group had been considered fairly harmless until 2016, when a Reichsburger Believer shot and killed a police officer and injured three others when they raided his home to confiscate weapons.

Authorities have begun to monitor the group more closely and there are growing concerns about members stockpiling weapons.

The group is also said to be sympathetic to the American right. QAnon conspiracy mythswho claim that a secretive and diabolical global cabal conspired against Donald Trump when he was president.


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