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The Motley Crew that Wanted To Topple the German Government

  • December 11, 2022

Malsack-Winkemann’s lawyer declined to comment on the allegations, as did Prince Reuss’ defense lawyer. Lawyers for most of the other defendants could not be reached for comment.

In her party, the judge was considered part of the less radical camp, which says quite a bit about the AfD. She was extremely adept at spreading agitation and fake news.

For example, she claimed in a speech in the Bundestag that refugees are “colonized with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.” During the pandemic, she speculated that a 13-year-old girl died because she had been wearing a mask, an outright lie. She also described Donald Trump as a “true statesman,” even after the storming of the Capitol that he had stoked.

In 2021, in a party conference speech, the lawyer called for resistance to the “Great Reset,” a conspiracy ideology with anti-Semitic connotations, according to which “the elites” were using the coronavirus crisis to carry out a “great reboot” of the global economic system. In a Telegram channel bearing her name, messages with a slogan of the QAnon cult were disseminated until a few weeks ago. When DER SPIEGEL asked her if it was her channel, the AfD politician denied it. Shortly afterwards, the entries disappeared.

After she left the Bundestag, the Berlin judicial administration sought to prevent Malsack-Winkemann from returning to the regional court – initially without success. Since then, she has again been able to render verdicts at Chamber 19a, which is responsible for construction matters.

Even during the legal tug-of-war over her job, Malsack-Winkemann had become a target of terror investigators. Officers shadowed her and observed her as the judge met with Henry XIII Prince Reuss, the suspected ringleader, in a Berlin restaurant. Another AfD functionary was also present at the meeting.

Among the accused, there are at least two other men who are or were active in the AfD at the regional level. Also accused is Michael Fritsch, the leading candidate in the state of Lower Saxony for Die Basis, a party linked to the Querdenker movement, in the 2021 federal election. Within the scene, they call him the “protection man with a heart and a brain.”

The 59-year-old used to be the chief detective at the Hannover Police Department. That is, until he attracted attention with crude statements at rallies and was suspended. He spoke of alleged parallels between the SS and today’s “security apparatus.” As early as 2020, Fritsch returned his German identity card and applied for a “citizenship card,” as is customary in the Reichsbürger scene. He also requested to have his birth state changed to “Prussia.” A court has since ruled that the police can remove him from the civil service, a decision he appealed. His defense attorney didn’t want to comment on the terror allegations from the Federal Prosecutor’s Office.

For all its bizarreness, what makes the group so dangerous is its deep hatred of the state and the governing politicians. And its access to weapons. Several of the defendants allegedly possessed pistols and rifles, some legally and others illegally.

According to investigators, some of the suspects practiced shooting on Oschenberg Mountain near Bayreuth in Bavaria. The conspiratorial actions of the group created a major headache for investigators. The hard core of the group allegedly equipped itself with around a dozen Iridium satellite phones that have a unit price of around 1,500 euros each. They would still work even if the mobile phone network collapsed. The conspirators also allegedly signed nondisclosure agreements. Those who violated the terms would face death, it stated.

According to investigators, Alexander Q. is among the supporters of Reuss’ group. He runs one of the most trafficked German QAnon channels on Telegram, with more than 131,000 subscribers. His channel has an innocuous name: “Just ask us.” But the hashtags he uses, such as WWG1WGA, quickly make clear what it is really about – the abbreviation stands for the motto of the QAnon disciples: Where we go one, we go all.

In his voice messages, he regularly railed against the “fascist regime” and spread fake news nonstop. In July 2021, shortly before the massive flooding disaster in Germany’s Ahr Valley, he claimed, for example, that the flood water had washed up the corpses of 600 children. He claimed they had been imprisoned for years in underground facilities, where they were tortured and finally killed in order to deprive them of the metabolic chemical compound adrenochrome, which supposedly has a rejuvenating effect. The tale of murdered children is a popular conspiracy tale among followers of the QAnon cult.

Four weeks after the 2021 federal election in Germany, the Telegram propagandist posted a voice message on his channel warning of a large scale fraud – like the one in the U.S. In the eyes of QAnon supporters there, Donald Trump was removed from power through election fraud. The unleashed their fury by storming the Capitol.

Germany has also had a similar scare, although on a much smaller scale. In the summer of 2020, supporters of conspiracy theories stormed the stairs of the Reichstag building on the sidelines of a major protest in Berlin against measures aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus. A QAnon disciple had given the signal to run: “We’re going up there and taking our house back here today and from now on!” For a brief moment, only three policemen stood between the roaring crowd and the entrance gate to the house of parliament. Then reinforcements arrived and they succeeded in keeping parliament sealed off.

Why people from all educational and professional backgrounds believe in abstruse narratives is a question that researchers have tried to explore in recent years.

Social psychologist Pia Lamberty differentiates between misinformation and disinformation and broader conspiracy narratives. She says that people are particularly susceptible to fake news if they have neither the capacity nor the motivation to delve deeply into a topic. The simpler or more emotional the answers, the easier it is for them to catch on.

She says the belief in all-encompassing conspiracy narratives, on the other hand, has more to do with a person’s own identity and psychological phenomena, with a general distrust of “powerful people” such as politicians or scientists, for example. That, she says, can lead to the conviction that everything bad that happens in society is the result of secret planning. Lamberty considers the group that has now been uncovered to be “extremely dangerous” precisely because of its composition.

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