Core theories of the Reich Citizens

As already mentioned, all Reich Citizens share a deep distrust of state authorities. They assume that the FRG lacks legal legitimacy. The theories on which they rely, however, can be of a very different nature. A very widespread argument is that the Third Reich never actually collapsed. In 1945, only the Wehrmacht capitulated; the Nazi regime, however, continued to exist (and still does). Some theories also assume that there was no capitulation at all, only an armistice, meaning that Germany is in essence still at war. Either way, according to such theories, the FRG was never properly founded and therefore does not actually exist. However, this is not interpreted as an unintentional formal error, but instead as a deliberate calculus, one aimed at establishing an American satellite state. The official rulers of Germany are therefore nothing more than puppets of the Americans.

Reich Citizens find evidence of this often in ‘urban legends’ leaked by supposed insiders. One example is the story told by Gerd Helmut Komossa, a former general in the German military. He claims that there is a so-called ‘Chancellor’s File’ that must be signed by every chancellor before s/he is sworn in. The file specifies that the Allies are granted media sovereignty until 2099 and that only the ‘official’ version of the Second World War may be published. Others assume that the Third Reich never officially collapsed and that the Nazis are still in power - supported by the Americans. Interestingly, the Reich Citizens use quite progressive arguments to prove this theory of the ‘US-Nazis’. They point out that many leading officials of the Nazi regime successfully continued their careers in the FRG.1

Some take it a step further and assume that the FRG is nothing more than a company with limited liabilities that is owned by the Americans. Chancellor

Angela Merkel is therefore merely a ‘branch manager’, and the Germans are her employees. For the supporters of this theory, there are numerous clues to support this claim. For example, the German word for an identity card {Personalausweis) also resembles the word for personnel {Personal), suggesting that the Germans are nothing but personnel of this company. The fact that surnames are written in capital letters serves as a further clue, since it is said that the names of slaves in the Roman Empire were also written in capital letters. This is believed to show that one is nothing more than a slave in the FRG (in reality, the Romans did not use lowercase letters and thus every word was capitalised). Furthermore, on German identity cards, ‘German’ is written under ‘Citizenship’. But ‘German’ is not a state (Germany is), proving once more that the FRG does not actually exist.

Another argument is based on the fact that German authorities and constitutional bodies are also listed in the German company register - for example, the Bundesrepublik Deutschland - Finanzagentur GmbH (‘Federal Republic of Germany - financial agency’), an institution founded to take out loans on behalf of the state. For Reich Citizens, however, this proves that the FRG itself is indeed nothing more than a company. Furthermore, in the Free State Bavaria, the word Polizei (‘police’) is listed in the German Trademark Register to prevent its unauthorised use in documents, websites or emails, as doing so might illegitimately simulate authority. For Reich Citizens, this proves that the police are, in fact, nothing more than a trademark. A further clue can be found in the German constitution, which is called Grundgesetz (‘Basic Law’) and not explicitly Verfassung (‘constitution’). Furthermore, Reich Citizens complain that there is no founding document of the FRG. Therefore, they often write to authorities or ministries asking them to show them a document that proves that the FRG was properly founded.

Some Reich Citizens go even further into the past. They believe only in the legitimacy of the constitution of the Weimar Republic (1918-1933). Others assume that the Weimar Republic was already an illegitimate state and that the past German Empire (1871-1918) continues to exist and is the only legitimate German state. In this case, the peace treaties of Versailles are considered an illegal attempt to ‘colonise’ Germany. Some assume that federal states of the German Empire (such as the Free State of Prussia or the People’s State of Bavaria) are the central and legitimate organisational units. They reject the current borders of the Federal States of Germany {Bundesländer), as these borders were established by the Allies after the end of the Second World War.

However, there is also the argument that the FRG has only recently lost its legal legitimacy as a result of German reunification. According to this argument, the ‘Two Plus Four Agreement’ of 1990 abolished the veto rights of the Allies and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) adopted the constitution of the FRG. In the course of this process, an article that restricted the applicability of the constitution to the ‘old’ states of Germany was temporarily abolished to include the ‘new’ states of Germany. Reich Citizens argue that there was no constitution at all in this interim period and that from that day onwards the FRG ceased to exist. All administrative acts made thereafter are thus not legally binding.

To summarise, the Keich Citizens criticise the unlawful founding of states at different historical epochs, from the Weimar Republic in 1918 to the FRG in 1949 to the reunification in 1989. Sometimes, Reich Citizens focus on certain epochs, and sometimes they criticise all supposedly unlawful transitions equally. Reich Citizens differ in that they in some cases openly identify as ‘Reich Citizens’ and in other cases do not. They occasionally call the German population ‘Reich Citizens’ since some Germans do not know they are still living in the Third Reich. However, in recent years, the term Reich Citizen has acquired a negative connotation for many members of the movement, as they associate it with stigmatisation by the mainstream media. Regardless of which epoch Reich Citizens refer to, the reordering of Europe’s power relations is accused of being illegitimate, whether it is the Treaty of Versailles after the First World War, the reordering by the Allies after the Second World War, the new order of Europe after the fall of the Iron Curtain or the ongoing process of European integration.2

The Reich Citizens’ Movement did not emerge in a void but is embedded in the history of German right-wing extremism. Anti-state sentiments were also present in earlier right-wing extremist counter-narratives - however, this was not always the case. Throughout the German Empire (1871-1918), the German Right was loyal to the system, seeing themselves as faithful servants of both the Crown and the Empire. It was not until the Weimar Republic that parts of the German Right transformed into a force that radically challenged the status quo (Botsch, 2012: 11). Their main concern was the revision of the unpopular postwar order, especially the Versailles treaties, which were perceived as an attempt to oppress the German people. But for this post-war order, not only foreign states but also their own state was held responsible. The idea prevailed that their own fatherland had been infiltrated by traitors and enemies from within and thus had to be liberated from them (Stoss, 2010: 25). The loyalty of the German Right was no longer unconditionally dedicated to the German state but was primarily devoted to the German people. After the Second World War, right-wing forces quickly formed and opposed the allies, fearing a vicious re-education of the German people and, ultimately, foreign rule over Germany. Above all, the division of Germany was interpreted as an attempt to divide and weaken the German people (Stoss, 2010: 31). After the end of the Second World War, parties such as the Sozialistische Reichspartei (‘Socialist Reich Party’) or the Deutsche Reichspartei (‘German Reich Party’) demanded the restoration of the German Reich. The Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (‘National Democratic Party of Germany’), which is still active today and has also been partially successful regionally, has, since its foundation in 1964, also been calling for the restoration of the German Reich to its 1937 borders (Hermann, 2019). Additionally, leading neo-Nazis have always identified as members of the Third Reich, therefore calling themselves ‘Reich Citizens’ (Freitag, 2014). However, in contrast to the Reich Citizens’ Movement, they do not believe that the Third Reich secretly still exists, they just have an affirmative relation to it and are actively seeking to restore it. Reich Citizens, on the other hand, usually dissociate themselves from the Third Reich. As a reminder, many Reich Citizens refer to non-believers of their theory as ‘Reich Citizens’, as they are in their eyes not aware of the fact that they are still living in a Nazi state. Reich Citizens who actually call themselves ‘Reich Citizens’ usually refer to the German Reich (1871-1918) and not to the Third Reich (1933-1945). Furthermore, what makes the Reich Citizens so unique is their style of argumentation, which focuses on the legal illegitimacy of the German state, as will be shown in the next section.

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