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Heinrich XIII – or “Prince of Reuss” – has been named as the probable mastermind of the plot of terrorist attacks against German institutions foiled on Wednesday. Arrested the same day, this septuagenarian, who belongs to a very old family of German aristocrats, espoused the conspiracy and anti-Semitic theories of the “Reichsbürger” (“Citizens of the Reich”) movement.
He is presented as the mastermind of the plan to attack German democratic institutions which has just been foiled in Germany. And what a “brain”! At the head of a group of around fifty people, of whom more than 20 were arrested on Wednesday December 7, Heinrich XIII designated the power to overthrow the government of Europe’s leading economic power.
Enough to plunge the whole country into a state of shock. The Germans are stunned to discover that a coup attempt was in preparation, and wonder if these few extremists visibly bottle-fed with conspiracy really believed in their chance of success. “Ok, we can say that they are crazy – this group was miles away from being able to overthrow our institutions – but it would be a mistake to laugh about it”, wishes to warn in an editorial Michael Götschenberg, the expert in terrorism of ARD, the first German television channel.
Heinrich XIII perfectly embodies this double dimension: this 71-year-old aristocrat designated by the investigators as the probable leader of this terrorist cell, seemed moved by a cold determination, combined with a kind of delusion of grandeur which pays little heed to realities. .
During the search of his home in Frankfurt (central Germany), carried out on Wednesday, the investigators revealed that they had found documents attesting to the purpose of this company described as “terrorist”. Heinrich XIII had a very specific idea of the aftermath.
>> To read: Who are the Reichsbürger, these nostalgics of the Reich?
He sees himself at the head of a new German monarchy or of the restored German Empire. Former soldiers, members of the group, had been responsible for preparing the ground by setting up a “new army” loyal to the future regime. He had also held several meetings with his co-conspirators in the castle he holds in Bad Lobenstein, a village in Thuringia.
Heinrich XIII had also hatched plans to negotiate recognition of this new Germany with the “victorious powers of the Second World War”. Contacts with Russia have even already been made, claiming several German media citing sources close to the investigation. Moscow was also quick, on Wednesday, to ensure that it had no connection with this “terrorist and illegal” organization.
These terrorist action plans fear to make waves in the small circle of the descendants of the German nobility, strong of about 80,000 members. Escorted by police from his home, Heinrich XIII, gray hair combed back, checkered jacket and a small good chic scarf, is indeed more reminiscent of a regular hunter, rather than an illuminated conspiracy stuffed all day long on obscure Internet forums – unless the two are not incompatible.
In the shadow of Heinrich XXVII and Heinrich XIV
If the nobility was suppressed in Germany in 1919, Heinrich XIII did not miss an opportunity to present himself as an aristocrat belonging to the Reuss family, “about 1,000 years old”. In several YouTube videos, he calls himself Heinrich XIII, Prince of Reuss.
This house certainly has ancient roots, but only goes back about 800 years. In 1918, she was still at the head of a territory which covers the current Land (German administrative region) of Thuringia (central-eastern Germany).
At the time, the ruler of this territory was called Heinrich XXVII, while the current head of the House is called Heinrich XIV and his designated successor is Heinrich…XXIX. This is the particularity of this line: all the men of the family must be named Heinrich. They are distinguished from each other by number, and all the first male Reuss children of each century are named Heinrich I.
But if they all have the same surname as the chief conspirator of the far-right group, they do not seem to share his opinions. Heinrich XIV had recently indicated that his distant relative Heinrich XIII had cut ties with his family for years. He had specified that the septuagenarian was “an old man with confused ideas”.
Heinrich XIII would be the ugly duckling among the 30 other Heinrichs still alive in this family, which has about sixty members. “From now on everyone – even in the United States – will associate our family with terrorism and reactionary thought, it is quite atrocious”, lamented Heinrich XIV in an interview granted Wednesday to MDR, the channel regional television station of Saxony and Thuringia.
Reichsburger and anti-Semitism
These reactionary ideas have everything to do with the movement of the “Reichsbürger” (“citizens of the Reich”). All the members of the terrorist cell arrested also seem to be sympathizers of this small group, whose main belief is that there is no longer a legitimate Germany since the end of the Second World War. They all claim either of the Third Reich, or of the Weimar Republic or even of the Empire which ended in 1918 (this is the case of Heinrich XIII) and do not recognize the constitution of 1949.
In a striking video from 2020, presented as a speech by the “prince” in front of UN representatives in Geneva, Heinrich XIII thus affirms that Germany has no longer had sovereignty since 1949 and would be nothing but a “private enterprise” directed by external powers.
A year earlier, he assumed his anti-Semitism: according to him, the foreign forces at work behind the scenes would be led by the Rothschild family, while the First World War had for main but to allow the creation of a State Jewish.
Denial of the reality of the German rule of law and anti-Semitic delusions are part of the manual of most Reichsbürger. In 2016 already, the murder of a police officer by a “Reichsbürger” had proven the dangerousness of this movement. Six years later, Heinrich XIII and his cronies demonstrated just how much of a threat these beliefs could pose to the rule of law.