The time to forgive and forget had passed, the grey-bearded man said in a heavy Bavarian growl, his back facing the turquoise Adriatic sea as he calmly gesticulated towards the camera.
“Those people who bullied us, who locked us up”, he said, were about to face a reckoning in an “epochal upheaval” that would usher in a new judicial and political order. Change was imminent – a matter of weeks. “If everything goes to plan, we’ll do it before Christmas,” the man, who calls himself “General Eder”, promised in a video uploaded to a website popular among far-right conspiracy theorists on advent Sunday this year.
Ten days later, in the early morning of Wednesday, 64-year-old Maximilian Eder was arrested in the Italian city of Perugia, as part of Germany’s biggest-ever series of raids against rightwing extremism. Along with 25 co-conspirators, Eder is accused of hatching a plan to overthrow the state by violent means, install a shadow government headed by a minor German aristocrat, and reach out to Russia to renegotiate post-second world war treaties.
Even though none of the coup plotters were well-known public figures, their social background raised eyebrows: they included family doctors, judges, gourmet chefs and opera singers, and several of the rag-tag bunch of wannabe revolutionaries seemed to have been radicalised in the comfortably well-off, respectable centre of society.
A civil servant at Lower Saxony’s criminal police office was also being investigated for connections with the group, broadcaster ZDF reported.
Their ring was completed by men with a military background, such as Eder: a genuine commander of one of the Bundeswehr’s armoured infantry battalions between 1998 and 2000, who spent time serving in Kosovo and Afghanistan and was a founding member of Germany’s special forces command (KSK). An ex-commander at paratrooper battalion 251 was named as the aspiring leader of the terrorist group’s “military arm”.
But it was the inclusion of a former Bundestag delegate of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) that rang the shrillest alarm bells: as an ex-MP, Birgit Malsack-Winkemann would have had knowledge of security arrangements and special access privileges to the complex of parliamentary buildings in the heart of Berlin.
A list of potential targets, retrieved from a suspect’s home during the police raids, reportedly included seven members of Germany’s parliament, including the Green foreign minister Annalena Baerbock, conservative opposition leader Friedrich Merz, and the co-leader and general secretary of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Saskia Esken and Kevin Kühnert.
Germany’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said he was “deeply concerned” by the alleged plot, describing it as a “new level”.
Whether the group of conspirators would have really posed a serious threat to Germany’s democratic order, or whether these were just a bunch of eccentrics with a hyperactive imagination, however, has been subject to debate in the days after the arrests.
The fact that select newspapers and camera crews had been informed of the dawn raids in advance – as early as two weeks ago, the Left party MP Martina Renner claimed – has led to criticism that the operation was designed as a PR job for an intelligence community that has been slow to uncover similar, arguably more threatening plans by far-right “preppers”. [Continue reading…]