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The Disturbing Truth: What's Behind the German Coup

Roundup
tags: far right, coups, German history



Annika Brockschmidt is a freelance journalist, author, a podcast-producer who currently writes for the Tagesspiegel, ZEIT Online and elsewhere. Her second non-fiction book America's Holy Warriors: How the Religious Right endangers Democracy was published in German in October 2021 and was an immediate bestseller. She co-hosts the podcast "Kreuz und Flagge" ("Cross and Flag") with visiting professor at Georgetown University, Thomas Zimmer, which explores the history of the Religious Right.

The US has had to deal with a home-grown attempted coup for the past two years. This week, Germans awoke to headlines that gave them a taste of what their American friends felt on January 6, 2021 as Germany saw its largest anti-terrorism operation carried out by police in recent history. Three thousand police officers searched 130 sites and 25 people have so far been detained by law enforcement on suspicion of the attempted violent overthrow of the government. 

Aspects of the plot—to storm the German parliament and take members hostage—seem to echo what some rioters had planned for members of Congress on January 6th. But while the German terror group was stopped before they could reach the steps of the Reichstag building in central Berlin on this occasion, their plans were even more extensive: For at least a year, as they had conspired to establish secure IT structures and communication channels, they conducted shooting drills, plotted the overthrow of the democratically elected government, and planned attacks on critical infrastructure like the power grid, in order to create civil-war like scenes. (Coincidentally, the power grid in Moore County, North Carolina had apparently been attacked just days earlier leaving around 40,000 people without power.)

That degree of plotting would be troubling in itself, to put it mildly. But there’s another aspect that makes these thwarted right-wing terror plans particularly frightening: This was no plot designed by your classical neo-Nazis: young, male, out of work, on the fringes of society. This was a terror plot planned by those the German media refers to as “the bourgeois center”—the middle of society—not its fringes. A judge and former MP, policemen and members of the military. 

Pia Lamberty is a trained psychologist and the CEO of the Center for Monitoring, Analysis and Strategy, a German non-profit inter-disciplinary think tank which combines expertise on conspiracy theories, disinformation, antisemitism and right-wing extremism. She explains that many still have faulty preconceptions of what a right-wing extremist looks like or what part of society they belong to: 

“There are many clichés about right-wing extremists. Often, these don’t represent reality: right-wing extremists are present in all parts and areas of society. To believe that academic credentials or a certain societal standing makes a person impervious to radicalisation is a fatal misconception and just plain wrong. We have to understand that right-wing extremism is part of society and emerges from all of its parts.” 

Parallels to January 6th are visible here as well where the rioters were older and from a higher social class than most right-wing terrorists have been to date, according to a survey conducted by the Atlantic. The men and women who stormed the Capitol had well-paying jobs, were middle-aged—and a concerning number were former members of the military and law enforcement. 

Read entire article at Religion Dispatches

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