In Germany, Far-Right Plotters of an Improbable Coup Go on Trial

Prince Heinrich XIII of Reuss, the obscure aristocrat who wanted to become German chancellor, and eight men and women who planned to bring him into power by violently overthrowing the government, went on trial on Tuesday in Frankfurt.

Nearly a year and a half after a spectacular nationwide raid involving 3,000 police officers at 150 locations that the authorities say foiled a bizarre, far-right plan to seize power, the prince and the plotters will start facing justice. It is expected to be one of the most complex court cases since West Germany tried Auschwitz concentration camp commanders in the 1960s.

In a large, gray temporary courtroom hastily built on the outskirts of Frankfurt, the nine accused saw each other for the first time since late 2022, when most of them were arrested. In that time, prosecutors have analyzed thousands of files and chat exchanges and hours of witness testimony to prepare a case they hope will show the grave danger posed by the would-be insurrectionists, who included several retired elite soldiers, a police officer and a former federal far-right lawmaker.

Tobias Engelstetter, one of the four federal prosecutors arguing the case in Frankfurt, read the bizarre details behind the charges in an opening statement that lasted longer than two hours.

Members of the group, who called themselves the “United Patriots,” believed the government was run by pedophilic, illegitimate politicians who had access to a network of underground military bases. The plotters believed in the existence of a secret alliance, prosecutors say, consisting of sympathetic foreign intelligence services, including ones belonging to the United States and Russia, would help the group overthrow the deep state once a signal was given.

Prince Heinrich XIII of Reuss, the obscure aristocrat who wanted to become German chancellor, at the court on Tuesday. Credit…Pool photo by Boris Roessler
Back to top button