A Plot to Overthrow Germany’s Government Heads to Court

A year and a half after police and intelligence officers in Germany uncovered a plot to overthrow the country’s government and replace its chancellor, the first of three trials in the sprawling case is set to begin on Monday in Stuttgart.

Most of the would-be insurrectionists were arrested in December 2022, when heavily armed German police officers stormed houses, apartments, offices and a remote royal hunting lodge and made dozens of arrests. Those charged included a dentist, a clairvoyant, an amateur pilot and a man running a large QAnon telegram group. The German authorities contend that their figurehead was Heinrich XIII Prince of Reuss, an obscure and conspiracy-minded aristocrat who would have been made chancellor if the coup had succeeded.

Prince Heinrich XIII’s hunting lodge.Credit…Ingmar Nolting for The New York Times

Despite that idiosyncratic membership, the group was well organized and dangerous, investigators said. Some of its members were former officers trained by German elite military forces. One was a judge turned far-right lawmaker with Alternative for Germany, the surging populist party known as the AfD. The police said the group had stashed more than a half-million dollars in gold and cash; amassed hundreds of firearms, tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition and a cache of explosives; and secured satellite phones to communicate once it disabled national communications networks.

“All the satirical elements that are naturally present in this group — elements of QAnon, the belief in U.F.O.s, esotericism, the idea of being able to overthrow the system of the Federal Republic of Germany — should not distract from the fact that this group posed a grave potential threat,” said Jan Rathje, a member of a nongovernmental organization that monitors conspiracy theories and right-wing extremism.

The trial scheduled to begin on Monday is the first of three set for this spring, and takes place as Germany wrestles with continuing fears about a rising far right in its politics and a week after the arrests of several people accused of spying for Russia and China.

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