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Who is Prince Heinrich XIII, accused of plotting far-right Germany coup?



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BERLIN — He is a descendant of a dynasty that once ruled a region of central Germany, lives in one of Frankfurt’s most expensive neighborhoods and drives an Audi with a personal license plate.

The bespectacled, gray-haired aristocrat Heinrich XIII, Prince of Reuss, cut an unusual figure for the head of what German authorities describe as a “terrorist organization”.

But prosecutors have placed the 71-year-old at the head of a nationwide network that plans to overthrow the German government and establish its own state structure through violent means. He is one of the 25 people arrested Wednesday as part of one of the largest anti-terrorist attacks ever carried out in Germany.

His partner, a Russian citizen named by prosecutors as Vitalia B., was also arrested on suspicion of assisting the organization.

German police arrest 25 people for far-right plot to overthrow the government

Heinrich, whom a German newspaper dubbed “Prince of coup,” has long espoused the views of the Reichsbürger movement, a radical ideology that rejects the modern German state and seeks to re-establish the German monarchy. It was a prospect with obvious appeal to the little royal, who complained that his blue-blooded family was forced to abdicate when the German Empire was overthrown in the years following World War I and after that is “dispossessed”.

Born in 1951, Heinrich was one of six children born to Heinrich I and Woizlawa Feodora, Prince and Princess Reuss. His four brothers were all called Heinrich – like all other male heirs in the family – after the unusual naming tradition of the dynasty in memory of Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI.

Heinrich XIV, a spokesman for the family, who said he is only distantly related to Heinrich XIII, said: “He was a fairly modern, energetic businessman 30 years ago. MDR . news channel Wednesday. “Of course, he radicalized himself through frustrations.” He added that he had not been in contact with Heinrich XIII, the 17th in line in the German state of Thuringia, for a decade.

An article in Berliner Zeitung German daily newspaper 1998 describes the prince as a “multidisciplinary businessman” based in the western German city of Frankfurt and engaged in businesses including real estate, art and sparkling wine production. But it noted he was “angry” over the property dispute stemming from the appropriation of family land.

While living in Frankfurt’s upmarket Westend, the prince is also said to have owned a hunting lodge near Bad Lobenstein in eastern Thuringia, where the dynasty came from.

Heinrich XIV said his family – which had been separated from him before this week – were “shocked” following the arrest. “We have been an aristocratic, cosmopolitan, tolerant house in Thuringia for 850 years,” he said. “And now we are seen as terrorists and reactionaries all over the world, all the way to the United States.”

Signs of radicalization were evident in the prince’s public statements. During a 2019 keynote at the Worldwebforum in Zurich, which bills itself as the meeting point for “thought leaders of the digital world,” he sometimes gave a rambling speech that had title, “Why Blue-Blooded Elite Becomes Servant.”

As long as the monarchy existed, everything went smoothly, he said: “If something goes wrong, you go to the prince. Who should you turn to today? To your parliamentary, local, federal or EU level? Good luck.”

He continued with the classic stories of the Reichsbürger movement, saying that he believed that social problems and war were caused by the Jewish Rothschild family – a frequent subject of unfounded theories. anti-Semitism – and argued that the federal republic of Germany was not a sovereign state, but was still occupied by a world power.

German prosecutors have described Heinrich XIII as the “leader” and head of the central “council” of the group plotting to overthrow the state and establish its own order.

The group included a sitting judge, doctors and lawyers, with the “prince at the top”, a security official said, like the others, spoke to The Washington Post on condition of anonymity. due to the sensitivity of the subject.

The prince’s Thuringia hunting lodge is believed to be the center of the group’s activity, a second security official with knowledge of the investigation said. The official said Heinrich XIII would split his time between Frankfurt and the lodge built by his ancestors, adding that the area had a high proportion of Reichsbürger.

Its remote location means it is seen as a useful logistics and training center on the way to Berlin, the official said. Various Reichsbürger groups run imaginary states, each with a separate passport number.

“Those are some of the big plans, ideas and dreams of men who are old and not too old,” the official said of the coup plot. But German authorities accused the group of posing a real armed threat, as it was associated with members of the group’s military wing, which included well-trained ex-soldiers and a member of the military. member of Germany’s elite special forces, known as KSK.

The official said the prince is suspected of acting as a fundraiser, traveling to neighboring countries and contacting other nobles for money that could be used for the military. “This shows that we must take the Reichsbürger seriously,” he said.

Part of the group’s plot story was the notion that a new state order in Germany would require negotiations with the Allied powers of World War II.

According to prosecutors, Heinrich attempted to contact the representatives of the Russian Federation in Germany, but “there is no indication that the contacts have responded positively to his request.” In his 2019 speech, he said he had tried to contact Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “to no avail”.

The Russian embassy in Berlin said it “wants to clarify that Russian diplomatic and consular missions in Germany do not maintain contact with representatives of terrorist groups or other illegal entities”.

However, in June, Heinrich and his partner were invited to participate in Russia’s Independence Day celebrations at the Russian consulate in Leipzig, Germany, the first security official said. The second said he wanted Russia’s support to “lead Germany back into alliance with Russia”.

The prince expressed his admiration for Moscow. in one video posted online in 2020 and distributed on channels QAnon and Reichsbürger, he says that he is related to the Romanov royal family of Russia through his mother – “one of the reasons we like Russia. .”

He went on to repeat many of Reichsbürger’s stories about the lack of legitimacy of the German state.

Before meeting his current partner, the prince was married to an Iranian woman and had two children, according to the Berliner Zeitung article.

Mekhennet reports from Washington.

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