Many years ago, someone walked into my law office, showed me a notice about some traffic fine and explained, confusing our respective roles in the attorney-client relationship, why he definitely wouldn’t need to pay the fine. According to him, the notice was issued by an authority without authority because the Federal Republic of Germany didn’t really exist, was merely a corporation belonging to the Allied Powers, which are still occupying our country. The Provisional Reich Government would not recognize this and we would need to act against it swiftly and vigorously.
Admittedly, I am a bit older, but this was not in 1946, but around the year 2006. “An eternally malcontent troublemaker,” I thought, happy on the the one hand because such clients provide a regular income. On the other hand, from painful experience (which almost every attorney makes in the first years on the job), I knew that those troublemakers also strain the nerves. Therefore, I quoted an exorbitant fee, which was the first thing that stopped his flow of words. “I can’t pay that much right now, but soon we will assume power again. Then, we will appoint you as Reich Commissioner for Justice!” That was the end of the negotiation for me, because I had never been interested in a government job.
As time went on, the so-called Reichsbürger movement (“citizens of the Reich”) became louder and more dangerous. They like to stock weapons, annoy government agencies with never-ending letters and faxes and kill police officers. Since the recent radicalization, the problem of those flat-earthers among political conspiracy theorists is being taken somewhat more seriously.
With their numbers increasing and thanks to the internet, it is ever more likely that you too will have to deal with one of those Germany denialists. Even as far away as Bolivia, the phenomenon received the attention of a whole page in Página Siete, as I discovered to my great surprise one morning as I sat in a café on Plaza Avaroa in La Paz.
The best approach is to ignore those weirdos. But if you cannot escape them, for example because they have infiltrated your family, or if you know someone who is showing an interest in the Reichsbürger movement, but who might still be saved, the following article will give you the answers to their arguments.
If you are not a regular reader of my blog, I should mention that I am a German lawyer currently persuing a degree in history. And I would like to extend my thanks to Ralf Grabuschnig, a historian, blogger and author, who invited me onto his Déjà-Vu History Podcast for a show about the historical and legal aspects of the Reichsbürger movement. If you speak or at least understand German, you may want to listen here. (If not, you may want to learn German because everyone needs a challenge from time to time.)
The podcast and the following article are not identical, by the way, so it’s still worth to listen and to read, preferably consecutively, not simultaneously.
Reichsbürger: The German Reich never ceased to exist. The Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) is no legitimate state, but a corporation or a puppet regime controlled by the Allied Powers. Germany is still occupied by foreign powers, which means that the Hague Convention on the Laws and Customs on War on Land applies instead of the Basic Law (Grundgesetz), which is not even a valid constitution anyway…
Me: Stop, stop! There are so many issues, we need to address them one by one. Of course the Basic Law from 1949 is a constitution. Why shouldn’t it be?
If it is a constitution, why is it called Basic Law and not “Constitution”?
Ah, I recognize the formalistic thinking which is characteristic for non-lawyers. The title that a document is given is irrelevant for its content or validity. If you agree on a lease contract with your landlord in which you agree on the premises, the monthly rent and the duration of the rent, but call it an insurance contract, you still have a rental contract. The same remains true, by the way, if you don’t give it any title or make up a new name for it.
The content is relevant. (Like on my blog.) The Basic Law governs the different state organs like Parliament, Chancellor, President, their authorities, how they relate to each other and the relations between the state and the citizens. It includes all the elements of a constitution.
But all other countries call such a document “Constitution”. Why not Germany?
That’s not true. Based on Montesquieu’s terminology of “loi fundamentale“, many countries call their constitutions “Basic Law”, for example Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, the Netherlands and the Vatican City State.
Ah, the Vatican is always behind everything!
And I thought that was the Jews, the Freemasons and the Bavarian Illuminati?
Yes, but everyone knows that they control the Vatican.
OK, back to the constitutional question. There are even countries that don’t have a written constitution at all, most famous among them the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Nobody would therefore deny that it is a country or claim that it didn’t exist.
But Paragraph 146 of the Basic Law itself says that we don’t have a constitution.
First of all, the Basic Law doesn’t have paragraphs or sections, but articles. Article 146 reads:
This Basic Law, which, since the achievement of the unity and freedom of Germany, applies to the entire German people, shall cease to apply on the day on which a constitution freely adopted by the German people takes effect.
This is merely the Basic Law (as a constitution!) showing the way how it could be replaced by a new constitution. The historical basis for this article lies in the situation of 1949, when there was still hope for a quick German reunification and nobody could imagine how long the West German Basic Law would remain in effect. After all, German entities of state had not always existed for a very long time, even if politicians liked to spout 1000-year nonsense.
Article 146 never became relevant. Before German reunification in 1990, it was briefly debated whether it should be applied, but then Article 23 as it was worded back then
For the time being, this Basic Law applies for the territory of the states of Baden, Bavaria, Bremen, Greater Berlin, Hamburg, Hesse, Lower Saxony, North Rhine Westphalia, Rhineland Palatinate, Schleswig-Holstein, Württemberg-Baden and Württemberg-Hohenzollern. In other parts of Germany, it shall apply from the respective date of accession.
was applied, which permitted new states to accede to the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany.
But did you know that this Article 23 was abolished by James Baker, the US Secretary of State at the time? This rendered the German Basic Law invalid.
Yes, during the negotiations for the 2+4 Treaty in July 1990, James Baker suspended Article 23. This removed the article about the territorial applicability of the Basic law, rendering it invalid.
Oh dear! First of all, I doubt that Mr Baker really said that.
Second, foreign secretaries of country A cannot change the constitution of country B by a throwaway remark. The Basic Law can be amended by a joint decision by Parliament (Bundestag) and the representative body of the German states (Bundesrat), requiring a two-thirds majority in each house (see Article 79).
Third, of course the Basic Law could continue to exist without Article 23. The territorial applicability is undisputed. In the meantime, it is also listed in the preamble:
Germans in the states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Hesse, Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, North Rhine Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein and Thuringia have achieved the unity and freedom of Germany in free self-determination. This Basic Law thus applies to the entire German people.
You fail to see that Germany is not sovereign, but is still in a state of war and is occupied by the Allied Powers. Hence, the Hague Convention on the Laws and Customs on War on Land applies and …
Say, do you sometimes leave your house and travel around Germany? Where the heck do you see a war?
Currently, combat operations have ceased because the Reich government is not able to act and is therefore unable to organize any resistance against the occupiers.
There are still Allied Forces on German soil. That alone shows that we are occupied. We Germans are being held as prisoners of war.
You mean the NATO forces? They are not here as occupiers, but based on the North Atlantic Treaty and the NATO Status of Forces Agreement, basically by German invitation. If Germany wanted to, it could kick out the foreign troops (as it did with the Soviet Army). But then we would need to spend more of our own money on defense, which is why having the US Army here is not such a bad deal.
By the way, the German military (Bundeswehr) is also stationed in other NATO countries, for example in Lithuania. That’s no occupation either. Until recently, the German Air Force even had a base in the USA.
But the German Reich never signed a peace treaty. That means that World War II is not yet over.
There it is again, the formalistic thinking. This is how laypeople imagine the law, but that’s not how it works.
Wars cannot only be ended through peace treaties, but also by completely subjugating the opponent or, as was the case with Germany, by unconditional surrender.
In addition, most Western Allies ended the state of war by statute or by royal proclamation in 1951, the Soviet Union followed suit in 1955.
The Reich government never surrendered! The unconditional surrender of 8/9 May 1945 was only signed by the High Command of the Army (Wehrmacht).
I would actually interpret the Reich Chancellor’s suicide as the ultimate act of surrender. And the short-lived government under Admiral Dönitz had granted the generals power of attorney to surrender, proclaimed the end of World War II itself, and did nothing else to counter the impression of Germany’s unconditional surrender.
For there to be peace, you don’t necessarily need a treaty that says “peace treaty” on the first page. You can achieve the same through other treaties, like the General Treaty between West Germany and the Western Allies, the accession to the EEC and to NATO, the 2+4 Treaty and lastly by the normative power of the factual, diplomatic relations, trade and simply by the enduring absence of war.
I also don’t understand the connection between the allegedly missing peace treaty and the allegedly non-existent statehood, because states can exist very well without peace treaties. Between 1939 and 1945, the German Reich wasn’t non-existent either, was it?
But even the Federal Constitutional Court has said: “The German Reich still exists.”
Do you recognize how ironic it is to quote the Constitutional (!) Court of the Federal Republic of Germany, which you don’t recognize, as evidence of your theory that it doesn’t legally exist?
Well, sometimes the usurper regime makes mistakes.
And you are the only one who notices it?
But let me explain that. You refer to the Federal Constitutional Court’s decision about the Basic Treaty between West Germany and East Germany, signed in 1973. This is indeed a very unfortunate ruling, with which the court wanted to approve the treaty with the German Democratic Republic without recognizing it as a state. The situation was so schizophrenic that for West Germany (the FRG), East Germany (the GDR) was neither a foreign country nor part of the own country, that West Germany claimed to be the only Germany, and that the West German constitution made it illegal to recognize the factually existing division of Germany. All of this could only result in a verdict that is impossible to read without turning crazy.
The part which the Reichsbürger like to quote continues as follows:
The German Reich still exists and still has legal capacity, but due to lack of organization, in particular the lack of any institutional organs, it cannot act by itself. […]
The establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany did not establish a new West-German state, but reorganized a part of Germany. The Federal Republic of Germany is therefore not the “legal successor” of the German Reich, but as a state it is identical with the state “German Reich”, – although only “partly identical” regarding the territorial extension, meaning that insofar, the identity lays no claim to exclusivity. Accordingly, the Federal Republic’s people and territory do not include the whole Germany, irrespective of it recognizing one people of “Germany” (German Reich), which is a subject in public international public law and of which its own people is an inseparable part, as well as one territory “Germany” (German Reich), of which its own territory is an inseparable part, too. Constitutionally, it limits the exercise of its state powers to the “territorial jurisdiction of the Basic Law”, but also feels a responsibility for the whole Germany (cf. the preamble of the Basic Law). […] The German Democratic Republic is part of Germany and cannot be regarded as a foreign country when it comes to its relations with the Federal Republic of Germany.
It goes on like this for pages, and everyone can pick out the sentences that suit their needs. The better approach however is to ignore this ruling as the low point of constitutional and public international law dogmatics, as my professors at law school chose to do.
In the ruling itself, the Constitutional Court indicates that it didn’t deem it a very clever idea that the State of Bavaria (the eternally malcontent troublemaker state) had brought the lawsuit against the treaty with the GDR:
A proper legal appreciation of the treaty requires it to be put in a wider context.
In any case, in the meantime all of this is history, because since 1990 the Federal Republic of Germany has become fully identical with the German Reich again or the German Reich ceased to be forever due to lack of effective power. The constitutional approach of East Germany was more logical. According to their view, East Germany was simply a new country, which also had the advantage of not being liable for old debts and other financial and moral liabilities.
I do recognize that the German Reich is temporarily not able to act because of the occupation. That’s why our government is a provisional one.
This is something that I really don’t understand. Even if you were right on all points, from where do YOU personally take the authority to represent the German Reich?
We are only doing this as temporary regents until a new government of the Reich will constitute itself.
But who will then know which of these governments is the legitimate one? There are the Kommissarische Reichsregierung, the Freistaat Preussen, the Exilregierung Deutsches Reich as well as the similarly sounding but different Exil-Regierung Deutsches Reich and the Regierung des Deutschen Reiches, the Volks-Reichstag, the Volks-Bundesrath, the Interimspartei Deutschland, the Staat Germanitien, the Fürstentum Germania, the Republik Freies Deutschland, the Königreich Deutschland, the Bundesstaat Bayern, the Heimatgemeinde Chiemgau and hundreds more.
I have the impression that this is more of a business, because all of these organizations sell identity papers and driving licences, which are of course invalid, pointless and worthless.
So what? The FRG is merely a GmbH (the German Ltd.) as well. And we have resigned from that limited liability company, so that it cannot control us anymore.
No, a country is not a limited liability company. This myth is based on one company, called Bundesrepublik Deutschland – Finanzagentur GmbH, which is a state-owned company carrying out the sale of bonds on capital markets. But this doesn’t turn all of Germany into a GmbH.
By the way, you can’t simply resign from being a shareholder in a limited liability company. That’s another point where one can see that your theories are not even coherent in themselves.
Have you never wondered why our identity cards are called Personalausweis? Because we are all personnel (“Personal” in German) or employees of the FRG Ltd.
I just noticed that my driving licence is called Führerschein. And as Führer, I am ordering you to shut up now.
You also overlooked the fact that the Roman Empire never capitulated and thus continues to exist. So you better prepare yourself for a provisional Caesar taking over.
Oh damn. We hadn’t thought of that.
Whew. Conversations with conspiracy theorists are quite exhausting, because they simply posit new claims all the time, ignoring facts and logic, and they subordinate all counter-arguments to their theory. For example, the presence of the German military in other NATO countries is then viewed as a diversionary maneuver with which the sly Allies mess about with the German public. Because one thing is for sure: only the conspiracy theorist is smart enough to see through everything, while everyone else is too dumb. This feeling of being part of an elite seems to be pretty alluring.
- More articles on German history and World War II.
- More articles on constitutional law, international law and German law.
- Zur deutschen Fassung dieses Artikels.