Treason trial starts in three German cities of alleged leaders of planned coup

Munich, Frankfurt and Stuttgart begin cases against nine members of the ‘citizens of the Reich’ alliance claimed to have plotted armed takeover of power

Nine alleged ringleaders of a coup to overthrow Germany’s democratic order went on trial on Tuesday in a specially built high-security courtroom in Frankfurt.

Prosecutors accuse the defendants – led by Heinrich XIII Prinz Reuss zu Köstritz, a 72-year-old former property developer from Frankfurt – of embracing a “conglomerate of conspiracy myths” to prepare a “high-treasonous undertaking”.

Post-war Germany’s first trials for treason are taking place in three locations – Munich, Frankfurt and Stuttgart. What unites all 27 defendants in total is their alleged membership of the so-called Reichsbürger, or citizens of the Reich movement. This loose alliance of groups rejects Germany’s current democratic order and, in many cases, is working toward its removal.

Prosecutors said on Tuesday that Prince Reuss was aiming to be the new German head of state after the coup and, to that end, had contacted Russia in 2022 seeking support for his endeavour.


Equally unprecedented is the scale of the legal procedures: five judges are presiding over the Frankfurt proceedings, taking place in a shed-like courtroom, with 25 lawyers representing the nine defendants. In total 242 witnesses are set to testify, some 801 folders of documents have been collated and the indictment alone runs to 617 pages.

During a break from reading the charge sheet, Prince Reuss’s defence lawyer dismissed the claims levelled against his client – which carry a penalty of 15-year prison sentences. “He is no leader, no gang leader and not a member of a terrorist organisation,” said the lawyer, Roman von Alvensleben.

Prosecutors disagree, claiming the group had a war chest of €500,000 and an arsenal of 380 firearms and 350 knives as well as satellite telephones, bulletproof vests and handcuffs.

Their plan involved rounding up names on a “list of enemies” and, on an agreed signal, storming the Reichstag parliament building in Berlin, prosecutors say. The alleged members of the plot were, they add, “aware the planned takeover of power would be linked with the killing of people”.

Prior to Tuesday’s trial, another defendant, Maximilian Eder, confirmed the core group existed and that it held the first of six meetings on July 29th, 2021.

The group brought together aristocrats, astrologists and former members of the military but Mr Eder insisted there were no concrete plans for an attack because Germany had no politicians “worthwhile for a terrorist to kidnap or kill”.

A former member of Germany’s elite KSK military commando unit, Mr Eder repeated key baseless claims of the so-called Q-Anon conspiracy theories. He told Stern magazine that Prince Reuss gave him €50,000 to investigate “Satanic-ritual paedophilia” in Germany.

“I needed Prince Reuss as a financial backer,” he said. “That was the most important thing for me.”

In the Stuttgart hearing, the first member of the alleged group conceded members were working towards a “Day X” coup.

“September 22nd, 2022, was supposed to be the day, but it didn’t come about,” said Wolfram S, an electronic engineer. He remembers signing a non-disclosure agreement when he joined, “with something in it about a Prince Max von Reuss who was empowered to lead peace negotiations, someone I’d never heard of”.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin