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Driven by Conspiracies: The Justification of Violence among “Reichsbürger” and Other Conspiracy-Ideological Sovereignists in Contemporary Germany

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Violence is an integral part of the sovereignist milieu involving the “Reichsbürger” and other groups. Shootouts between sovereignists and police officers in 2016 left several people injured and one police officer dead. Since then, their violence has been a subject of nationwide investigation and media reporting in Germany. The visibility of the sovereignist milieu increased significantly due to recent protests against the government’s COVID-19 pandemic measures and a subsequent centralization of protest communications on the social media platform Telegram. This article examines how the use of violence is being justified within the German sovereignist milieu. Drawing from primary sources on the milieu’s main planned and executed acts of violence in 2016, this article reveals a conspiracy-ideological Manichaeism that serves both as a driving force and justification for the use of violence. In addition, evidence indicates that violence is not solely directed against government and state officials, but against groups perceived as part of an alleged conspiracy against their in-group, especially Jews and migrants. At its core, the sovereignist milieu spreads a thin ideology that is particularly amenable to right-wing extremism and antisemitism.

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