Like most other countries Germany and Austria attempted to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic by taking unprecedented measures restricting public and private life. Discontent with these measures arose, and a network of groups and individuals calling themselves “Querdenker” established themselves as a major player in the emerging protest movement in both countries. While they were rather heterogeneous, some parts of the “Querdenker”—and especially several of the more prominent activists—were not only prone to conspiratorial thinking but even open to sovereignist ideas. They publicly used topics from the “Reichsbürger” and met representatives of that milieu. The “Reichsbürger” are a particular brand of German anti-state extremism, also present in Austria, that believes in the continued existence of the German Reich, and often claims to be the only real “state authority”. After many years of not being taken seriously, several recent incidents of violence have led to a debate about what level of threat the “Reichsbürger” anti-state extremism poses. This article describes and analyses the links and dynamics between the “Querdenker” movement and the Reichsbürger milieu. It looks at three of the most influential actors that connected the two groups and compares the developments in Austria and Germany, while also examining the role of traditional “protest parties”.
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The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) is a think-and-do tank based in The Hague, Netherlands. We provide research, policy advice, training and other solutions to support better counter-terrorism policies and practices worldwide. We also contribute to the scientific and publi.…