75-Year-Old Woman Accused of Far-Right Plot to Overthrow German Government

Prosecutors said the alleged plotters wanted to hire an actor to impersonate Germany’s chancellor to say his government had been overthrown.
Reichsbürgerfar right german coup plot
Police attend a protest against Germany's COVID restrictions in November 2020 in Berlin. The alleged plotters planned to kidnap Germany's health minister, a figure of hate among antivaxxers. PHOTO: AP Photo/Michael Sohn

Five Germans with ties to the far-right Reichsbürger movement have been charged with treason after allegedly hatching a plot to overthrow the German government, which involved getting an actor to impersonate the chancellor to give a TV address saying he had been deposed. 


The alleged ringleader is a 75-year-old woman identified only as Elisabeth R, who has been nicknamed “Terror Granny” by the German media. All five suspects – the other four are men – have links to the Reichsbürger scene, as well as other neo-Nazi groups.  

The German prosecutor's office said that the group's aim was to create "civil war-like conditions in Germany by means of violence". 

All five are accused of "founding or being a member of a domestic terrorist organisation" and "preparing an act of high treason" against the government. Some have also been accused of other crimes, including financing terrorism. 

The group is accused of devising a three-stage administrative and military plan to seize the country. The first step involved damaging key power facilities to create a long, nationwide blackout, and then kidnapping Karl Lauterbach, the German Health Minister. As the figurehead behind much of the country’s COVID restrictions, Lauterbach is despised by the country’s antivaxxers, who have significant overlap with the conspiracist Reichsbürger movement, which rejects the legitimacy of the modern German state and falsely claims the German Reich still exists.

The next stage of the alleged plan would have seen an actor impersonating either Olaf Scholz, the Chancellor, or President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, making a nationwide TV address and telling the country that his government had been toppled. Under the alleged plot as detailed by prosecutors, the actor would have declared that the constitution from 1871 had been reinstated, which was when Germany was unified under Prussian rule and was made up of a federation of states under a constitutional monarchy. A leader would then be appointed by a “constituent assembly”.


The Reichsbürger movement, meaning "Citizens of the Reich", is based on deep-state conspiracy theories, and its followers claim that the 1937 borders of the German empire still exist, and reject the post-war federal republic. 

Other people who were targeted in widespread police raids in April 2022 that led to the arrests of the group’s members allegedly belonged to notorious neo-Nazi gangs such as the US-based international terrorist network Atomwaffen Division Deutschland, online propaganda group Sonderkommando 1418, the banned group Combat 18, and Knockout 51, a far-right martial-arts group.   

The four men – identified as Michael H, Thomas K, Sven B, and Thomas O – were apprehended in last April’s raids, while Elisabeth R was arrested in October. She has been described in German media as an eccentric who would be seen gardening alone at night while wearing a headtorch. 

The group, who were trying to obtain weapons and explosives from ex-Yugoslav states, were caught after trying to buy weapons from an undercover police officer posing as an arms dealer. The four men had all been found to possess heavy weapons. 

In his confession, Sven B said that he thought he believed parts of the police and army would support the plot and that he was going to ask for approval from Russian President Vladimir Putin before installing the new government. 

In December 2022, German investigators announced they had unmasked a separate suspected far-right terror network belonging to the Reichsbürger movement, that featured a range of suspects, including a minor aristocrat and special forces soldiers. The group had been inspired by QAnon ideology, prosecutors said. 

Right-wing extremism has been highlighted by the Scholz government as a major area of concern. 

Lauterbach, the Health Minister, thanked the police for their work on the case involving Elisabeth R. "Criminal federal police officials risk their lives for us,” he wrote on Twitter. “This is a great service.”