Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Saturday, 5 September 2020

The Reichsburger movement

Pictures of the events last Saturday in Berlin when a group broke away from a sizeable protest against restrictions imposed by the German government to contain the spread coronavirus and attempted to storm the Parliament building caught my eye. 

What was striking was that prominent amongst the flags borne by demonstrators was the black-white-red horizontal tricolour of the Second Reich, which originated with the North German Confederation in 1867, was used by the Empire from 1871 until 1919, and again in 1933-35. One of those who broke off to try to occupy the former Reichstag, now the Bundestag, was even draped in an Imperial naval ensign.

Now to my traditionally minded eye this looked rather good - and the group that linked these demonstrators, the Reichsburger, who see the modern German state as invalid, and look to a return to the state with its boundaries as in 1919-37 as interesting, even promising. A restored German Empire with a modernised version of the Bismarckian constitution, the return of the Hohenzollerns, Wittelsbachs, Teck, Wettins and the Grand Ducal and Ducal houses....

Alas, as so often in life, I was to be quickly disappointed.

The Reichsburger are, to use a technical term, a bunch of nutters.... They are basically fragmented groups of libertarians who reject the legitimacy of the present German state and seek to replace it with a whole host of autonomous domestic experiments, and, in the process of denying the state authority, refuse to pay their taxes to what they see as an illegal regime. Not the upright burgers of the Second Reich.

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