Conspiracy theories that germans believe in “you only have to open your eyes.”

Blame the Corona pandemic on Bill Gates, the Rockefellers and 5G technology. It is a secret plan of the elites to decimate the world population. The German government is lying to its citizens because it is part of a global conspiracy. And anyway Germany is still occupied by the Allies.

By Bartosz Jozefiak

“The world”s governments are using the coronavirus as a Trojan horse. Their goal is to radically decimate the world”s population,” Rex says without a wink.

The likeable 50-year-old in a peaked cap and short pants throws around names of people and organizations he believes are responsible for the pandemic: the World Health Organization, the World Economic Forum, Bill Gates, Lufthansa, the Rockefellers. And above all, of course, the Bilderberg conferences, where the most powerful in the world meet once a year. It was there that the refugee crisis was triggered in 2015 and the spread of the corona virus in 2019.

How he knows all this?

“Well, where do you think?”, Rex wonders. “From the Internet, of course!”

No trust in the media

Rex is not alone with his opinion. Similar views are held by the several thousand people who came to Dusseldorf in the second half of September to protest against the restrictions associated with the Corona pandemic.

The picture that presents itself to me on the Rhine meadows in Dusseldorf is more reminiscent of a rock festival than a meeting of conspiracy theorists. The demonstrators laugh, sing and hug each other. People wear dreadlocks and peaked caps, a singer on stage intones “What a Wonderful World.” When finally the party hit “Macarena” sounds from the speakers, the colorful procession begins to move. The organizers talk about a demonstration for love and peace. At the head of the procession, someone carries a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi. Only the banners reveal what it is really about.

The slogans are “Stop the corona madness” and “We are the sovereign.”They are directed against autocracy, against the global destruction of the economy, against scaremongering and social division, against police violence and blind obedience.

If you didn’t bring your own banner, you can borrow one from the organizers.

Jenny looks like a real flower child with her disheveled hair. She is taking part in the demonstration to form her own opinion. She does not want to rely on the mainstream media to do so. “I don”t know a single person who has had COVID-19. Strange, isn”t it?” she asks me.
According to the demonstrators, the governments of the world are using the coronavirus as a Trojan horse. | Photo: Pexels

Jenny has traveled especially from Frankfurt. So far, it has not joined the protests. She used to work as a stewardess, but was forced to retire early due to difficulties at work. She asks me which newspaper we are from and what the phone number of the editor is. “Please don”t take it personally,” she explains. “It”s not about you guys, I just don”t have any trust in the media.”

Michael, a 30-year-old auto mechanic waves a flag that reads "Thinking outside the box 711." This is the name of the organization that protests here against the Corona restrictions. She has already organized several demonstrations throughout Germany, the largest of which was in Berlin.

Michael"s son, five-year-old Maxim, happily waves a papier-mâche virus. "I don’t believe in the effectiveness of protective masks. Whenever possible, I take them off. Or I just carry it under my chin," Michael tells me. He came here to show that he has an opinion of his own. "And if people call me crazy for it, that’s their problem. The media and politicians do not tell us the truth. Just look at the nonsense they spread about Donald Trump," he adds.

When the lockdown was declared in the spring, Michael took to the Internet to search for the truth. He came across numerous websites explaining that the corona virus is no more dangerous than regular flu. Finally joined a group of like-minded people on the messenger platform Telegram. How he knows the truth is being spoken there?

" All it takes is a little common sense. You just have to think for a moment, and it all falls into place," explains Michael.

A threat to the system

Michael also participates in the demonstration to feel part of a community. And indeed, it seems that the demonstrators are primarily concerned with human contact. The police’s requests to the demonstrators to please keep their distance from each other are acknowledged with an ironic smile. The Federal Constitutional Court has ruled that the right to demonstrate is more important than fighting the virus. And the Dusseldorf police department even waived the requirement of wearing masks for the demonstration.

Rex films the entire demonstration with his smartphone while chanting "Freedom! Stop the Corona dictatorship!" "We are fighting against the restriction of civil rights. The protective masks are only there to silence the people. Corona vaccination poses great risks. You have no idea what the vaccine contains exactly. The only ones who earn money from the pandemic are the pharmaceutical companies and the elites," he tells me.

Before the pandemic, he also did not believe in a global conspiracy. But the lockdown opened his eyes. "Why have they locked us up so suddenly? Who gets something out of it?" he wondered. And on the Internet he found the answer? Which? " Just look for yourself. You just have to think a little and put the facts together."

Rex had enough time to follow all the tracks. Until recently, he worked in a car factory, but was forced to quit when his boss started systematically bullying him. Since then he has been unemployed. The forced isolation triggered anxiety attacks and depression in him. But in the meantime it seems to be doing much better. "The government is already afraid of us. We are a threat to the system," he says.
Many people trust information from the Internet. | Photo: Pexels

The freethinkers have recognized the truth

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung recently reported that about a third of Germans believe in secret powers. In a representative poll, 11 percent of respondents were certain that the statement "There are secret powers that control the world" was true, 19 percent thought the statement was probably true. Nearly 17 percent of respondents believe the corona virus is a pretext for politicians to permanently restrict civil liberties. So we are talking about several million people in total.

Conspiracy theories are currently booming in Germany. This was most evident in Berlin at the end of August, when 38,000 people demonstrated against the Corona measures. Among the demonstrators were democracy activists, artists, old hippies, right-wing radicals, anti-vaccination activists and supporters of various conspiracy theories. For example, the one that the European elites seek an Islamization of Europe. "This idea originated in France and is also gaining more and more followers in Germany," says net activist and former political director of the Pirate Party Germany Katharina Nocun. She is co-author of the recently published book "Fake Facts: How Conspiracy Theories Determine Our Thinking."

One of the most popular conspiracy theories is still that of a Jewish world conspiracy. Holocaust denial is forbidden in Germany. Anti-Semitic views are not allowed to be expressed directly, so the extremists look for substitute figures, like George Soros or the Rothschilds. And of course Angela Merkel.

Conspiracy theorists are not invited to discussions by the mainstream media. But that hardly bothers them, because they have long since created an alternative media landscape for themselves. They have their own Internet channels, YouTube channels and magazines, including the magazine "Compact," which you can buy at almost every newsstand and gas station. They have their own conferences and their own celebrities. For example Attila Hildmann, a well-known vegan chef and TV star, who has been spreading various conspiracy theories for some time now. Among other things, he claims Corona is a pandemic made by Jewish elites, Angela Merkel and Bill Gates, and that the virus is being spread with the help of 5G technology and chemicals sprayed from airplanes.

In Germany, the "freethinkers" have created a tight network for themselves. Maybe that’s why they managed to organize the biggest anti-Corona demonstrations in Europe.

Conspiracy theories arise from a sense of loss of control. "Studies show that people who have no control over their own lives develop a tendency to see patterns where there really aren’t any," says Katharina Nocun.

The loss of a job, a divorce, financial difficulties, but also major political changes or even pandemics can lead people to look for alternative explanations. In addition, there is the feeling of belonging to an elite that has recognized the "truth. The feeling of being something special. In this way these people strengthen their self-esteem.

Germany does not exist

Protesters in Dusseldorf chant "peace! Freedom! Stop the Corona Dictatorship!" There is tooting and whistling.

The 48-year-old Markus came from Aachen. Until recently, he worked as a booth builder all over Europe, he has also been to Poland many times. It was hard physical work, sometimes up to 30 hours at a stretch. He earned good money, at least until recently. The lockdown put him out of work.

The pandemic fits perfectly into the idea of a global conspiracy, a secret elite that has ruled the world for decades already. Markus already sensed at school that something was wrong. The many distortions in the official historiography irritated him. When I ask him for an example, he thinks about it for a long time and finally answers: "Well, there are a lot of them."
The pandemic fits perfectly into the idea of a global conspiracy. | Photo: Pixabay "Let’s just take these vitamin products for a moment. Why do doctors prescribe us some dubious pills instead of encouraging us to eat more fruit?? Nobody knows what these tablets contain. Our health care system does not make anyone healthy. It’s all about the pharmaceutical companies that enrich themselves at the expense of society."

When he realized the truth? 10 years ago, when he happened to come across a page on the Internet. Then he realized that the German Reich still exists, but is still occupied by the Allies. The proof: Even the Federal Constitutional Court established in 1973 that the German Reich continues to exist and that the Federal Republic is not the legal successor to the German Reich, but is identical to it in terms of constitutional law. That is a fact. From this, according to Markus, it follows that the Federal Republic of Germany is not a legitimate and sovereign state, but merely a company controlled by the Allied victorious powers. The real German Reich is still occupied. At this point, Markus, who had been rather calm until then, suddenly became enraged. He passionately proclaims, "We are not a free country! We are being lied to! The Germans are by nature a docile people. But that is changing. Gradually Germany is waking up."

Markus’ views may sound original, but they are not. They are shared by about 30,000 people in Germany. Of how many exactly, one does not know, because the Reichsburger do not form a unified group. "Reichsburger" are a special German phenomenon. They are right-wing extremists who do not recognize the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany," says Katharina Nocun.

The Reich citizens also reject the legal order of the Federal Republic of Germany. Many of them do not pay taxes and do not obey laws, including traffic regulations. They have no identity cards and no driving licenses and proclaim their own fantasy states in their gardens. "They appoint themselves kings, form their own governments, and print their own identity cards and passports," Nocun recounts.

While this may have seemed funny, it is not. In 2016, the hunter Wolfgang P. from Georgensgmund near Nuremberg opened fire when police officers entered his house to confiscate his weapons. Four police officers were injured, one of them fatally. Wolfgang P. was a convinced citizen of the Reich.

The ideology of the Reichsburger movement is an extreme example of far-right conspiracy theories. Their followers have different backgrounds. What they have in common is their opposition to the federal government, which they believe is merely a puppet government.

"Anti-Semitism and conspiracy narratives have always been an integral part of far-right narratives in Germany. The idea that Jews secretly ruled the world is one of the most powerful anti-Semitic conspiracy myths. The narratives of the Reich citizens boil down to the fact that Germany is not a sovereign state and is controlled by "dark forces from outside". Anti-Semitism is therefore always inherent in them," says Felix Muller of the Mobile Counseling Service against Right-Wing Extremism (MBR) Berlin. "Their followers have a great potential for violence."

Katharina Nocun says: "When you write about extremists, you always end up getting some kind of death threats. "We’re going to kill you, you Jew!" or similar. I got used to that long ago. If I would report every such incident and bring it to court, I would have no time for anything else."

Reichsburger and their kindred spirits were also seen at the Berlin demonstrations. They carried flags of the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia to openly show that they do not recognize the Federal Republic of Germany. Some of them threw stones and bottles at police officers and tried to storm the stairs of the Reichstag. Police arrested over 200 demonstrators.

There are no Reich flags at the demonstration in Dusseldorf. But the antifascists nevertheless posted themselves along the planned route. Police are trying to keep the two groups apart. The counter-demonstrators dressed in black hold up a banner with the inscription "Against Nazism and Racial Hatred" and shout "Nazis out!" The anti-Covid demonstrators respond by singing and clapping, shouting "peace" and also "Nazis out!"

Rex bile rises high. "They act as if we are neo-Nazis. What do we have in common with the right-wing scene? Did you see any Nazi symbols here? Or some form of violence?"

No. I have to admit, I didn’t.

The price of truth

As the demonstrators march across a bridge, Markus is overcome by dark thoughts about the price one sometimes has to pay for the truth. Many of his relatives and friends have turned their backs on him. They call him crazy or even worse. At first he suffered. By now he knows that there is no point in discussing with people who do not want to see the truth. But when he notices that someone hesitates, that they are open-minded, then Markus steps in and tries to get them on his side. He has already managed to convince his mother of his views. This was a great success. And also a relief. Before that, he had been all alone for a long time.

"You can’t imagine what loneliness it is when no one understands you," he says.

Max on the other hand is lucky. He came to the demonstration with his girlfriend and has many friends who think similarly to him. However, he has already heard of couples who separated during the Corona crisis because one of the partners did not want to see the truth.

"The Corona crisis has encouraged the rise of conspiracy theories. Concerned families turn to us because they need help in dealing with their loved ones," says Iris Brennberger of SektenInfo Berlin. Their organization counsels people whose loved ones have fallen under the influence of cults, esoteric movements, extreme political groups and, most recently, increasingly, conspiracy theories. Those seeking help describe impressively how much the character of people changes when they think they have suddenly recognized the truth. Most of them feel an overwhelming need to share their newfound insights with others. This leads to many conflicts and not infrequently to the dissolution of relationships. Family members who do not share the views of the conspiracy theorists are suddenly seen as enemies. Or even worse: as a supporter of the world conspiracy.

"Such people perceive all counter-arguments as illogical and nonsensical, they twist historical facts to reinforce their own worldview. Criticism from relatives is not allowed, constructive discussions are nipped in the bud," Brennberger explains.

In extreme cases, parents forbid their children to attend school because they are afraid they might be indoctrinated there.

Family members describe how much the character changes in people who think they have suddenly realized the truth. | Photo: Pexels What can you do if your own father or sister suddenly starts to believe in a Jewish world conspiracy, for example? "You have to react immediately. If someone is just beginning to radicalize, you may still be able to influence them," says Katharina Nocun, author of the book Fake Facts."It is worse if someone has already cultivated his conspiracy theories for a long time. If you confront such a person with a scientific study or a newspaper article, he will simply reply: that’s part of the conspiracy. At this level you can no longer argue with facts, but only ask questions like: Why do you think this information is true? Why do you think this person is an expert? You have to try somehow to make those affected think about it. This is a very long and difficult process."

Maybe the others are right after all?

The demonstration procession has arrived back at the Rhine meadows. The organizers ask an elderly teacher to come on stage, who proudly announces that she does not wear a protective mask in class and does not allow her students to do so either. The crowd applauds. A while later, a doctor enters the stage, explaining that during the lockdown, not even the consumption of tissues increased. Conclusion: The corona virus is completely harmless. Applause erupts again.

Hubertine and Edith resting on a blanket. The two women, both over 50, came from Bonn together with their friends. Edith proudly presents her T-shirt, which shows the globe and two hands reaching out to each other. It is the logo of her group. Hubertine and Edith met while meditating in the park. "We have no problems at all finding more members. We just have to look for smiling people who don’t wear protective masks," Edith says.

The two run a website where they educate people about the Corona crisis. Hubertine worked as a nurse until a few years ago, but could no longer practice her profession due to health problems. She makes her arguments against the coronavirus with machine-gun-like speed: COVID-19 is nothing more than swine flu. Why was there no such scaremongering back then? There is evidence that the corona virus was detected back in 2013. The Corona tests are nonsense, and the federal government is lying to the people. It’s obvious, you just have to think logically.

Edith, who works at a medical center, adds, "All you have to do is make sure you get enough vitamins, exercise, and eat a healthy diet, and no virus can hurt you." Unfortunately, their son and daughter do not share Edith’s views. They call her crazy and have broken off contact with her. Edith suffers from it, but what should she do? Everyone has the right to live their life the way they see fit.

Whether Hubertine and Edith sometimes consider that they might be wrong and that everyone else might be right after all? "Sometimes I do think about it," admits Hubertine. For a moment she is silent, then finally she adds: "But I think it is very improbable."

germany today


Bartosz Jozefiak is a graduate of the Polish Reporting School. He writes for the daily newspaper "Gazeta Wyborcza" and its magazine "Duży Format", the magazine "Tygodnik Powszechny" and the internet portal He was nominated twice for the Teresa Toranska Journalist Award in the category "The Best on the Internet". Recently, Czarne Publishing House published the book "Łodź", written by him together with Wojciech Gorecki. Miasto po przejściach."

Translation: Heinz Rosenau
Copyright: Goethe-Institut Poland
December 2020

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