Is it crazy to believe that nothing exists?

Conspiracy theories that Germans believe in
"You just have to open your eyes."

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

By Bartosz Józefiak

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

The sympathetic 50-year-old with a peaked cap and shorts throws around the names of people and organizations that he considers 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, at which the most powerful in the world meet once a year. It was there that the triggering of the refugee crisis was decided in 2015 and the spread of the coronavirus in 2019.

How does he know all this?

“Well, where from?” Wonders Rex. "From the Internet, of course!"

Don't trust the media

Rex is not alone in his opinion. The several thousand people who came to Düsseldorf in the second half of September to protest against the restrictions in connection with the corona pandemic hold similar views.

The picture that presents itself to me on the Düsseldorf Rhine meadows is more reminiscent of a rock festival than a meeting of conspiracy theorists. The protesters laugh, sing and hug each other. One wears dreadlocks and peaked caps, a singer on stage intones “What a Wonderful World.” When the party hit “Macarena” finally sounds from the loudspeakers, the colorful train sets in motion. The organizers speak of a demonstration for love and peace. At the head of the train, 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 haven't brought your own banner, you can borrow one from the organizers.

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

Jenny came specially from Frankfurt. So far she has not participated in 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 editor's phone number is. “Please don't take this personally,” she explains. "It's not about you, I just don't trust the media."

Michael, a 30-year-old auto mechanic, waves a flag that reads “lateral thinking 711.” This is the name of the organization that is protesting against the corona restrictions here. She has already organized several demonstrations across Germany, the largest of them in Berlin.

Michael's son, five-year-old Maxim, happily waves a paper mache virus. “I don't believe in the effectiveness of protective masks. Whenever possible, I take it off. Or I just wear it under my chin, ”Michael tells me. He came here to show that he has an opinion of his own. “And if people label me crazy because of that, that's their problem. The media and politicians are not telling us the truth. Just look at the nonsense they are saying about Donald Trump, ”he adds.

When lockdown was declared in the spring, Michael went online to look for the truth. He came across numerous websites that stated that coronavirus was no more dangerous than normal flu. Finally, he joined a group of like-minded people on the Telegram messenger platform. How does he know that the truth is being spoken there?

“You just need a little common sense. You only have to think for a moment and everything will come together, ”explains Michael.

A threat to the system

Michael also takes part in the demonstration to feel part of a community. Indeed, it seems that the demonstrators are primarily concerned with human contact. The police's requests to the demonstrators to keep your distance from one another are met with an ironic smile. The Federal Constitutional Court has ruled that the right to demonstrate is more important than the fight against the virus. And the Düsseldorf regulatory department has even waived a mask requirement as a requirement for the demonstration.

Rex films the entire demonstration with his smartphone and chants “Freedom! Stop the Corona dictatorship! ”“ We are fighting against the restriction of civil rights. The protective masks are only there to silence people. The corona vaccination carries great risks. You have no idea what exactly the vaccine contains. The only people who make money from the pandemic are the pharmaceutical companies and the elites, ”he explains to me.

Before the pandemic, he also didn't believe in a global conspiracy. But the lockdown opened his eyes. “Why did they lock us up so suddenly? Who benefits from it? ”He asked himself. And did he find the answer on the Internet? Which? “Just have a look yourself. You just have to think a little and put the facts together. "

Rex had enough time to follow all leads. He worked in a car factory until recently, but was forced to quit when his boss began systematically bullying him. Since then he has been unemployed. The forced isolation triggered anxiety attacks and depression in him. But now he seems to be doing a lot better. “The government is already afraid of us. We pose a threat to the system, ”he says.
Many people trust information from the Internet. | Photo: Pexels

The free thinkers have seen the truth

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung recently reported that around a third of Germans believe in secret powers. In a representative survey, 11 percent of those questioned were sure that the statement "There are secret powers that control the world" is correct, 19 percent believed the statement to be probably correct. Almost 17 percent of those surveyed consider the coronavirus to be a political pretext to permanently restrict civil liberties. So we're talking about a total of several million people.

Conspiracy theories are currently booming in Germany. This became 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 extremists, anti-vaccination campaigners and supporters of various conspiracy theories. For example, that the European elites are striving to Islamize Europe. "This idea originated in France and is also finding more and more supporters in Germany," says network activist and former political director of the Pirate Party Germany Katharina Nocuń. 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. Denying the Holocaust 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. However, that hardly bothered them, because they have long since created an alternative media landscape. They have their own internet stations, YouTube channels and magazines, including the “Compact” magazine, which can be bought at almost every kiosk and petrol 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. Among other things, he claims that Corona is a pandemic made by the Jewish elites, Angela Merkel and Bill Gates, and that the virus is spread using 5G technology and chemicals sprayed from airplanes.

In Germany, the “free thinkers” have created a close network. Perhaps that is why they managed to organize the largest 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 life develop a tendency to recognize patterns where there actually are none,” says Katharina Nocuń.

The loss of a job, a divorce, financial difficulties, but also major political changes or 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 special. In this way, these people strengthen their self-esteem.

Germany doesn't exist

The demonstrators in Düsseldorf chant “Peace! Freedom! Stop the Corona dictatorship! ”There are kills and whistles.

The 48-year-old Markus came from Aachen. Until recently, he worked as a stand builder all over Europe, and he has also been to Poland many times. It was hard physical work, sometimes up to 30 hours at a time. He was making good money, at least until recently. The lockdown made him unemployed.

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

When did he know the truth? 10 years ago when he happened upon a page on the internet. It was then that he realized that the German Reich still exists, but is still occupied by the Allies. The proof: Even the Federal Constitutional Court ruled in 1973 that the German Reich continues to exist and that the Federal Republic is not the legal successor of the German Reich, but is identical with it in terms of constitutional law. That's a fact. According to Markus, this means that the Federal Republic of Germany is not a legitimate and sovereign state, but merely a company controlled by the victorious allied powers. The real German Reich is still occupied. At this point the until then rather calm Markus suddenly becomes angry. He proclaims passionately: “We are not a free country! We are being lied to! Germans are by nature a docile people. But that's changing right now. Gradually Germany is waking up. "

Markus' views may sound original, but they are not. They are shared by around 30,000 people in Germany. We do not know how many of them, because the citizens of the Reich do not form a single group. “The citizens of the Reich are a special German phenomenon. It is right-wing extremists who do not recognize the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany, ”says Katharina Nocuń.

The citizens of the Reich also reject the legal system of the Federal Republic of Germany. Many of them do not pay taxes and do not obey any laws, including road traffic regulations. They have no ID cards or driver's licenses and proclaim their own fantasy states in their gardens. “They make themselves kings, form their own governments, and print their own identity cards and passports,” says Nocuń.

While this may seem funny, it isn't. In 2016, the hunter Wolfgang P. from Georgensgmünd near Nuremberg opened fire when police officers broke into his house to confiscate his weapons. Four police officers were injured, one of whom was fatal. Wolfgang P. was a staunch citizen of the Reich.

The ideology of the Reich Citizens' Movement is an extreme example of right-wing extremist conspiracy theories. Your followers come from different backgrounds. What connects them with each other is their rejection of the federal government, which in their view is only a puppet government.

“Anti-Semitism and conspiracy narratives have always been an integral part of right-wing extremist narratives in Germany. The idea that Jews secretly ruled the world is one of the most powerful anti-Semitic conspiracy myths. The stories of the citizens of the Reich boil down to the fact that Germany is not a sovereign state and is controlled by "dark powers from outside". Anti-Semitism is therefore always inherent in them, ”says Felix Müller from Mobile Advice Against Right-Wing Extremism (MBR) Berlin. “Your followers have a great potential for violence.” Katharina Nocuń says: “If you write about extremists, you always end up with death threats. "We'll kill you, you Jewess!" Or something like that. I've got used to that for a long time. If I reported every such incident and brought it to justice, I wouldn't have time for anything else. "

The citizens of the Reich and their intellectuals could also be seen at the Berlin demonstrations. They carried flags of the German Reich and the Kingdom of Prussia to openly show that they did 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. The police arrested over 200 demonstrators.

No Reich flags can be seen at the demonstration in Düsseldorf. But the anti-fascists have still positioned themselves along the planned route. The police are trying to tell the two groups apart. The counter-demonstrators dressed in black hold up a banner that reads "Against Nazism and Racial Hatred" and shout "Nazis out!"

Rex's bile rises. “They pretend we're 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 over a bridge, Markus is overcome by gloomy thoughts about the price one sometimes has to pay for the truth. Many of his family and friends have turned away from him. They call him crazy or worse. At first he suffered from it. He now knows that there is no point in arguing with people who do not want to see the truth. But if he notices that someone is hesitant, that he is open-minded, then Markus takes action and tries to get him to his side. He has already managed to convince his mother of his views. That was a great success. And also a relief. Before that, he had been all alone for a long time.

“You can't even imagine what loneliness it is when nobody 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 broke up during the Corona crisis because one of the partners didn't want to see the truth.

“The Corona crisis has encouraged the emergence of conspiracy theories. Concerned families turn to us because they need help in dealing with their relatives, ”says Iris Brennberger from SektenInfo Berlin.Your organization advises people whose relatives have come under the influence of sects, esoteric movements, extreme political groups and, recently, more and more often conspiracy theories. Those seeking help describe impressively how much the character of people changes who think they have suddenly recognized the truth. Most of them feel an overwhelming need to share their newfound insights with other people. 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 worse: as a proponent 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, ”explains Brennberger.

In extreme cases, parents forbid their children from attending school because they are afraid that they could be indoctrinated there.
Family members describe how the character of people changes who think they have suddenly learned the truth. | Photo: Pexels What can you do if your own father or sister suddenly begins to believe, for example, in a Jewish world conspiracy? “You have to react immediately. If someone is just beginning to radicalize, one can possibly still influence them, ”says Katharina Nocuń, 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, they will simply reply: This is part of the conspiracy. At this stage 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 get people to think. It's a very long and difficult process. "

Are the others right after all?

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

Hubertine and Edith are resting on a blanket. The two women over 50 years of age have come from Bonn together with their friends. Edith proudly presents her t-shirt, which shows the globe and two hands that join. It's their group's logo. Hubertine and Edith met while meditating in the park. “We have no problems at all in finding more members. We just have to look around for people who are smiling and not wearing a protective mask, ”says Edith.

The two run a website on which they educate people about the corona crisis. Hubertine worked as a nurse until a few years ago, but was no longer able to do her job due to health problems. She puts forward her arguments against the coronavirus with machine-gun speed: COVID-19 is nothing more than swine flu. Why was there no such scare tactics back then? There is evidence that the coronavirus 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 in a medical center, adds: "All you have to do is make sure you get enough vitamins, exercise and eat healthily, then no virus can harm you." Unfortunately, her son and daughter do not share Edith's views. You 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 as they see fit.

Do Hubertine and Edith sometimes consider that they could be wrong and that everyone else might be right after all? "Sometimes I think about it," admits Hubertine. She is silent for a moment, then finally adds: "But I think it is very unlikely."

author

Bartosz Józefiak is a graduate of the Polish School of Reportage. He writes for the daily newspaper “Gazeta Wyborcza” and its magazine “Duży Format”, the magazine “Tygodnik Powszechny” and the Internet portal Weekend.Gazeta.pl. He was twice nominated for the Teresa Torańska Journalism Prize in the “Best on the Internet” category. The book “Łódź. Miasto po przejściach. "

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

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