“Reich citizens” try to gain a foothold in the Uckermark. A self-proclaimed “King of Germany” wants to buy a farm with his entourage. The residents fight back.
“Rutenberg – village community free and democratic since 1300” is written on the poster. It hangs next to the bus stop not far from the medieval church. Marita Berckner is particularly concerned with “free and democratic”. She grew up here and lives with her family in her parents’ house in the town of around 200 people in the Uckermark, which today belongs to the town of Lychen.
“I’m very worried about what kind of village I’ll leave behind for my children and grandchildren if structures like this spread here,” says Berckner. She is a woman in her fifties with short graying hair. “I worry that this ‘Kingdom of Germany’ could one day declare Rutenberg its sovereign territory and destroy the image of our place.”
Marita Berckner worries that “Reich citizens” want to gain a foothold in her village.
“Common Good Villages” instead of Federal Republic
This so-called “Kingdom of Germany”, which drives many Rutenbergers to the barricades, is an entity that has its origins in Lutherstadt Wittenberg in Saxony-Anhalt. Peter Fitzek founded it in 2012. The Office for the Protection of the Constitution counts him and his group in the “Reichsbürger” and “Selbstverwalter” scene. According to the definition of the authority, these are people who deny the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany and reject its legal system, often justified with various conspiracy stories or a self-defined natural law.
According to the Brandenburg Office for the Protection of the Constitution, “King” Fitzek is considered a particularly enterprising milieu manager within the extremist “Reichsbürger” scene, who is open in dealing with right-wing extremist actors, is inclined to anti-Semitic conspiracy stories and is very interested in his followers’ money. On its website, the “Kingdom of Germany” advertises, among other things, tax exemption, offers expensive “system exit” seminars and promotes so-called “common good villages”.
Last year, the former cook and karate teacher Fitzek also acquired two properties in Saxony in Eibenstock and Bärwalde. A “seminar and health center” or one of the so-called “common good villages” is to be built there. According to the Brandenburg Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Fitzek has set up various associations that are looking for real estate and land. In the case of inquiries, the work of the “kingdom” should be veiled.
It was apparently the same in Rutenberg. Here, the emissaries of the “kingdom” and Fitzek himself sought contact with a group that lives in the “nature barn” in the village, says they live and work together in harmony with nature.
citizens’ initiative and mobile advisory team
Markus Klein is standing in front of the closed and somewhat run-down Rutenberger “Dorfkrug” directly opposite the “Naturscheune”. Klein is the managing director of the Brandenburg Institute for Community Advice. With his mobile advisory teams, he primarily supports the fight against right-wing extremism and xenophobia and also citizens who see democracy in danger in their place – like the Rutenbergers do.
“What we heard is that the ‘Kingdom of Germany’ wanted to buy this property here in combination with the ‘Naturscheune’,” says Klein, pointing to the “Dorfkrug”. Being so close together makes it very attractive for events that can be held here. However, the deal did not materialize after the community of heirs realized who they were dealing with.
The “Kingdom of Germany” was apparently also interested in the property of the “Dorfkrug”.
Since these plans of the “kingdom” became known in Rutenberg at the end of 2022, the Rutenbergers have been alarmed. They founded a citizens’ initiative, which was quickly joined by around 40 locals. Since then, posters have not only been hanging next to the bus stop. “Turn back! Reich citizens, your ‘royal road’ is a dead end” is written on one next to the village church and “Kronsee doesn’t need a king! Preserve democracy!” on another.
In January, the members of the initiative even organized an event with the Brandenburg Office for the Protection of the Constitution, who shared their insights into the “Kingdom of Germany” with the villagers. They also invited the residents of the “Nature Barn” to do this.
There are currently no direct discussions, only written contact, says Karl Heinrich Deppe, who is also active in the citizens’ initiative. “The moment for an uninhibited, open approach to one another is over and we now have so many insights and experiences that, personally speaking, there is simply no trusting relationship,” says the 56-year-old as justification. The man from Potsdam has been coming to Rutenberg regularly for ten years and has had a house here with his wife since 2021.
Karl Heinrich Deppe has no confidence in the new residents of Rutenberg.
Contacts to the “Kingdom of Germany”
The “natural barn” is in the middle of town, surrounded by vegetable and flower beds. Boards and building materials are piled up next to and behind the house, and there are bicycles and caravans in the yard. From time to time someone shows up in the garden. A young woman who calls herself Cathy says she is currently here with her daughter and is looking for a life in harmony with nature. She thinks it’s “a real shame” that the mood in the village is so against her. You have the feeling that there is always so much twisted.
At first she does not want to answer questions about any connections between the “Naturscheune” and the “Kingdom of Germany”, but then says: “There is a project in the Naturscheune called WaGaBau. This WaGaBau project had a cooperation with the ‘Kingdom’ for a certain time that is now suspended because certain agreements were not kept.”
In the citizens’ initiative, they have their doubts about statements like these. You want to stay vigilant.