Peter Fitzek: Meet the 'King of Germany' whose far-right cult has its own bank, passport and a lot of guns
If you think the dramatized stories of kings and kingdoms end with Game of Thrones, think again. It seems like there's a fine line between fact and fiction, and there just might be a real-life Cersei.
Meet Peter Fitzek, the 48-year-old who claims to be the monarch of a nine-hectare kingdom 'Königreich' (previously 'NeuDeutschland') in Germany. Ironically, he is a political activist who is part of the 'Reichsbürgerbewegung' movement—aka Empire Citizens' Movement—that contests Germany's legitimacy. Or, to put it plainly, does not believe in the country's existence. As bizarre as it may sound, Fitzek went the whole nine yards and established his own kingdom in 2011, complete with his own currency called 'Engelgeld', a "state-run" health care scheme, social security and even its own currency bank.
The self-proclaimed 'King of Germany' has no hereditary claim to royalty whatsoever but is the leader of the 'Fourth Reich'. From his appearance—tight-fitting black pants and black shirt, embellished with a Königreich coat of arms on its breast pocket, and his shoulder-length slicked black ponytail—he seems to be more of a hippie than a Nazi.
However, he has previously cleared away any confusion about his ideology being fascistic and said he chose to use 'reich' for the name of his movement to inspire Germans to raise questions on why they aren't allowed to forget the past.
His kingdom comprises of several properties in a 22-acre plot around the city of Wittenberg in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, located south of Berlin, and his movement claims to have 3,500 subjects who live on the property rent-free. He also used legal cases that he claimed to have memorized thanks to his photographic memory and said that Hitler's Third Reich was never really dissolved with the culmination of the Second World War. Hence, he says, Germany has no constitution and no legitimate authority over its citizens.
Fitzek was born in former East Germany, before the fall of the Iron Curtain and belongs to the 'lost' generation of Germans. Their upbringing during a term when the east was communist, left them shorthanded to cope with life after reunification. When he was younger, Fitzek aspired to be a teacher but was never able to get the education that he wanted. So he trained as a cook, working in various restaurants and hotels before opening a video store and then a bar.
With his own kingdom, policies and even driving licenses and passports issued by the Königreich, he's become a thorn in the side of German authorities. In 2013, he cited Germany's Basic Law and the 1993 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States and declared his kingdom a sovereign state. His argument for the declaration was that under Montevideo, the only requirements for his claim were a permanent population, a defined territory, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations. Although, he went up a notch with that by launching his own currency, 'inflation-proof' silver coins 'Neue Deutsche Marks' and even a central bank Königliche Reichsbank that offers free customer accounts.
He claimed that it was "safer than any other bank" because it does not answer to the German Law or the European Union, and also promised refuge from the possible collapse of the Euro and investment returns from two to nine percent. the bank operated between 2009 and 2013, and around 600 people banked with him, entrusting him with deposits worth about $1.8 million.
While Fitzek rejects being a Reichsbürger, the ideals with which he founded Königsreich Deutschland are similar to that of the far-right group, who believed that the Federal Republic of Germany does not exist. So, a concern that has risen among the German police and the security officials is gun ownership and their penchant for weaponry.
Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution or BfV estimates at least seven percent of the Reichsbürger have gun licenses. For years, they were viewed as a small group that posed no threat to the government. However, that changed when in 2016, a Reichsbürgeropened fire on police officers killing one and injuring another three.
In 2016, he got into trouble with the authorities for driving around with a fake driving license and was sentenced to three months in prison for traffic offenses.
“I've purposefully driven over the speed limit — radically over the speed limit — so someone will finally take me to court,” he said, according to a report by Global Post. “The court must decide whether I have this authority or not.”
His premises were searched by police over a financial regulation investigation, and in 2017 he was sentenced to 3 years and 8 months in prison illegal operation of a bank and embezzling at least $1.4 million of his clients' money for his personal use. The Federal Financial Supervisory Authority of Germany stated that his bank and health fund have violated the law, and had repeatedly demanded he repay all depositors. However, Fitzer argued that he had spent the missing funds for the good of his community.