People in the News
Citizens of the Reich
Extremist Group Under Surveillance
Germany's Interior Ministry has announced a review of surveillance programs targeting members of the "Reichsbürger," or Citizens of the Reich, a right-wing group that does not recognize the authority of the government.
While the group only boasts a few hundred members - mostly white males over the age of 50 from low income backgrounds - they snagged headlines this week after one of the members fatally shot a police officer in Bavaria.
The group's most extreme belief centers on the transition from Nazi Germany to the Federal Republic. Some claim that the "German Empire" still exists, and that Germany is not an independent republic, but a multinational firm called Deutschland GmbH run by the United States, France, Russia and Great Britain. The Reichsbürger believe there are no citizens of Deutschland GmbH, only employees. So they refuse to pay taxes or use identification issued by the federal government. They tie up the German courts with endless suits against the state.
A significant portion of the group's members live in Bavaria, which has experienced several chaotic episodes, including Reichsbürger members storming into a courtroom during a trial and stealing documents off the judge's bench.
But the group's antics have become more outwardly violent recently, with physically targeting of individuals instead of committing symbolic acts.
The interior affairs spokesman for the Christian Social Union, Stephan Mayer, responded to the shooting of the police officer this week with a call to keep a close eye on the organization. "The case must have consequences," Mr. Mayer told Berliner Zeitung.
Trial of Teenager With IS Connections Begins
The trial of a German-Moroccan teenager started Thursday in the northern city of Celle for the attempted murder of a police officer at the Hanover train station (pictured above). The girl stabbed a police officer in the neck with a vegetable knife when stopped for a security check after she was seen acting suspiciously.
Investigators have since uncovered a long history of the girl's radicalization, going back to a 2008 video of Pierre Vogel, a Salafist preacher in Germany. She reportedly pledged allegiance to the extremist Islamic State group last year. The 16-year-old faces ten years in prison if convicted of committing the crime in support of the group.
Authorities have been criticized over not arresting the girl earlier, as there were growing signs of radicalization and contact with Islamic State fighters. The girl's own mother and teacher contacted police to report their suspicions. Her mother flew to Istanbul to bring Safia S. home; upon arrival back in Germany, the girl was detained and questioned over her attempt to reach the war zone in Syria and Iraq. She was then released.
Only after the knife attack in the train station did authorities translate the Arabic messages on her phone, which instructed her to commit an act of martyrdom.
During her trial, media will be banned from the courtroom in order to protect the defendant from exposure and stigma.
Berlin Zoo Scoops Up Baby Panda Pair
The capital's oldest zoo inked a deal with China this week to receive a pair of panda babies, who are due to arrive at their newly built 5,000-square-meter panda landscape next summer.
The leasing agreement for the animals, which could cost the zoo upwards of a million dollars per panda per year, has sparked memories of the zoo's last giant panda, Bao Bao, who died a bachelor in 2012 at the age of 34. He was the world's oldest male giant panda in captivity at the time of his death.
The World Wildlife Fund estimates there are only 1,800 great pandas left in the world.
Zoo enthusiasts can look forward to seeing the cuddly young pair in summer of 2017.
Alleged Swindler's Bank Accounts Frozen
Everything in the life of Michael Riemenschneider seemed to come together seamlessly.
An adoring press crowned him the "palate rebel" during his ascent as a celebrity chef, which culminated in the 34-year-old winning the German TV series "My Local, Your Local" over four other chefs from Frankfurt.
But a close associate of Mr. Riemenschneider has blown the whistle on the star cook, accusing him of being a swindler.
He was certainly a high roller outside of the kitchen. After relocating from London to Frankfurt and opening his restaurant Atelier Wilma, tabloid daily Bild reported the star cook had built his own auto fleet, including an Aston Martin, a Land Rover and a Dodge.
But the flashy cars and star restaurants are only one side of his life, as court documents from London seen by Handelsblatt reveal. As a result of a so-called "freezing injunction" and several affidavits filed by close associates from his early days, a large part of his assets are now frozen. The former associate is now suing for damages, saying Mr. Riemenschneider owes her more than two million UK pounds.
Mr. Riemenschneider will likely need to prepare himself for a less adoring press in the future.