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CRIME

Mother who killed nine babies speaks out

A woman from the eastern German state Brandenburg told a court that isolation and alcoholism drove her to kill nine of her newborn babies over the years.

Sabine Hilschenz from Frankfurt an der Oder hid the remains of her children in flower pots, buckets and a garden fish tank. Hilschenz, who has three grown up children and a young daughter, told the court that her isolation and alcoholism were behind the killings.

“I did not have friendship,” the 42-year old woman told the court. She said that Oliver Hilschenz, the first man with whom she had sexual contact, was the love of her life. However, she said neither her husband nor her parents provided her with companionship.

It became clear during her first trial that she did not want her husband to know about her pregnancy. The woman who has been pregnant 13 times said that contraception was never discussed in her family. Sabine Hilschenz also said that she was an alcoholic and did not have her addiction under control.

“We already had three children, and my husband didn’t want any more children,” she said, according to the transcript read in court. “I always hoped my husband would notice the pregnancies of his own accord,” Sabine Hilschenz added.

Sabine Hilschenz gave birth to the first baby in a toilet bowl, submerging its head in water while her husband slept in the next room. In 1992 she gave birth in a small hotel while on a business trip in Goslar. She left the baby under a blanket and ignored its whimpers until they stopped.

Too scared to go to a gynaecologist for fear of discovery, Hilschenz kept the next seven pregnancies secret. When her labour began, she would get drunk enough not to recall if the babies were born dead or alive. She wrapped other babies in plastic sheets and left them in flower pots.

“I thought that she had a weight problem,” Oliver Hilschenz said in a police interrogation. He denies knowledge of the pregnancies. DNA tests show that all the babies were his.

This case has raised questions about the society in the former East Germany. Many Germans are asking how neighbours and especially family members failed to notice.

Jörg Schönbohm (CDU), Minister of the Interior for Brandenburg, has suggested that decades of brutal communist rule in the former East Germany could have caused a more brutal society. Three times as many babies have been found dead in eastern Germany as in western Germany in the past decade. Schönbohm’s remarks drew heavy criticism as many perceived his conclusion to stem from western German arrogance. The CDU politician grew up in the former West Germany.

Sabine Hilschenz was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2006 for the murder of eight children between 1992 and 1998. The ninth child’s murder was covered by a statute of limitations. The Brandenburg court is hearing an appeal against the severity of the sentence. Hilschenz was said by friends to be a good mother to her four surviving children.

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CRIME

Who was involved in the alleged plot to ‘overthrow German democracy’?

There are a litany of strange characters thought to be behind a planned coup in Germany, including a former far-right politician, high-ranking military men and a minor aristocrat with a love of conspiracy theories. Here's what you need to know.

Who was involved in the alleged plot to 'overthrow German democracy'?

On Wednesday, the shocking news emerged that police had arrested 25 people in connection with a suspected plot to overthrow the German government.

Those arrested are accused of having formed “a terrorist group by the end of November 2021 at the latest, which had set itself the goal of overcoming the existing state order in Germany and replacing it with their own kind of state”, prosecutors said in a statement. 

They added that the suspects had allegedly planned to storm parliament with a small group of armed militants and take control of the government by force. But who exactly are the accused?

Well, if this all sounds like something out of a dystopian novel, there are a few characters you need to know about.

Here’s a rundown of who they are.

The Reichsbürger movement

Police raids in Germany Reichsbürger

Police carry out raids on suspected ‘Reichsbürger’ conspirators on Wednesday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

Known as far-right extremists who hanker after a bygone era, the Reichsbürger movement is nothing new in Germany – though its members have become increasingly volatile in recent years.

Since the 1980s, the group has been a ramshackle coalition of neo-Nazis, gun enthusiasts and conspiracy theorists who ultimately question the legitimacy of the Federal Republic of Germany and refuse to follow its laws. Instead, these so-called Reichbürger (citizens of the empire) tend to believe in the continued existence of the Third Reich and often claim that modern-day Germany has become nothing more than an American vassal state in the post-war order.

Though this kind of thought has been on the fringes of German society for decades, the Reichbürger have recently been amassing support and appear to have been emboldened by the rise of other far-right groups. Its estimated number of followers has doubled from 10,000 to 20,000 since 2017 alone, with around 2,000 deemed to be potentially violent. Indeed, recent years have seen increasingly brutal clashes between members of the group and the German authorities. 

One such incident in 2014 saw a former Mr. Germany beauty pageant winner open fire on the police when they tried to evict him from his property as a result of unpaid debts. Another incident led to the death of a police officer, who was shot in Bavaria while trying to confiscate firearms from a radicalised follower of the group. 

Alongside the alleged plot to overthrow the German government, other acts of terrorism have also been pinned on the group – or those associated with them. Most recently, they include a suspected plot to kidnap Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD), along with planned attacks on asylum seekers, Jewish people and other minorities.

READ ALSO: What is Germany’s extremist Reichsbürger movement?

Heinrich XIII, Prince of Preuss

Heinrich XIII

The arrested the arrested Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss German police sits in a police car in Frankfurt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

The 71-year-old “prince“, arrested in Frankfurt’s West End on Wednesday morning, has been described as the ringleader of the group. He pictured himself as head of the new revolutionary government if the envisioned coup went according to plan.

A descent of the the House of Reuß that ruled parts of Thuringia for about 800 years, family members had distanced themselves from him due to his outspoken far-right conspiracy theories.

In a notorious speech given at a business summit in Zurich in 2019, Heinrich XIII had referenced the antisemitic conspiracy theory that the 20th century world order had been engineered by the Rothschild dynasty and the freemasons. He also complained that his own dynasty had been “disposessed” after the first world war. 

“Ever since Germany surrendered, it has never been sovereign again,” he told listeners. “It has only been made an administrative structure of the allies.”

Rüdiger von Pescatore

Described by prosecutors as the terrorist group’s military arm, Von Pescatore was a paratrooper commander and then part of the Special Forces Command between 1993 and 1996.

He was allegedly dismissed from the military in disgrace after selling former East German weapons which had fallen out of use.

According to reports in The Guardian, an internet user bearing the name Von Pescatore made comments on a website claiming to expose the influence of the Freemasons on major world events back in 2019. The commenter allegedly claimed that the “truth” would be exposed once the current “system” had been brought down. 

Birgit Malsack-Winkemann

Birgit Malsack-Winkemann

Alleged plotter Birgit Malsack-Winkemann (AfD) speaks in parliament in 2019. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd von Jutrczenka

The lawyer-by-training had been a member of the far-right Alternative for Germany ever since it was founded in 2013 as a party against the Euro currency.

A member of Bundestag between 2017 and 2021, she grew increasingly vocal against immigration and espoused conspiracy theories from the extremist group QANon.

Until recently, she had been working as a district judge in a Berlin court. In October, members of the left-wing Linke party launched an unsuccessful attempt to oust her from her role due to her inflammatory comments about migrants and refugees. 

She is believed to own at least two firearms.  

Who else is believed to be involved? 

So far, prosecutors have mentioned a number of others who could have been involved in the alleged plot. One is a Russian woman called Vitalia B., who is accused of having tried to facilitate contact between the plotters and the Russian government in order to discuss a “new political order” in Germany.

Former soldiers are also believed to be among the members of the terror group, and they are also thought to have tried to recruit members of the police force. Other people arrested include a roofer from the Covid-sceptic ‘Querdenker’ movement, a pilot with a German airline, a doctor, a high-end chef and an opera singer who could have been installed as culture minister following the takeover. 

In addition to 23 arrests in Germany on Wednesday, two people were arrested in Austria and Italy. Prosecutors say they have identified a further 27 people in connection with the plot, so expect more details to emerge soon. 

READ ALSO: Germany busts far-right cell planning attack on parliament

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