As mayor, Dominik Sauerteig, 36, has a thick skin, without which a job like this can no longer be managed. And of course you don’t like to show people, even those who are chronically querulous, as head of town hall – a certain robustness is part of it. With a 55-year-old, however, Coburg’s mayor then reached a limit. The personal “threats and insults” were simply too much for him, so he filed a criminal complaint. In addition, a house ban was pronounced against this, well, very special town hall customer.
And then came the night of August 23rd to 24th, 2022, a night in which many were reminded of one of the worst fire disasters in Coburg’s post-war history. Also OB sourdough (SPD). The city almost had to experience “a second inferno like in the Herrngasse”, he says. On May 27, 2012, six buildings were destroyed in the narrow city of Coburg , four of which were listed buildings. More than a dozen people were injured, 60 had to leave their quarters, and the doll museum was also damaged.
It wasn’t that bad ten years later – in August, the mayor’s electric company car and another city car burned out in the courtyard of the town hall. A city spokesman affirmed that the inferno that had just been prevented was not simply “so casual”. When firefighters arrived, the flames had already penetrated the building’s insulation. The back yard has a gate, otherwise it is only open at the top, the chimney effect could have set the whole block on fire. Since then, many have been worried. One notices suddenly, says someone from the town hall, that one could “become a target” oneself. OB Sauerteig put it similarly. Many were now wondering, “What happens next?”
The 55-year-old in question, the man with the ban on town hall, was arrested that night. Various items were found on him that indicate that he set the fire. A suspicion so far. The police call the man “officially known” and in the morning people are making the rounds in the town hall about who it is: the person who is accused of having planted a dummy bomb on the town hall six months earlier and thus causing an uproar in the entire city centre to have. Coburg’s spruced up marketplace, home to many traders, had to be closed for hours on a Saturday morning until special forces arrived.
Same name, same age as a multiple convicted “Reich citizen”
Later, the hodgepodge on the door to the municipal office – with a symbol reminiscent of a radioactivity warning – turned out to be harmless. The 55-year-old was taken into custody, but was released shortly afterwards. The case had been evaluated by different bodies, a police spokesman said. It was concluded that the man was no longer a danger. According to his account, the action that resulted in the clearing of the market place was simply “a big misunderstanding”. One that backfired.
Who is the man? As long as the 55-year-old is only suspected of having committed serious arson and, six months earlier, having disturbed the public peace by threatening to commit a crime, the State Office for the Protection of the Constitution and other Bavarian security authorities must exercise strict restraint. One thing, however, is at least not denied: the man has the same name and the same age as a “Reichsbürger” from the region with multiple criminal records, who was once questioned as such in the local press and also allowed himself to be photographed. Whoever confronts employees of the Coburg town hall with that newspaper picture gets the answer: “That’s him.”
There is therefore a great deal to indicate that someone has reappeared for whose criminal record an official from the Bavarian judiciary spends about 15 minutes at his computer to collect all reasonably relevant allegations. Lawyers call this a walk through the penal code. The official reads out: “Bodily harm, damage to property, insult, incitement to hatred, slander, trespassing, use of anti-constitutional organizations.” Of course, that is not complete, the total number of penalties – individual and total penalties – “highly complex”.
Most of it – and that, like so many things in this case, is exemplary – lies in the “lower criminal law area”: insult to a mayor, resistance to officials, right-wing extremist statements, stink bombs to public authorities, things like that. Nothing, says the official, for which one can, as the saying goes, be “pulled out of circulation” in the long term.
The defendant wanted to take action against the “soccer stupidity of the people”.
There is one exception. If the man who had been “known to the authorities” in Coburg for some time was actually identical to the man who had already become known to the authorities in Bayreuth around 2016, he would have already been guilty of serious arson. On July 7, 2016, a 48-year-old man with a bundle of sparklers disabled a transmitter near the city. On that day, Germany played against France at the European Championships. A witness later testified that the defendant wanted to take action against the “foolishness of the people”. In his confession, he instead cited anger because of “microwave radiation” as a motive. However.
Much more interesting is the opinion of a psychiatrist in a lawsuit against the man. It is a reflex to classify people like the accused as “crazy” or “schizophrenic,” an expert was once quoted as saying in the Nordbayerisches Kurier . Rather, the fact is that like many thousands of others, the 48-year-old decided to believe in something specific. But I definitely have the opportunity to say to myself from now on: “I’m leaving all that behind me.” The courts then ruled on criminal detention. So no placement in psychiatry.
This “something” that someone apparently believes in could be described as the classic “Reichsbürger” ideology. The man explained this again and again, in court and frankly also to reporters: According to this, the German Reich allegedly did not collapse, the Federal Republic was merely a trustee or a company construct, courts are registered companies, Richter GmbH employees and the like. A broken family life is said to have led the rather worn-out man to Brazil in the meantime. There he tried to establish an import and export business for lederhosen, but without success. For this he came into contact with neo-Nazis. That “changed” him.
The 55-year-old, who was arrested in August, is said to have previously attracted attention in Coburg with swastika daubs. Journalists were also targeted. Wolfgang Braunschmidt, editor-in-chief of the Coburger Neue Presse , reported him as a threat, and Braunschmidt also banned the 55-year-old from entering the home. He is said to have daubed the window of the newspaper. Nothing serious, says Braunschmidt. But just in such a way that it keeps you on your toes.
No danger emanates from the man, experts judged after the Coburg bomb dummy. It could well be that they were wrong in this case. “But that,” says a lawyer familiar with the matter, “is how we weigh up the poles of freedom and security on a daily basis.” After the fire at the town hall, the 55-year-old is now in a psychiatric hospital, for the time being.
He would “of course have preferred it,” explains Mayor Sauerteig, if this man had “been taken into custody a long time ago.” However, as a law graduate, he also understands that “in the border area between delusion and criminal responsibility” it is not easy to obtain a corresponding conviction or instruction.