Monthly Archives: July 2014

31 July 2014

Once more concerning „Blood & Honour“ Chemnitz

The trial began later today to await the decision of the other chamber concerning the challenge brought by Zschäpe and Wohlleben against the judges. Unsurprisingly that chamber rejected the challenges as unfounded.

The court then heard the last bit of testimony by a police officer concerning the questioning of Thomas Starke, “Blood & Honour” activist from Chemnitz. The officer today reported on a DNA profile found in the Frühlingsstraße apartment which had raised the possibility that one of Starke’s sons had been present in that apartment, which had led to another police interview with Starke. The DNA evidence was later disproved, meaning that the subject of today’s testimony is without any importance for the result of this trial. Defense counsel for Zschäpe and Wohlleben nonetheless wasted over half an hour on questions concerning the conduct of the police officers in interviewing Starke.

Now that all of Starke’s statements to the police have been introduced into the trial, victims’ counsel made a concluding comment on his statements, stressing the very close relationship between Zschäpe and the two Uwes as described by Starke, the fact that “the Three” had been given support, including provision of explosives, by many “Blood and Honour” activists both before and after going underground. They concluded that, at least as far as the time before their move to Zwickau is concerned, the NSU can be described as a partner, if not a part, of the “Blood & Honour” network. The statement is available, in the German original, here.

The final witness this week was a detective from the federal criminal police who had talked to the NSU’s neighbor in the Frühlingsstraße in Zwickau. The old lady’s health has taken a dramatic turn for the worse after the fire such that she is not available for questioning anymore, accordingly the court has now turned to questioning those officers who had talked to her. According to the evidence presented until now, she was put severely endangered by the fire and the explosion caused by Zschäpe, the testimony heard today fits into this picture.


Witness testimony: Violent acts by Beate Zschäpe already in 1996

Today two witness from Jena testified on an attack by Beate Zschäpe in 1996. Zschäpe pushed one of them to the ground, leading to a broken ankle. She then sat on the young woman’s back and forced her to insult herself. Zschäpe accused the witness of having insulted her earlier – probably based on an earlier encounter with a friend of the witness who looked much like her. Zschäpe was accompanied by another young woman with a Skinhead haircut – most likely Jana J., former best friend of André Kapke’s (see the reports of 13 March 2014 and 16 April 2014). One of the two witnesses stated that Zschäpe had been described by others as very violent and unpredictable.

While the witness statements varied with regard to certain details – which is hardly surprising given that the attack was 18 years ago, their statements as to the general sequence of events is very believable. The woman who was attacked in particular visibly took pains to give a balanced testimony and to differentiate between what she remembered and what she had put together in the meantime. Attempts by Zschäpe’s defense to raise doubts as to the identification of Zschäpe were unsuccessful.

Wohlleben defense attorney Klemke meanwhile provided defense mostly for the Nazi scene and tried to insinuate that daily violence had been used both by Nazis and by the left in Jena. The witnesses, however, remembered things quite differently – it was they and their friends who had lived in constant fear of attacks by the Nazi scene, which was very strong in Jena.
At the end of the trial day, victims’ counsel for the Yozgat family moved that two high ranking officials from the German interior ministry be summoned as witness for the fact that they had followed the in-court testimony of Andreas Temme, formerly of the Hessian domestic secret service, on behalf of the ministry. If this proves to be true, there is a clear danger of undue influence being put on the testimony of later witnesses, particularly from the secret service and other agencies.

29 July 2014

Zschäpe’s challenge against the court – much ado about nothing.

Today’s trial day was largely without concrete results:

The testimony of Thomas Rothe, one of the earliest supporters of “the Three” among Blood and Honour activists from Chemnitz, had to be interrupted again and will continue on a later trial day. Rothe kept emphasizing that “all that” was 14 years ago and that he had not noticed much in any event – on the other hand, he also admitted that he had helped organize “two, three concerts” on behalf of Blood and Honour. The presiding judge read out statements from a former police interview of Rothe’s and commented that “this was basically a lie.” It will be interesting to see how his testimony continues.

The court then interviewed a judge of the Federal Court of Justice who had interviewed Matthias Dienelt, who had rented the NSU apartments in Zwickau for the NSU when Dienelt was imprisoned on remand. The Zschäpe defense used the opportunity to show that they are willing to defend their client “by any means possible” (as reported in the daily “Süddeutsche Zeitung”) – including challenges for alleged bias which they must know have a snowball’s chance in hell of being successful. The presiding judge had read out large parts of the minutes of the interview and had the witness confirm that this was what had been said. He had not read out the entire interview, however, and the defense claimed that two of the parts not read out had been exculpatory. This, the defense claimed, showed him to be biased against the defense, and since the other members of the court had not asked the witness about these parts either, the same applied to them. Now, regardless of what one may think of the presiding judge’s habit of reading out large parts of the respective minutes to witnesses and having them “confirm” them, claiming that he shows bias by not reading out the entirety of the minutes is more than far-fetched – after all, it is precisely the task of defense counsel to ask those exculpatory questions which they deem the court has missed. Thus this challenge was not useful for anything but “clearing the air” within the Zschäpe defence.

The decision on the challenge will come from another chamber of the court. Meanwhile, the trial and with it the questioning of the witness continued. One would have expected the defense to use this opportunity to show in what way Dienelt’s statements to the witness had been exculpatory – instead, they got lost in vague statements and questions regarding the difference between “radical right-wing” and “extreme right-wing” thought and speculations regarding the decisions of the witness back in 2011.

The testimony of Maik Eminger, twin brother of accused André Eminger and like him long-time activist in the Nazi scene, was of much shorter duration: as brother of an accused, he may refuse to testify, a right which he invoked. Eminger did, however, make a political statement earlier, by appearing in the court building wearing a T-Shirt stating “Brüder schweigen” (Brothers remain silent) – an allusion to his right to refuse to testify, but also a quote from a Waffen-SS song and a self-description of murderous Nazi terrorist group “The Order” from the United States. Victims’ counsel brought this fact to the attention of those in the courtroom, despite attempts by the defense to immediately shut down those comments.

23 July 2014

Lies and Trivialization, Part VIII – Andreas Rachhausen

The trial day with a report by the presiding judge that the witnesses summoned for the morning had called and told him that he would not appear – he had become lightheaded and would have to visit a pub. Götzl recounted this phone call in a rather jocular manner, which was also how it was taken up in the media. However, there is a serious background to it: the witness used to be a member of a criminal youth gang together with Uwe Böhnhardt. After he had talked to the police, he was involved in a car accident and the rest of the group left him lying severely injured and did not offer any help. When he did survive and was brought to the hospital, he was threatened by the rest of the group. It seems that he still suffers from serious anxiety when confronted with this past.

The court next heard witness Andreas Rachhausen, one of the leaders of the “Thuringia Home Guard” (Thüringer Heimatschutz, THS) besides Tino Brandt. Like Brandt, Rachhausen also sold information to the domestic secret service, albeit in a somewhat less institutionalized role. The files contain only two “meeting reports” concerning these activities – as of now it is not known whether there are further reports, whether reports may have been destroyed.

Rachhausen appeared with his lawyer, right wing attorney Jauch, who had himself been summoned to testify on 8 July 2014.

Rachhausen was first questioned by presiding judge Götzl for several hours and claimed that the THS had been more or less a front, that there had been no relevant structures, that he had only seen a small number of THS meetings in the “Heilsberg” pub which consisted mostly of drinking. He also claimed to have hardly known the accused, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos and to have had no contact to Nazis outside Germany. He admitted to having towed a car on behalf of Wohlleben and Kapke, but claimed to not have known any details. This was in fact the car used by “the Three” in going underground.

Later, upon intense questioning by victims’ counsel, Rachhausen had to admit that he had been filmed by German TV magazine “Spiegel-TV” during paramilitary exercises (so-called “Wehrübungen”) and urban combat training with Nazis from Böhnhardt’s clique. He had also worked in the “Heilsberg” pub at the time when the THS meetings were going strong, meaning that he was present at practically all such meetings. In 1992, he was one of the organizers of a “Rudolf Hess-march” in Rudolstadt, which was attended by 1800 Nazis from all over Germany and all of Europe. When he was wanted for aggravated assault, he fled to Belgium, the US and Denmark, where he found refuge with Nazi cadre and Auschwitz denier Thiess Christophersen.

Rachhausen stated that he had told Brandt that he worked for the secret service. Generally, it had been known in the scene that, “whenever four people were sitting together, two of them were working for the secret service”. However, this had been no problem as he had only told the service banalities.

Rachhausen’s questioning will be continued on a later trial day.

What became clear during the entirety of his testimony so far was that he lied in order to downplay his role in the THS as well as the importance of the THS generally. However, it also became clear that the Nazi scene in Thüringen had experience with people going underground when wanted by the police and that, from 1992 at the latest, German Nazis were well-connected nationwide and globally. It became obvious that “armed resistance” was being discussed, trained and used as a propaganda vehicle via the media. The Nazis thus used violence in a two-fold way: on the hand by means of individual attacks, on the other hand through intimidation by means of public announcements via the media or stickers etc.

Years before the first NSU murder, the use of weapons against political enemies was thus a normal topic for the Nazi scene in Thuringia and the THS. The secret service knew this and paid important protagonists large sums of money, but was only given useless information.

The trial day on 24 July, which would have consisted of the continued testimony of Thomas Gerlach, was canceled. The court has received several dozen binders containing the files of a “criminal organization” investigation against the Hammerskins as well as the files of an investigation against Gerlach charging him with weapons crimes. These files, which had only arrived at the court last week, will have to be viewed by all parties; on their basis, the court will have to decide whether Gerlach may be able to invoke the privilege against self-incrimination.

22 July 2014

„We have hardly ever met such nice people, we thought they would not hurt a fly…”

After Zschäpe’s request for new counsel was rejected, the court heard two young women who spent their family summer vacations in the years 2007 to 2011 at the Baltic Sea with Beate Zschäpe, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt. Both witnesses stated that all three had been very nice, friendly and helpful to them. The families and their “Ossis” (a colloquial term for people from the former German Democratic Republic) had turned into an ever closer vacation community, there had also been visits between the summers, Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt had visited and brought little presents.

“Lieschen” Zschäpe had played a particularly important role for the two young women as she had been easier to talk to about personal topics than their parents. This had been the case despite one of the two having a decidedly anti-fascist worldview which was also visible via “Antifascist Action”-patches on her bag. Both women were clearly heartbroken and devastated to realize that the three persons they had held so dear had committed such horrible crimes. One of them put her anger into the following words: “I still cannot understand this. I trusted them 100 percent, and now I have realized that they have done nothing but lie to me. I have asked myself whether they even really liked me or whether that was just as fake.”

What this testimony showed was not only that „the Three“ had, over the years, built a perfect disguise, but also that they had a need for personal contact to “normal people”. What is most interesting, however, is that the “völkisch” and racist ideology behind the NSU murders still allowed them to have close relationships to other “German people”, even those who were opposed to Nazis. In the midst of the “Volksgemeinschaft”, they behaved decently and friendly, their murderous anger and hatred were motivated by racist thought. In other words, the NSU did not consist of psycho murderers who had gone off the rails, but of clearly politically motivated Nazis.

22 July 2014

By decision of 21 July 2014, the Court rejected the application by accused Zschäpe to be provided new counsel, holding that Zschäpe had not given sufficient reasons for such a step. After announcing the decision, the presiding judge immediately got back to business and called in the first witness for the day.

17 July 2014

Waiting for Zschäpe’s explanation

After the trial was cut short yesterday, speculation has been rife, newspapers that used to praise Zschäpe’s defense attorney to the skies are now tearing them down.

Fact is that there are lots of possible reasons why a defense lawyer would advise Zschäpe to use her right to remain silent, as hers have done. Fact is also that at this point in time, more than a year after the beginning of the trial and after the court ordered the continued detention of Ralf Wohlleben, Zschäpe’s disposition may well have reached a low point: it becomes clearer and clearer that the likely result of the trial is a conviction on all charges; Zschäpe must realize that she will spend a very long time behind bars.

Against this background, it is likely that the double betrayal of her former “comrade” Brandt once more showed her quite plainly how hopeless her situation is. After all, it was Brandt who built up the THS and thus also the “Comradeship Jena”, it was Brandt who radicalized the scene, who developed militant and violent strategies against political enemies and clandestine modes of behavior, who militated in favor of armed struggle – all working for and being paid for by the domestic secret service. Brandt – who was more than a friend, but rather a “comrade” of Zschäpe and her co-perpetrators – now answers the court’s questions and describes himself as a “National Socialist” who always kept within the law, who would have liked to win elections for the Nazi party NPD. It was certainly Zschäpe’s expectation that her defense attorneys would attack this witness, would expose him and the secret service. That they did not do so may be for good reasons – maybe Brandt knows more about Zschäpe than he has told the court so far. Or it may simply be due to inaptitude or a lack of understanding what Zschäpe wants and needs from them.

Zschäpe’s wish to be provided totally different defense attorney will not be fulfilled. Maybe one of her lawyers will voluntarily give u his spot to make room for a new attorney who will join the defense quite unprepared. Another option would be for the court to simply appoint an additional lawyer. In any event, it is far from clear whether this would lead to big changes in the trial or to Zschäpe deciding to testify.

The court has given Zschäpe until late on Friday to motivate her motion to dismiss her current attorneys. It is extremely unlikely that the court will accept a serious delay in the trial. The trial day next Tuesday stands.

Further speculation is uncalled for at this moment.

16 July 2014

Zschäpe wants new defence lawyers

The trial was interrupted today and will not continue until next week. The accused Zschäpe has informed the court that there is no relationship of trust with her defence attorneys and has requested that new defence lawyers be assigned.

The presiding judge has stated that he will give her an opportunity to explain her decision in writing

15 July 2014

Tino Brandt – Nazi leader working for the secret service, Part I.

The entire trial week is dedicated to the testimony of Tino Brandt, former Nazi leader, co-founder of the “Thuringia Home Guard” (Thüringer Heimatschutz, THS) and longtime informer for the Thuringia domestic secret service. Brandt was recently detained, he is charged inter alia with having forced young men to engage in prostitution.

Until being uncovered in 2001, he was by far the most important source of information for the Thuringia secret service. As he stated today, he was first active in the “Anti-Antifa Eastern Thuringia”, which later formed the basis for the THS being formed as a common organization of the Nazi “comradeships” in Thuringia. Brandt was very reluctant when it came to describing his work as informer as well as his Nazi activities. He openly stated that he still adhered to a Nazi ideology, but tried to downplay the violent character of the THS.

He was recruited as an informer for the domestic secret service in a simply conversation. His two contact persons told him that he would not be asked to discuss crimes committed by his “comrades”, after all the secret service was not tasked with enforcing criminal laws. The service simply wanted to know who was cooperating with whom. Given this basis, Brandt claimed to have always reported truthfully. When the service wanted to tell him not to take over certain political functions or not to engage in certain activities, he simply refused – the service threatened to end his work for them, but never in fact did so. In other words, the secret service knowingly accepted that Brandt used the money given to him by the state to build up the THS, but that he did not at all report on Nazi crimes, instead providing only general information concerning demonstrations, publications and Nazi functionaries.

All in all, Brandt stated, he had probably received between 100,000 and 140,000 € from the secret service, money which he had used for political activities, transport and telephone costs, leaflets, but also to pay criminal fines for André

10 July 2014

Thomas Gerlach: flat-out refusal to testify

Today the court first heard several witnesses regarding the claim by Mundlos’ father that without the radicalizing influence of Ralph Wohlleben and André Kapke, his son would never have become a member of a “murderous gang”. Furthermore, a staff member of the federal criminal police testified on comparisons between surveillance camera footage from several bank robberies and the items and clothing found among Böhnhardt’s and Mundlos’ belongings – he had found quite a number of matches.

The federal prosecution stated that it was “not opposed” to the motion by victims’ counsel for the hearing of evidence regarding the ideology of accused Eminger.

At this point the court was ready to continue the questioning of witness Thomas Gerlach. However, Gerlach stated in response to the very first question asked that he was not ready to answer questions concerning the “Hammerskin” organization. Wohlleben defence attorney Klemke immediately supported Gerlach: to his knowledge there had been a criminal investigation into the Hammerskin-Chapter Saxonia in 2003, charging its members with membership in a criminal organization. He did not know how that investigation had ended. Klemke implied that Gerlach might have a right to refuse all questions regarding the Hammerskins if there was an ongoing investigation against him based on his membership in or activities for the Hammerskins. The witness replied that, while he had been in prison at that time, he knew that his house had been searched as well; he did not know the result of the investigation.

The presiding judge did not ask any further questions at that point and invited questions by other parties.

Gerlach continued to refuse to answer any question concerning the Hammerskins and all relevant persons associated with them. Victims’ counsel moved that sanctions be imposed to force him to answer. The presiding judge stated that he would first check whether there was still an ongoing investigation against the witness – shockingly, the federal prosecution had not checked before today, despite Gerlach’s announcement at his earlier appearance in court.

Gerlach’s questioning will be continued on 24 July. It is to be expected that by then he will have further refined his strategy concerning his refusal to testify.

If Gerlach’s strategy of openly refusing to testify is successful, this will send a clear symbol to all other Nazi witnesses that the court is willing to forego an investigation of the political and organizational structures surrounding the NSU. The breadth of the right to silence claimed here would clearly be a special rule for militant Nazis.