Monthly Archives: March 2015

26 March 2015

More on the Keupstraße bomb, and first evidence concerning the bank robberies in Stralsund

On this last trial day before the Easter break, the court first heard another victim of the Keupstraße nail bomb – two more victims had been summoned, but could not appear in court today.

The witness heard today was the owner of a travel office in the Keupstraße. When the bomb exploded, he was standing on the sidewalk a few meters away and was lucky to be injured “only” as to his hearing. His son and daughter were in the travel office and were saved from serious injuries by a transporter which stood in the street and caught many nails which otherwise would have hit their shop. However, the financial repercussions of the attack – mostly due to customers not coming to the Keupstraße anymore – were so severe that he had to close his shop a few years later.

The court then hears the first witness concerning the bank robberies in Stralsund in November of 2006 and January of 2007. However, several of the witnesses summoned for today were sick, the court could only hear two bank tellers today.

The first witness did not remember many details, what’s more, she was on the periphery of both robberies and only confronted with one of the perpetrators for a short moment. He spoke with a slight accent which the witness – herself clearly hailing from the Northeast of Germany – placed towards Saxony/Saxony-Anhalt. After the robberies, she tried to continue working normally, but she is still suffering from psychological injuries today.

The second witness was also present at both robberies, witnessed shots (fired into the ceiling). Interestingly, during the second robbery the perpetrators went directly towards the teller who had opened the safe during the first one. One of the two perpetrators announced that he would shoot and kill her if the money turned out to contain a dye bomb. She described the perpetrators as 25 to 30 years old, between 180 and 190 cm tall, slim, with a Southeastern accent (she placed it towards the Magdeburg/Halle region) – a description which matches Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos rather well. She was visibly still suffering from psychological injuries incurred, which were among the reasons for her early retirement.

Over the next few weeks, the court will hear several more witness concerning these two robberies, which netted the two a quarter million Euros.

25 March 2015

First evidence concerning the bank robberies

Today the court heard the first witnesses concerning the NSU’s bank robberies, beginning with that in Arnstadt on 7 September 2011, eight weeks before the robbery in Eisenach on 4 November 2011 which ended in the suicide of Böhnhardt and Mundlos.

The testimony of several bank employees and video prints show the following picture: shortly before 9 am, Böhnhardt and Mundlos, armed with several guns and a hand grenade, entered the bank, hit one bank employee over the head with a telephone several times in order to force her colleague to open the cashier’s box, and took some 15,000 Euros. They demanded that the chief teller open the safe, threatening to shoot him, but then fled since the safe was secured by a time lock. One witness saw them riding away on bicycles. They then continued their flight with a mobile home which Böhnhardt had rented under the name of „Holger Gerlach”.

The chief teller felt that the robbers acted rather amateurish – this could be because there had been a gap of four and a half years since the last robbery in Stralsund in early 2007. His colleague who was hit over the head is still suffering from psychological injuries and is unable to work in the customer are of the bank.

In contrast to the murder investigations, the chief investigator quickly saw the parallels to the other bank robberies, talked to the chief investigators there and had already begun to talk to profilers when his case was solved otherwise by the events of 4 November 2011. On that day, he was informed of the Eisenach robbery early on and called his colleagues there, informing them of the possibility of a flight by bike and mobile home and towards Saxony (the center of the series of robberies).

Further investigations showed that “Holger Gerlach” and another person had spent several days on a camp site close to Arnstadt two weeks before the robbery – likely in order to scout out the bank. During that time, there were several phone calls from a mobile phone which police assigned to Beate Zschäpe to the Frühlingsstraße apartment – which means that either Zschäpe was part of this trip or that this was conducted by the two Uwes, who called her in Zwickau several times.

Early in the day, the Eminger defense brought about a court decision concerning the right of victims’ counsel to ask questions of witness: the defense felt that, since none of the victims had been injured by the bank robberies, their counsel were not allowed to ask questions concerning these crimes. However, the court decided that such questions were allowed since the evidence on the bank robberies could influence the court’s findings concerning the murders and bombing attacks.

At the end of the trial day, the presiding announced that the court would continue to sit only on two days per week throughout the month of April – presumably with respect to the state of health of accused Zschäpe. Whether this is to be continued in May and the following months remains to be seen.

19 March 2015

Neighbors of the Polenzstraße apartment: Zschäpe’s camouflage worked perfectly.

The first two witnesses today were neighbors of the NSU apartment in the Polenzstraße in Zwickau. The first witness had lived there from 2006 to 2008, Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt moved out before her. Her testimony showed once again that Zschäpe’s camouflage worked perfectly. The witness, a single mother at the time, had apparently be on the lookout for a friend in Zschäpe, who could not and did not want to give her a deeper glimpse into her live and her apartment and told her that “her boyfriend” was opposed. Given the charges against her former neighbor, the witness tried to present her as innocent victim of her boyfriend (Uwe Mundlos), interpreting what she thought were glances, gestures and asides of the woman known to her as Lisa Dienelt: Lisa had not given her her phone number because her boyfriend did not want to be disturbed, Lisa had hinted that she had had sex with both her boyfriend and his brother (Uwe Böhnhardt) although she did not really want to. All these conclusions were not based on any real facts, however, and upon being questioned by the presiding judge turned out to be nothing more than vague suppositions.

What the witness had actually witnessed was that Zschäpe had told her that one man (Uwe Mundlos) was her boyfriend and that he had very often been away, often accompanied by his brother (Uwe Böhnhardt). He had mostly driven a station wagon, sometimes a mobile home. The three had gone on holiday together, about one weekend per month. Other than that, she had seldom seen the men – not surprising given that she had lived on the top floor, “the Three” on the ground floor.

The second witness had lived in the house from 2006 to 2009 and also had occasional contact with Zschäpe. She, too, could only confirm that Mundlos and Böhnhardt were often away and that she had often seen a mobile home in front of the house, used mostly be the two men.

The third witness was a men who used to run in the same circles as the “Skinheads 88” and “Blood & Honour” Chemnitz and who in 1997 had a relationship with NSU-supporter Mandy Struck. The witness had a severe work injury ten years ago, had inter alia suffered brain hemorrhages, he had visible problems trying to remember details from back then. Nonetheless, he did provide more detailed testimony than almost all (former) Nazi witnesses before him. Above all, he confirmed that there had been regular contact between Nazis from Chemnitz and Jena. He had met Mundlos and Böhnhardt via Thomas Starke, later of “B&H”. Common pal Friedel had lived in Heilbronn and had contacts to the Nazi scene there. This potential clue concerning the murder and attempted murder of police officers Kiesewetter and Arnold is prominent in the case file, but so far neither prosecution nor court seem much inclined to follow it up.

18 March 2015

Inter alia on accused Carsten Schultze

The trial day began with the report of expert witness Prof. Leygraf, who was asked to answer whether Carsten Schultze, who at the time of the crimes he is accused of was 19 or 20 years old, should be considered as akin to a minor, according to the German law on youth criminality. In his written report, the expert had said that Schultze should be so considered, and today he confirmed this report: Schultze’s Coming Out and his leaving the Nazi scene were significant developments of his personality which happened later, showing that at the time of the crimes he was still more akin to a minor. The presiding judge asked a number of questions; inter alia, he referred to the fact that there was not much time between Schultze’s leaving the Nazi scene and the crimes he is accused of.

Nonetheless, from the perspective of German criminal law, it would not be surprising if the court decided to treat Schultze like a minor at the time of his acts. Of course, this will not be easy how to do that given that he is now in his Mid-Thirties, the court will have to balance the “educational” character of the law on youth criminality with the fact that Schultze has admitted to a serious political crime.

The expert witness also described the way Schultze had behaved in conversations with him. His description closely mirrored Schultze’s behavior in court – above all, Schultze did not say anything concrete concerning his ideology at the time, but again tried to explain his activities in the Nazi scene as akin to “common youthful recreational activities.”

The next witness was Giso Tschirner, another former member of the “Blood & Honour” scene in Chemnitz. Like many before him, he pretended to be dumb and not know anything. He admitted having been member of “B&H”, but claimed to have only been responsible for “security” at concerts. “B&H” leader Starke had stated that Tschirner had transported the TNT meant for “the Three” from Jörg Winter to Starke – Tschirner claimed that this was not true, as had Winter before him, and with very similar wording. Generally, Tschirner claimed not to have noticed anything relevant. Accordingly, there is no need to dedicate more space to his testimony.

The final witness was another former school acquaintance of Beate Zschäpe’s. However, his testimony did not bring anything new, and most of what he said was rather confused – it is very unlikely that it will be relevant for the further proceedings.

In the meantime, the Federal Court of Justice has denied the bail application of the Wohlleben defense. The decision is very clear: according to the evidence so far, there was still a “strong suspicion” of his having aided and abetted nine murders, there was also still a risk of flight. Finally, the court in Munich had conducted the proceedings with due diligence, and the prison sentence in case of conviction was much longer than even prolonged detention (3 years and 2 months as of now).

12 March 2015

Once more on the Keupstraße, and on the ideology of Uwe Mundlos

The first witness today was another victim of the nail bomb attack of 9 June 20004 in the Keupstraße in Cologne. He worked in the hairdresser’s in front of which the bomb was placed. He suffered several injuries to his head, arm and leg as well as damage to his eardrums – he was spared from even more serious injuries by the fact that someone was standing between him and the bomb. He still suffers from psychological injuries, is still brought back to the explosion every time there is a loud noise like a door falling shut. Like many others, he related that German agencies had not done anything to help him cope with the consequences of the attack.

The next witness was a good friend of Uwe Mundlos‘ from school who witnessed how Mundlos developed into an open Nazi. Former favorite music act Udo Lindenberg was replaced by the “Böhsen Onkelz” and other “right rock”, such as the “Kanak song” spreading hatred against Turks (including lyrics such as “Put them in the dungeon or put them in a concentration camp, send them into the desert, but finally get rid of them. Kill their children, rape their women, destroy their race, instill dread in them”), Mundlos wore the usual bomber jacket and combat boots, later clothing reminiscent of an SS uniform. Beginning in the seventh or eighth grade, he began to talk positively about the Third Reich. In his room, he hung Nazi flags and played recordings of speeches by Hitler and Goebbels.

According to the witness, Mundlos was, already in his youth, an agitator, “almost immovable” in his opinions, cold and without any mercy. Roughly in the tenth grade, he had programmed a computer game in which the player could “shoot down” Jews.

As to Beate Zschäpe, the witness stated that he had met her towards the end of his friendship with Mundlos. She had not left a political impression, but he remembered her as “primitive”, stealing lots of stuff and forcibly taking cigarettes from Vietnamese salespeople. Members of the group had also been on the “hunt for left wingers”.

Uwe Mundlos had already known a lot about going underground, about dragnet investigations and the like. One of his favorite TV series had been “Pink Panther” – which the NSU later used as a basis for the repugnant video with which it claimed responsibility for its crimes.
It was apparent that the witness was honestly trying to remember as many details as possible and succeeded in putting himself back into the situations back then. He often related specific details and used those to characterize specific situations – something which makes for a particularly believable witness statement. His statement thus stands in marked contrast to those of Nazi witnesses who, in order to protect themselves and the accused, do not at all try to remember any salient details.

The Zschäpe defense tried above all to attack his statement that Zschäpe had seemed primitive and had stolen a lot – hardly something which will be at the center of the court’s judgment.
The statement has above all shown that the ideology of Mundlos and his friends developed over a period of time. The dreams of annihilation already found early on in music and video games later and later in the self-made “Pogromly” game became reality with the NSU murders. The fact that no one intervened in this development, even though it was obvious for parents, school officials and other agencies, raises further questions.

11 March 2015

Destroy, deny, forget – informers do not provide any valuable information. And: on the normality of the „White Brotherhood in the Iron Mountains“

The first witness today was Marcel Degner, co-founder and head of the “Blood & Honour” Section in Thuringia, later “B&H”-head for “middle Germany” (i.e. Eastern Germany) and, according to the findings of the parliamentary inquiry, also an informer, codenamed “Hagel” (Hail), for the Thuringia domestic secret service from 1997 until 2001. Like most informers before him, he did not provide any useful information. Like all Nazi witness before him, Degner of course remembered hardly anything, particularly when it came to information which might incriminate the accused. However, Degner even denied having worked for the secret service in the first place – and remained adamant even after being told that secret service officer Wiessner has already stated in court on 11 November 2014 that “Hagel” was Degner.

What’s more, one event that Degner related today is found identically in one of the meeting reports drawn up by “Hagel”’s contact officer: Degner had asked Thomas Starke of Chemnitz whether the three fugitives – Zschäpe, Böhnhardt and Mundlos – needed money, Starke had told him no, they were “doing jobs”. The other meeting reports concerning “Hagel” have been destroyed, which makes it hard to check the veracity of his statements. Victims’ counsel therefore moved that his testimony be interrupted and that secret service officers Wiessner and Zweigert be called as witnesses on his work as an informer. The presiding judge seemed put out by this request, but did in the end interrupt Degner’s testimony; Degner will have to continue testifying at a later date.

What he did relate today was that he had gotten to know accused Wohlleben in the early 1990s in Gera and had continued to meet him from time to time. Other important contacts, besides his “B&H” friends, had been André Kapke and Tino Brandt. After being uncovered as an informer, he had been attacked at least twice, had then cut most of his ties to the scene. Previously, he had tried to bring a suit against the dissolution of B&H by the German Ministry of the Interior, however, this suit had been unsuccessful because the Northern German section had not allowed him to bring it on behalf of the entire organization. One question to be asked of Wiessner and Zweigert will be whether this law suit was ordered and/or paid for by the secret service.

The next witness was an early member of the „White Brotherhood in the Iron Mountains“ („Weiße Bruderschaft Erzgebirge“, WBE), which was lead by accused André Eminger and his brother and in which NSU supporter Dienelt was also a member. This witness too did not really try to remember much, claimed that the WBE had mainly organized soccer tournaments, scouting games and concerts in order to “act against drugs” and provide opportunities “for the youth.”

The WBE’s ideology became clearer based on the two issues of their fanzine „Aryan Law and Order“, which has already been introduced into the trial by victims’ counsel. This zine is chock full of racist and anti-Semitic propaganda and open calls for “armed resistance” by small cells. The witness confirmed that most of the ideologically important articles were written by André and Maik Eminger.

He did also try to describe Eminger’s ideology in somewhat more detail: asked about Eminger’s stance towards “foreigners” and Jews, he answered: “similar to that of most in the Iron Mountains: all evil, all bad, away with them.”

5 March 2015

Lies and Trivialization Deluxe – Hendrik Lasch and his “rightwing conservative” friend Mundlos.

The first witness today was a psychiatrist who had issued an expert opinion on one of the young men who had been severely injured by the Keupstraße nail bomb (on his testimony see the report of 20 January 2015). Today’s witness showed once again the extent of the psychological damage wreaked by the bomb. Still in 2012, the young man had still suffered from a full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder with trouble concentrating, irritability, recurring nightmares and flashbacks, still in 2012, everyday occurrences like bikes with packs on them led to severe anxiety.

The next witness was Hendrik Lasch, another member of the Nazi scene in Chemnitz and a friend of Uwe Mundlos’ beginning in the mid-1990s. He too tried very hard not to give up anything relevant. Presiding judge Götzl reacted by repeating his questions again and again – but not by at least threatening fines or detention for contempt of court, despite the fact that Lasch’s answers quite constituted an obvious refusal to testify.

Lasch stated that he had “nothing negative to say” about Mundlos, whom he described as quite humorous – and as “politically active”, upon questioning: as “rightwing conservative”. It took several repeated questions by the presiding judge for Lasch to admit that one could maybe speak of a “hardline rightwing” view.

The rest of his testimony was similarly cagey and fruitless: He claimed not to have heard anything about explosives, guns or the like, that he had known “Blood & Honour” only via acquaintances. Once, Lasch accidentally made a relevant statement in trying to evade a question: he claimed not to remember how he had kept in contact with “the Three” in Chemnitz – after all, the contact had not changed at all after they had gone on the run from the police. He thus confirmed the evidence heard so far, which shows that Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt had moved openly within the Nazi scene in Chemnitz.

Lasch also claimed not to have known Ralf Wohlleben. This is one of the evidentiary claims of the Wohlleben defense. However, given the obvious and total stonewalling by Lasch, his statement too will not help exculpate Wohlleben.

Victims’ counsel were able to catch Lasch in an obvious lie: at first, he claimed not to have known who the supporters of Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt in Chemnitz had been. Confronted with testimony of other witnesses, he had to admit to having met Mundlos at least once in the apartment of “Blood and Honour“ activist Thomas Rothe.

At the end of the trial day, presiding judge Götzl stated that psychiatrist Prof. Nedopil had examined accused Zschäpe and had not found any reason to doubt her capacity to stand trial, but had suggested a lighter trial load to help her recuperate. Accordingly, the court will only sit for two days a week in the next three weeks, the trial days of Tuesday, 10, 17 and 24 March have been canceled. After 26 March, there will be a two week Easter vacation; it remains to be seen whether the court will again sit for three days weekly afterwards.

The “Initiative for clearing up the murder of Burak B” held a demonstration in front of the court today. On 5 April 2012, Burak Bektaş was shot and killed at close range by an unknown gunman in the streets of Berlin, two of his friends were severely injured. Drawing upon the lessons of the NSU murders, the initiative finds that a racist motive is rather likely and calls for an active investigation – for more see (in German)

4 March 2015

On the structure and ideology of the Jena scene

Beate Zschäpe was able to participate in the trial again, so it was continued today. However, upon being asked by the presiding judge whether Zschäpe had been able to follow the testimony last Tuesday, her defence told the court that she had not. Apparently they are unable to safeguard her rights without prompting by the court. The witness will now have to appear again – a result which the Zschäpe defense, which always insists on a speedy trial, could have avoided with a simple notice to the court. Presiding judge Götzl was rather irritated. In preparation for another day of Zschäpe being ill, he had already pushed the testimony of secret service officer Meyer-Plath to a later date.

Only witness today was the younger brother of André Kapke, formerly active in the Jena Nazi scene. He stated that he had left the scene in the early 2000s. He did leave the impression of actually trying to relate what he knew of the scene in the 1990s – a welcome change to many other (former) Nazi witnesses. He did, inter alia, provide a detailed description of the scene’s ideology, in particular the absolute racism and anti-Semitism, which he had shared at the time. However, he did seem to downplay the violence inherent in the scene.

His leaving the scene, he related, had been started when he gained contact to the fraternity “Jenensia” in Jena – the fraternity which had dispelled eleven members in 1999 for inviting extreme right wing speakers and contacts to the “Thuringia Home Guard”. Those eleven went on to form the fraternity “Normannia” which even conducted some events at the Nazi “brown house”.

The witness was active in the group surrounding the core members of the „Kameradschaft Jena”, but was also known in larger circles as part of the singer/songwriter-duo “Eichenlaub” (“Oak Leaf”). “Eichenlaub” had written a song for Zschäpe, Böhnhardt and Mundlos after they had gone underground – one more sign for their significance for the scene.

He discussed several interviews in scene publications which had been organized for him by Holger Gerlach and Ralf Wohlleben. He also related another interesting fact concerning Gerlach: in 1999, “Eichenlaub” had played at a “Blood & Honour” concert in Hildesheim, near Germany. Today Kapke related that their appearance had been organized by Gerlach, who had moved to Hannover. Apparently Gerlach had a good connection to the organizers from “Blood & Honour”.
According to him, Ralf Wohlleben was rather important for the scene in Jena, played a leading role. However, it was hard to know his ideology as he had led a rather low-key “citizen’s lifestyle”. Carsten Schultze, too, had gained some influence in the scene over time, his word had some weight.

There was a somewhat strange scene when accused Carsen Schultze himself asked the witness some questions concerning their first meeting – in the bus on the way to a Nazi march in Munich. Schultze apparently tried to show that at that time (when he just entered the scene) he had not yet played an important role. However, the witness did not remember any of the details Schultze wanted to hear.

Victims‘ counsel moved that another witness, an early member of the „Kameradschaft Jena“ whoch had left the group after about 2 months, also be summoned as a witness. He too should be able to give details on the group’s ideology and show once more that the core members were hardcore militant Nazis already at that time.