Monthly Archives: June 2013

25 June 2013

The fire in the NSU apartment in the Frühlingsstraße in Zwickau

Today’s fifteenth trial day saw the testimony of two police officers concerning the fire in the NSU’s apartment in the Frühlingsstraße in Zwickau. The apartment had been set on fire after the death of Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos; the indictment charges Beate Zschäpe with aggravated arson and attempted murder of three persons who would normally have been present in the same building, but who by happy coincidence either were not present of were able to leave the house in time.

The testimony of an arson investigator from the Zwickau criminal investigation department in particular lasted several hours, aided by many photos from the crime scene. His testimony is far from over and will be resumed in three weeks’ time. However, it has already become clear today that the fire was deliberately started with gasoline.
There were also some interesting details not concerning the fire itself. For one, the apartment and the basement room belonging to it contained security measures such as several locks, security cameras and radio signal devices. Interestingly, one of the cameras is not present on a photo taken a few weeks before the fire – the significance, if any, of this fact will still have to be determined.

Among the rubble, police officers found a total of 11 guns as well as handcuffs that had belonged to Michèle Kiesewetter, a police officer murdered by the NSU. These findings as well will be subject of further witness testimony.

24 June 2013

A first glance into the Özüdoğru murder investigation

After the testimony of accused Schultze ended last week, this week saw the testimony of the first witnesses concerning the murder of Abdurrahim Özüdoğru, who was killed by shots to the head in his Nuremberg tailor shop on 13 June 2001. The questioning of police officers involved in the investigation afforded the parties a first glimpse into the mindset that made it possible for the serial murders of the Nazi NSU to be considered “kebap murders” and for investigations to be directed only against the victims and their environment: While neighbors who testified all described the victim as a very friendly neighbor, the most important detail for a crime scene officer seems to have been the “grown disorder” in the shop and the adjoining apartment. His report in the case file also contains some derogatory statements concerning Turkish people.

A neighbor who in 2012 had testified to the police that she had seen Beate Zschäpe at the crime scene now stated that she was afraid to testify for fear that someone might kill her. Whether her 2012 statement is reliable, or whether the witness fails to differentiate between her recollection of events and information she learned after the fact, can only be determined after looking at the protocol of her 2012 statement. Accordingly, one victim’s counsel moved that it be added to the case file.

There are no direct witnesses for the murder of Abdurrahim Özüdoğru. The killing will however be attributable to the NSU based on the weapon used as well as NSU videos celebrating their deeds.

These claims of responsibility in video form – the infamous “Pink Panther”-Video as well as two earlier versions – were shown today between two witness statements. Reactions among accused ranged from demonstrative disinterest on the part of Beate Zschäpe and her defence to shocked consternation on the part of accused Schultze.

Early during the trial day, victims’ counsel had made a motion to take evidence based on a revelation last week that Zschäpe was in contact via letter with Robin Schmiemann, a violent Nazi. Counsel moved that Schmiemann and a contact person of his be questioned as witnesses. The motion aims at showing concrete contacts between the Nazi scenes in Dortmund and Kassel, two locations of NSU murders, in particular a meeting between on the one hand Nazis from Dortmund and Kassel, including secret service informers, and on the other hand Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt during a Nazi rock concert on 18 March 2006, only weeks before the murders in Dortmund and Kassel.

19/20 June 2013

Carsten Schultze – more questions, few answers and an insufficient apology

The questioning of accused Carsten Schultze went on for the entire trial day Wednesday. On Thursday, 20 June, the parties will make statements commenting on his testimony as a whole. Next week will see the beginning of testimony concerning the earliest murders in Nuremberg. The testimony of police officers who had questioned the accused during the investigation, which was originally planned for this week, was pushed back due to delays in the trial so far.

Just like yesterday, the questioning of Schultze was a rather labored process and largely informed by incomprehensible memory gaps. Schultze did at least describe, upon questioning, how he visited illegal Nazi concerts, one of which drew a crowd of over 1,000. He also described parties during which Nazi songs were sung. Schultze, who had always stressed that he had never been a racist, now admits to having joined in singing, e.g., a song celebrating the murder of Turkish people. In the years between 1997 and 2001, that had just been a normal part of life.

In the afternoon, Schultze tried to apologize to the NSU victims and their families. This apology seems to be honest, but it still focuses only on the provision of the Ceska pistol to the NSU. Schultze still seems to see his responsibility as limited to this one act. Accordingly, he has concentrated entirely on remembering his precise actions in ordering, retrieving and delivering the pistol. He continues to block out all his other acts in support of the three Nazis who had gone underground, his daily cooperation with Wohlleben, and his other political activities – after all, he led and trained a group of 20 to 30 members of the “Young National Democrats”.

Schultze has still not realized the actual extent of his responsibility, the importance of his support for the existence of the NSU and for their crimes. This severely devalues his apology.

Schultzes testimony incriminates co-accused Wohlleben, who according to Schultze’s recent testimony knew early on that the group had shot and wounded a person and who nonetheless continued to act as their support. However, Schultzes testimony also incriminates the other accused – if even Schultze, who acted solely as an aide and who was at the furthest remove from Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhard in age and political experience, was nonetheless told of the “flash light bomb”, it is very likely that accused Gerlach and Eminger were also informed of this plan.

18 June 2013

Contacts between German secret service and the direct NSU support network already in 2000

The further questioning of accused Carsten Schultze was a rather labored process. Schultze claims to remember hardly anything. He insists on never having been biased against Turks – a claim which becomes absurd when he also reports on an incident in which he and some others had destroyed a kebap stand and now claims not to know the ethnicity of the owner. As far as his political activities in the “Thuringia home guard”, the nazi party NPD and its youth organisation “Young National Democrats” are concerned, Schultze downplays everything.

However, there is one aspect of his testimony that is quite interesting: He reports that already in 2000, he had told the leader of the “Thuringia home guard”, Tino Brandt, about his contact to the three Nazis who had gone underground. Accordingly, Brandt had known of these contacts in 2000 at the latest. Tino Brandt was an informer for the “office for the protection of the constitution”, the German secret service, during the entire time in question.

Schultze also reports that in 2000, another former Nazi who had contacts to the secret service had asked him directly about “the Three”, but that he had denied any knowledge.

Schultze claims that when it became clear shortly thereafter that Brandt was an informer for the secret service, he had not given any thoughts to the issue – and this in spite of the fact that Brandt knew of his actions in support of Böhnhardt, Mundlos and Zschäpe.

It has thus become clear that the three Nazis who had gone underground and their supporters were in the focus of the German secret service already at this early moment in time.

12/13 June 2013

Further questioning of accused Carsten Schultze

After the questioning of accused Carsten Schultze on Tuesday had unearthed new information concerning at least one further NSU attack, but also concerning accused Wohlleben and the way Uwe Böhnhardt und Uwe Mundlos dealt with information concerning the attacks, the further questioning on 12 and 13 June 2013 did not lead to any concrete results. However, his refusal to answer questions posed by the Wohlleben defence led to some excitement. Schultze explained his refusal in quite emotional terms: the Wohlleben defence had demanded “equality of arms” from the court, now he demanded the same from them. He had “bared all”. He demanded that Wohlleben also testify fully, only then would he answer questions by Wohlleben’s defence.

To what extent Schultze has indeed “bared all” is still debatable after three days of questioning. It was apparently quite hard for him to detail having known about a bombing attack by Böhnhardt and Mundlos before he provided the Ceska pistol to them. Similary, it must have been hard to confess that the two already had access to firearm and thus did not need the silenced Ceska for bank robberies – after all, this made the character of the Ceska as a murder weapon all the more apparent.

However, when it comes to other issues Schultze clams up entirely. He claims not to have been a racist, notwithstanding that they had shouted “africa to the apes”. He claims not to have had a hostile attitude towards Turkish people. He admits to having been part of violent attacks on left-wingers (called “ticks” in the language of German Nazis), and in one case having seen Wohlleben kick one victim in the face repeatedly – but he leaves everybody in the dark about his motivations. He claims to have forgotten or blocked out all questions of ideology, all political discussions. When Schultze claims that there must probably have been some sort of theory concerning armed struggle, but that he does not remember any of it, only minutes after having described having bought and delivered a silenced murder weapon, it becomes evident that he is still holding back quite a lot.

Schultze’s questioning by victims’ counsel will continue on Tuesday, 18 June.

11 June 2013

Accused Schultze provides evidence concerning a further bombing attack carried out by the NSU

Today, accused Carsten Schultze provided concrete evidence concerning an as-yet unknown bombing attack carried out by the NSU in a shop in Nuremberg. In his testimony on 5 June 2013, he had pretended to remember very few details of what had happened in 1999/2000. Now he revealed details that he had never spoken about before. Of particular relevance is his statement that, during his meeting with Böhnhardt, Mundlos and Zschäpe in the fist half of 2000, the two men had told him that they had placed a “flashlight” in a shop in Nuremberg, making insinutations he had not understood at the time. He claims that the conversation on this topic stopped when Beate Zschäpe joined the three men. Directly after this conversation, he had given the silenced Ceska pistol and 50 rounds of ammunition to “the Three”. Afterwards, he had been afraid that the two men could have told him about a concrete bombing attack.

As German weekly “Der Stern” has reported on the basis of information from local daily “Nürnberger Nachrichten”, a bombing attack did in fact take place in Nuremberg in June of 1999. A cleaner in a Turkish pub found an object shaped like a flashlight which exploded in his hands, causing burn wounds. In a press conference, the federal prosecutor’s office stated that there was currently no information on this attack. A number of attacks had been “checked” as to possible connections to the NSU, but there was currently no concrete information concerning this specific attack. If it turns out that the attack in Nuremberg has not been “checked”, this would again cast the investigation by German police and prosecutors in a very bad light.

If Schultze’s testimony checks out, it would certainly be a massive boost to his credibility and a sign that the pressure of the punishment awaiting him leads him to give a thorough testimony and to close any “memory gaps”.

Schultze’s testimony that Böhnhardt and Mundlos had stopped the conversation concerning the Nuremberg attack when Zschäpe arrived does not exonerate Zschäpe. The fact that the two had talked to a supporter like Schultze about a concrete attack in a crowded restaurant was a violation of every security protocol an underground group would have agreed on, which is reason alone for the two men to try and hide their boasting from Zschäpe. And even if Zschäpe had not known about this attack in 1999, this would not change the fact that she played a vital role in the group in the following years, a role without which their further crimes would not have been possible. The indictment charging Zschäpe with co-perpetration is based on her actions from 2000 on.

Schultze also incriminated co-accused Wohlleben, noting that it was Wohlleben who had ordered him to buy a semi-automatic weapon, preferably from a German manufacturer, and sufficient ammunition. When he had met Böhnhardt and Mundlos, the two had told him that they were always armed and had access to a machine pistol/Uzi. The money he had been given for the gun had still been wrapped in a bank banderole, showing that it came come from a bank robbery. Schultzes also stated that Wohlleben had reported after a telephone conversation with “the Three” that they had talked about having shot and wounded someone. Finally, he also noted that after a violent attack on two men by a group of Nazis, Wohlleben had boasted about having “jumped on the face” of one of the victims.

Of course, this further evidence will have to scrutinized futher, but the incriminating nature vis-a-vis Wohlleben is evident. Much more than is the case in the indictment, Schultze has described Wohlleben as akin to a co-perpetrator of “the Three”. But Schultze also incrimated himself – after all, according to his evidence, when he gave the Ceska pistol to “the Three”, he already knew that they had carried out a bombing attack. Compared to his cagey testimony of last week, this week’s makes it much more likely that he will benefit from the crown witness rule and a significant reduction of his penalty. At the same time, Schultze has also given the court the evidence needed to convict him of aiding and abetting the nine murders committed using the Ceska pistol.

Earlier in the day, there had been a dispute between victims’ counsel and the federal prosecutor’s office when the latter stated out of the blue that the “list of 129”, containing other NSU accused as well as contact persons of the NSU, had grown to about 500 persons. In the end, trial attorney Diemer of the federal prosecutor’s office had to promise to provice the entire list next week.

6 June 2013

Accused Gerlach apologizes to the victims, but claims to have known nothing.

At the request of accused Carsten Schultze, the rest of his testimony was moved to next week, when expert witness Prof. Leygraf will be back in the courtroom. This trial day was instead devoted to the testimony of co-accused Holger Gerlach. He is charged with having provided the members of the NSU who had gone underground with his driver’s licence and passport as well as other documents. In addition, he is accused of having transported a pistol to “the Three” in 2001 at the behest of co-accused Ralf Wohlleben. However, since the investigation did not resolve the question whether this pistol was used in the NSU’s crimes, this crime is statute-bared.
Gerlach admitted having committed all these acts and apologized to the victims of the NSU for the suffering which Böhnhardt, Mundlos and Zschäpe had caused them. However, he stressed that these had solely been acts in support of friends. He claims to not have had any idea that the three would commit violent crimes. He stressed several times that he was just as clueless as all German police and secret service agencies had been at the time. Gerlach read a pre-written statement and was not willing to answer questions.
Earlier, he had made statements on his curriculum vitae and had also answered the presiding judge’s questions on that topic. In contrast to co-accused Schultze, he freely admitted to having been a neo-Nazi and to having harbored xenophobic views. He also stressed that he and his friends had not been Skinheads who “run around beating people up”, but had tried to achieve real political change. He claims to have exited the scene in 2004, but admits to still being friends with some of his old political allies.
His apology and his claim of having known nothing about the murders of “the Three” are not very believable. Gerlach acknowledged again today that he had provided “the Three” with a gun in 2001. In an earlier statement during the investigation, he claimed to have said that one could not “presume to try and save the world with five people”. Today, he claimed not to have used those exact words. Nonetheless, it seems likely that he saw himself, Wohlleben and “the Three” as a coherent group of three illegal members and two legal members who could provide support for their deeds. This obviously stands in clear contradiction to his claim to not have had any idea that the NSU would commit violent crimes. Another reason not to believe his claim is that he was active for many years in the Nazi scenes of Jena and Hannover, scenes which were particularly militant and openly propagated violence against different-minded people and “Nongermans.”
His claims of having “exited” the Nazi scene will also have to be thoroughly scrutinized – for example, he has admitted to having participated in several Nazi marches in 2005, but had claimed that this was simply a friendly turn.
One of the NSU victims asked for the opportunity to comment on Gerlach’s statement, but the presiding judge did not give him the floor.

5 June 2013

Carsten Schultze’s Memory Gaps

“Yesterday you kept bringing up your exit from the scene. I’m just wondering what exactly it is you were exiting” – this comment by presiding judge Götzl on accused Carsten Schultze’s testimony can easily stand as a summary of that testimony during the sixth day of the NSU trial.

Yesterday, Schultze had confessed to having provided, together with co-accused Wohlleben, the silenced Ceska pistol which the NSU had used to kill nine immigrants. Today Schultze, who was active in the neo-Nazi scene of Jena until 2001, reported on other crimes he had committed during that time. Among others, he and some fellow Nazis (“Kameraden” in the language of German Nazis) had turned over a kebap stand, smashed the windows of another kebap stand several times, and one time beat up and kicked two people without any specific reason, leaving them severely injured.

As far as his mental state during that time is concerned, Schultze could not – or more likely: would not – make any concrete statements. He claimed that the motive for smashing the kebap stands was “thrill and action” combined with alcohol. It took several critical questions for him to admit that he would not have done the same if this had been a (“German”) hot dog stand and that maybe a “certain concept of the enemy” (“Feindbild”) had played a role. Schultze, who claims to have overcome his racist past, would not use words such as racism or xenophobia to characterize his past deeds. The same tendency towards trivialization also characterized the rest of his statement on his Nazi past. This tendency to pretend to not have had any thoughts of his own, any political ideology led not only to appreciable displeasure among the ranks of victims and victims counsel, but also left the presiding judge visibly impatient.

This tendency increased even more once his testimony reached the central question, the Ceska pistol. Schultze was asked what thoughts had gone through his head when he procured the weapon – a live gun complete with silencer and ammunition –, what he had thought would happen with that gun. Again, even in the face of several critical questions, he denied any recollection of what his thoughts were at the time.

In the afternoon, the testimony was interrupted upon motion by the accused. Whether his testimony will continue tomorrow, or whether co-accused Holger Gerlach will first begin his testimony and Schultze will continue at a later date, remains to be seen – Schultze’s defence counsel had voiced concerns since Prof. Leygraf, the expert witness who will have to give his opinion concerning Schultze, was not present.

Beside Schultze’s testimony, the issue of trial observers was also raised again. Yesterday, the presiding judge, upon a motion by victims’ counsel, had at least asked whether such observers were present in the public gallery. A motion was brought that he do so again today. This motion, and that to formally ask the agencies in question what tasks their observers are given, were denied by the court. It claimed that there was no reason to fear that observers would influence trial witnesses. This explanation is not very convincing given that, as reported, several victims’ counsel had noted that concrete examples of exactly this type of influence had arisen in other trials.

4 June 2013

Statement by Accused Carsten Schultze

Like the previous trial days, the fifth day of the NSU trial started with a number of procedural motions and many interruptions while the court was in deliberations. After the court had denied several earlier defence motions for discontinuance or suspension of the trial, the Zschäpe defence brought another motion for discontinuance, based on three aspects: a “prejudgement” of their client through statements by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office and several politicians; the still highly unsolved question of what role secret service informers played in the context of the NSU and its crimes, and the fact that several “Offices for the Protection of the Constitution” – the German secret service of the interior which is divided into a federal office and offices in the various Länder – had destroyed files concerning the NSU or its surroundings. Victims counsel, just like the prosecutor’s office, moved that the defence motion be denied. However, they noted that evidence on the role of informers in the NSU will of course have to be heard during the trial. The court’s decision on the motion is expected within the next few days.

The following motion was one on which victims’ counsel and defence counsel were largely in agreement: counsel for one private prosecutor had applied that trial observers from the federal police and the federal “Office for the Protection of the Constitution” be banned from the visitor’s gallery. The Federal Police had announced its intention to send observers with the goal of, inter alia, generating new information for investigation. The “Office for the Protection of the Constitution” had also stated its interest. There is an obvious danger that these observers will brief colleagues slated to appear as witnesses before the court so as to influence the proceedings in the interests of their office. Defence counsel for Zschäpe and Wohlleben joined the motion to exclude such observers. The court denied the motion, seeing no reason to believe that a concrete danger existed of witnesses being influenced – this despite the fact that such reasons are clearly contained in the federal police statement and that examples for similar influence had been uncovered in parliamentary investigation committees on the NSU.

After a motion by the Zschäpe defence that a verbatim record be made of the statements of co-accused had also been denied, accused Carsten Schultze could finally begin his statement in the afternoon. He started with an extensive report on his curriculum vitae, inter alia his entrance into the neo-Nazi scene in Jena at age 16/17 and his “exit” from that scene at age 20. He also noted the various positions he had had in the neo-Nazi party NPD (“National Democratic Party of Germany”) and its youth organization JN (“Young National Democrats”). Inter alia, he had been vice executive secretary of the German JN. However, he maintained that he had never wanted any of these offices, but had been “assigned” them by others.