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.