Monthly Archives: November 2013

28 November 2013

Continued testimony of Zschäpe’s cousin

The testimony of Zschäpe’s cousin Stefan A. continued today. A. was shown a picture of the cross-burning which shows several persons giving the “Kühnen salute”, a variant of the “Nazi salute”. He recognized, among others, accused Wohlleben and Gerlach, André Kapke and Uwe Böhnhardt.

The witness had claimed to have left his rightist ideology behind, a claim which was proved untrue by victim’s counsel Yavuz Narin. Narin showed pictures from A.’s facebook page with slogans such as “Money for Grandma, not for Sinti and Roma” – the same slogan was used by the neo-fascist NPD in the last election.

Zschäpe defence attorneys Heer and Sturm asked a series of questions concerning A.‘s testimony before German federal police as well as two TV interviews. However, the intention behind their line of questioning remained unclear, and accordingly they did not yield and results.

The court also issued a decision on a motion by victims’ counsel that the case file against domestic secret service officer Andreas Temme be made part of the present file. With the exception of a few documents, the motion was denied. Temme, along with one of the informers led by him, will testify next week.

27 November 2013

Zschäpe’s family: her mother does not testify, her cousin „does not remember“

Two family members of Beate Zschäpe were called to testify today and to afford the court a glimpse of the personality and development of the main accused. Her mother, however, refused to testify, as is her right as mother of the accused. She only spent three minutes in the courtroom.

Her cousin, Stefan A., did testify. He describes himself as a fun-oriented member of the skinhead part of the Jena Nazi scene, someone who did not have much to do with politics. “One gets incited by the music, it describes what many thought back then – against the state, against foreigners, against leftists, against communism”, he describes the atmosphere in Jena in the 1990s. Beate Zschäpe was part of that scene. The witness describes her as confident. Her first serious boyfriend had tried to dress the part, but had not been accepted by the scene. Zschäpe later hung out with Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, who were very interested in Nazi music and politics.

When it comes to his own role, however, he denies having had a relevant position in the Nazi scene of Jena. Asked about police dossiers and other documents describing him as one of eight members of the “Kameradschaft Jena”, he tries to downplay his role. From this point on, he answers nearly every question by claiming memory gaps – hardly any memories of concerts attended, of trips to Nuremberg, of conversations. He does at least relate that Uwe Mundlos was in charge of upholding the contact to Thomas Starke, imprisoned Nazi and later informer for the domestic secret service – Mundlos also delivered greetings from the witness to Starke. However, A. claimed not to remember that Starke, as well as another acquaintance, were likely leading members of “Blood and Honour” Chemnitz. A. obviously follows the parole passed out to witness from the Nazi scene – “forget everything”. He only admits having taken part in a KKK-style cross burning and having shown the “Kühnen salute”, a variant of the Nazi salute, after pictures of these events have been shown in court and there is no use denying. Again, he claims not to have known what that signal meant.

The court does not pressure him – after all he has already said what was needed to confirm the indictment: Beate Zschäpe was self-confident, had her men under control, was a member of equal standing of the Nazi scene surrounding her, Mundlos, Böhnhardt, Kapke, Gerlach and Wohlleben.

A.’s testimony will continue tomorrow. Other witnesses originally called for tomorrow have been postponed, with the exception of a former girlfriend of accused André Eminger.

26 November 2013

Holiday acquaintances

Today the court heard several holiday acquaintances of Beate Zschäpe, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos. In the years 2007 to 2011, the witnesses had met “the Three” every year on a caravan park on the island of Fehmarn and had formed a rather close relationship with them. Two families whose children were teenagers at the time described Böhnhardt, Mundlos and Zschäpe as pleasant and very sportive caravan neighbors, always open for group activities like sports or barbecues. In the case of one family, the contact evolved into an invitation to the daughter’s birthday party and a visit.

They described Beate Zschäpe as responsible for the money, as “caring”. She was responsible for laundry and cooking while the two men cared for the sports equipment, cars and handyman work.

With the exception of a tattoo showing a death head and a Stahlhelm helmet, which Uwe Böhnhardt, known to them as Gerry, described as a “youthful indiscretion”, and the fact that the Three never gave their home address, none of the witnesses noticed anything negative about them. In sportive clothing and without their brainless political slogans, the NSU was able to fly under the radar.

The witnesses’ testimony shows that Beate Zschäpe was a member of the group on the same level as Böhnhardt and Mundlos who in their division of labor was inter alia responsible for money matters. What’s more, it showed the professionalism with which “the Three” upheld their assumed identities, over a period of four years and vis-à-vis people whom they had befriended and formed some sort of relationship of trust with. Today’s testimonies thus again provided several pieces of proof showing that Beate Zschäpe was an equal and full member of the NSU and played an important role in full knowledge of the NSU’s crimes.

21 November 2013

Lies and Trivialization, Part 2 – Testimony of André Kapke

Today’s witness war André Kapke, an extremely violent-prone neo-Nazi as shown already by his criminal record. From the mid-1990s, Kapke was one of the closest confidants of Ralf Wohlleben, Holger Gerlach and “the Three”. He was accompanied by his lawyer Waldschmidt, a functionary of the neo-fascist NPD from Hesse.

Kapke did everything he could to spare Zschäpe and Wohlleben – when asked about Zschäpe’s political positions, he claimed to only remember discussions concerning nuclear power and the nuclear waste disposal site in Gorleben. Reactions in the courtroom showed that nobody believed this claim –not victims’ counsel, not members of the court. The same reaction was engendered by his attempts to describe Ralf Wohlleben as “angel of peace” of the Nazi scene in Jena.

Kapke generally tried to depict his comrades and himself as victims of leftist activists and the police. Asked about the ideology of the “Kameradschaft Jena” or the ““Thuringia home guard” or about his own role, both before and after „the Three“ went underground, he claimed not to be able to recall much of anything. Later, a sentence slipped out which showed his true ideology: asked about the “foreigner politics” of the Nazi scene in Jena, he answered “if you try to get rid of pest plants, you don’t just plug two or three leaves, you attack the root.”

This was followed by further gaps in his memory. Presiding judge Götzl became more and more exasperated – as were most of the others present in the courtroom. The presiding judge finally interrupted Kapke’s testimony at 4 in the afternoon. Kapke will continue to testify on the last day before the Christmas break.

20 November 2013

Further testimony of Uwe Böhnhardt’s mother

The further testimony of Uwe Böhnhardt’s mother took up all of today’s trial day. She continued to present a world view according to which „the Three“ appear either as „right-leaning young folks“ or as victims of arbitrary actions by state organs. To her, she explained, Beate Zschäpe was still today a “nice young woman” – the witness even addressed Zschäpe in open court to thank her for contacting the family after the two Uwes had committed suicide. Ms. Böhnhardt did, finally, find some compassionate words towards the victims’ families. On the other hand, she did so in a way which tried to equate her position to their suffering. She claimed to be in a position where she “understood these families better than anyone else” – a claim that many victims’ counsel found rather offputting.

Asked about crimes committed by her son before he went underground, she reacted defensively. As to investigations for torture-like abuse of another prisoner, she claimed to have no knowledge. As to his earlier crimes (inter alia car theft), she blamed them entirely on his older co-perpetrators. Asked about descriptions of Böhnhardt by former friends as “aggressive, dominant and prone to violence”, she claimed that these descriptions were false and only given because they “reflected the mood of the present times”.

Her intention became clear in a sentence she uttered towards the end of her testimony: “You know, the prosecution is trying to find proof that those three committed all these crimes. As a mother, I am grasping at straws to say that it could not have been that way.” Her testimony therefore does not have much worth in gauging Uwe Böhnhardt’s personality.

Towards the end of her testimony, the presiding judge posed critical questions after it became apparent that the witness had neglected to mention a meeting in which she had given her son’s clothes and other items to a supporter. The suspicion remains that the witness had additional meetings with supporters of “the Three” she does not wish to talk about.

The testimony of André Kapke was pushed to tomorrow, Christian Kapke’s to a later week.

19 November 2013

On the NSU as victims of arbitrary decisions by state organs – the testimony of Uwe Böhnhardt’s mother.

The only witness today was Uwe Böhnhardt’s mother. She mostly reported on her son’s vita, on the day he went underground and on contacts – phone calls and three personal meetings – thereafter.

The domestic secret service had contacted the family and asked them to convince the three who had gone underground to turn themselves in. “The three” were wanted for several propaganda and explosives offences, state agencies offered concession regarding the sentence. These offers – which “the Three” never took seriously anyway – were later rescinded. This meant that Böhnhardt, Mundlos and Zschäpe would have to face a trial for these offences just like any other defendant – for Böhnhardt’s mother, this was nothing short of “fraud”.

This shows an aspect which was present in her entire testimony and which made it hard to listen to her – Ms. Böhnhardt has construed her own view of events in which her son, Beate Zschäpe and Uwe Mundlos appear solely as victims of arbitrary actions by state organs. That she, as a mother who did not share her son’s ideology, finds it hard to imagine that he killed ten people and committed several bombing attacks is understandable. However, this does not at all excuse, e.g., a statement that she was sorry for “the five adolescents here” – meaning the five accused – who according to her are only sitting in the dock because the secret service did not keep its promises and “the Three” therefore did not surrender. While she sees the three NSU members and the other accused only as victims of state agencies, her testimony contained not even a hint of compassion for the victims of her son’s crimes – or in her words, of the crimes he is claimed to have committed.

Her testimony will continue tomorrow, followed by André Kapke in the afternoon.

Towards the end of the trial day, the court dealt with several motions: a motion by victims‘ counsel that the case file against André Kapke be made part of the case file was denied, the court was of the opinion that there was no evidence that it would be of relevance. The defense of Carsten Schultze moved that an officer of the federal domestic secret service be heard as a witness in order to show that Schultze had played a minor role in the Nazi scene. However, that officer had never observed Schultze firsthand, but had only summarized reports by others. Accordingly, he is not suitable as witness for such questions, as stated by victim’s counsel Thomas Bliwier.

14 November 2013

On Zschäpe‘s position in the NSU

Victim’s counsel Hoffmann and Pinar today requested that a forensic linguist be called to compare a propaganda letter written by the NSU and sent, together with sums of money, to various Nazi groups with a letter by Uwe Mundlos and a letter written by Beate Zschäpe to neo-Nazi Robin Schmiemann. The expert opinion could point to Zschäpe being co-author of the so-called NSU manifest – which would allow convicting her as a co-perpetrator of the NSU murders.

Several former neighbors of Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt from the Polenzstraße in Zwickau also testified. What was appalling about their testimony was that they all showed clear sympathy for Zschäpe, about whom they could not – or would not – „say anything bad“. It appears that the knowledge of Zschäpe’s involvement in the NSU murders has not reached these people – or has not touched them sufficiently to change their view of their former neighbor.

13 November 2013

Andreas Schulz was supposed to testify today. He was proprietor, with Frank Liebau, of the Nazi shop „Medley“. He had stated to the police that he had provided the Ceska pistol to Wohlleben and Schulze.

Defence counsel for Wohlleben and Zschäpe moved that the witness be instructed that he has a right to refuse to testify. The court interrupted the trial several times for closed discussions. Finally, the witness was instructed that he had a right to refuse to testify since there was at least a preliminary suspicion of aiding and abetting murder. He stated that he wanted to talk to a lawyer, but did not have one present. The trial was interrupted again.

This may well backfire on the Wohlleben defence. The court will now likely hear the police officers who interrogated Schulz earlier. In these interrogations, he had incriminated both Wohlleben and Schultze; it is likely that the police officers will confirm this. Among other issues, Schulz had stated that Schultze had insisted on a silenced pistol from the get-go and that Wohlleben had been involved. The Wohlleben defence will now be unable to question the witness on these issues.

In the afternoon, victims’ counsel for the Yozgat und Kubaşik families brought several motions aiming at having the entire case file of the investigation against secret service officer Andreas Temme made part of the case file for the current proceedings and ultimately at illuminiating the acts of obfuscation by the Hessian secret service.

12 November 2013

On how Holger Gerlach supported the NSU – and on how witness protections officers supported Holger Gerlach?

Today’s trial day showed again that the very tight time schedule set by the presiding judge is hard to keep when it comes to difficult issues. Of eight witnesses called today, four had to be sent home without testifying, namely Mandy Struck, Uwe Böhnhardt’s mother Brigitte Böhnhardt, the publisher of a Nazi fanzine who had received a circular from the NSU, and a police officer. Witnesses who did testify include three employees of rental car agencies where mobile homes used in NSU crimes had been rented, including the vehicle used for the bank robbery in Eisenach after which Böhnhardt and Mundlos died. When that vehicle had been picked up, a woman with black hair and a small child had been present, however witnesses were unable to conclusively identify anybody.

The afternoon session was dedicated to the testimony of Sylvia Scheidemantel, who had in 2005/2006 sold her health insurance card to accused Holger Gerlach for 300 €. This card was used for at least one doctor’s visit, very likely by Beate Zschäpe. Personal details of the witness were also used for several non-official ID papers – apparently the NSU had received very precise personal details.

Scheidemantel’s testimony again proved to be a tedious poking in the fog of pretend forgetfulness. Of course the witness had not given any thought to the use her insurance card might be put to, of course she had never had political discussions with either Gerlach or her husband, through whom she knew Gerlach. That these two were “comrades” was, of course, of no interest for her. And of course she had no recollection of having talked to her husband either before or after being interrogated by the police.

One interesting aspect of her testimony concerns a meeting with Gerlach in 2012. According to the witness, shortly after Gerlach had been released from detention, he had been brought to her home and picked up later by witness protection officers. “Gerlach called my husband. Besides us, Holger’s mother and Holger’s girlfriend were present. I mostly talked to [these two] and did not notice the discussion between the two [Gerlach and her husband Alexander Scheidemantel]. The witness protection officers brought him there and picked him up again later, two plainclothes police officers”, the witness related.

If this proves true, it would be a scandalous misconduct by witness protection officers to allow Gerlach to directly influence important witnesses against him. Victims’ counsel therefore moved that the court find out whether there are records of this event, to ask the officers involved for official statements and to call them as witnesses.

7 November 2013

Lies and Trivialization, Part One

Frank Liebau and Jürgen Länger were called to testify today. From 1995 to 2007, Liebau was the proprietor of the “Medley” shop. It was in this shop that the silenced Ceska pistol was bought according to accused Schultze and another witness and that another pistol was bought for Wohlleben and the NSU according to accused Gerlach. The shop was an important meeting point given that it sold Nazi clothing, music encouraging violence and murder and everything else Nazi customers could hope for.

Liebau’s testimony went on for hours without him even giving one concrete answer. Whenever he did not want to say the truth or to conceal something, he would start to mumble almost incomprehensibly in a very broad Thuringian accent.
He stated that he had known Uwe Böhnhardt since his early youth and had been part of a common clique, but refused to remember what they had done. Uwe Mundlos and Ralf Wohlleben were known to him “in the same way”.

Another witness, Andreas Schulz, who is due to testify on 13 November, has stated that he had received the Ceska vom Länger and that Liebau had acted as a go-between. Liebau stated that he had visited Schulz about a week before the trial day – when asked about the content of their discussion, he again claimed not to remember. In earlier talks with Schulz, he claims to have said that he did not want to know anything. However, Schulz had told him that he had sold a firearm.

Liebau also claimed that the police officers writing the protocol of his police interrogation had written down lots of things he had not said, but that he had still signed that protocol in order to be done with the interrogation.

His testimony will continue on 13 November and will be a litmus test for the extent to which the presiding judge will allow a witness to dance on the edge between lying, claiming not to remember and generally not saying anything.

Länger has refused to testify since truthfully answering questions could lead to him being investigated as an accessory to murder. His testimony will continue on a later date; he will be accompanied by a lawyer.