Monthly Archives: January 2014

30 January 2014

Most of today’s trial proceedings concerned the murder in Heilbronn. Witnesses were two investigators, Mr. Tiefenbacher of the office of criminal investigation of Baden-Wuerttemberg and Mr. Giedke of the federal office of criminal investigation. Giedke’s testimony was continued from last week. Tiefenbacher had authored the final report of the Baden Wuerttemberg police in February of 2012; that report in turn had been the basis of Giedke’s report. Their testimony revealed that the actual investigations had been conducted by other officers and that Tiefenbacher and Giedke had simply summarized their reports.

Tiefenbacher had, for example, written that it was to be assumed that at least one perpetrator had knowledge of Heilbronn that [signalisiert] a deeper connection to that city. Asked about that statement today, he said that it came from the colleagues in the profiling division; he had not shared their view then and was unable to comment on it. His proclaimed doubts had not, however, found their way into his report. Tiefenbacher also claimed to have simply copied statements such as “a witness saw a Neger [a derogatory German term for a black person] giving an item to four Neger sitting in a car.” Even leaving aside the racist tone which was apparently normal for police officers to use – it becomes clear that the final reports did not play any role in the taking of evidence.

The testimony of both witnesses was thus over quickly. The police officer who did the actual investigation will have to be heard as a witness.

At the end of the proceedings, victims’ counsel entered into the case file the written testimony of the witness who stated that in 2004, accused Wohlleben had given him a pistol in exchange for a tool used in stealing cars (see the reports of 14 and 8 January 2014). The witness had testified in front of a federal prosecutor on 21 March 2013 in Poland. The federal prosecution had opposed his being called as a witness and claimed that there was no connection to the trial in Munich.

The written statement – which victims‘ counsel had received against the wishes of the federal prosecution and which the court had not been provided with until now – proves the opposite: not only does the witness confirm his statements concerning the weapons trade with Wohlleben. He also states that Wohlleben had been accompanied by another man; in a photo array, he is quite certain in identifying Enrico Theile as that man. According to the indictment, Theile was involved in the provision of the silenced Ceska to the NSU, he will testify in Munich in the near future. If Theile was involved in the trade in 2004, this would point to that trade being done on behalf of the NSU.

The federal prosecution’s method of again and again keeping evidence from the court and parties and claiming that it has no connection to the Munich trial has once again proved unsuccessful.

29 January 2014

Did the domestic secret service influence the testimony of Andreas Temme?

The trial started with the testimony of one of the physicians of police officer Arnold, who had been severely injured in an NSU attack. Several statements and motions by parties followed.

Commenting on the testimony of witness Liebau yesterday, the Wohlleben defence claimed – as could be expected – that the witness had not stated that Wohlleben had asked him for a gun. Several victims’ counsel, on the other hand, moved that his statement be taken down verbatim in the minutes since the witness had committed perjury by making such claims.

Victims’ counsel for the Yozgat family moved that the former head of the Hessian domestic secret service, Irrgang, be heard as a witness, and that this be done before the continuation of the testimony of his former officer Andreas Temme: The case file against Temme, which is not part of the court file, contains minutes of a telephone discussion between Temme and a colleague in which the colleague had stated that, in an earlier discussion with Irrgang, Temme had been “more open than when talking to the police.”

The federal prosecution provided these minutes to the parties. Clearly both Irrgang and Temme’s colleague need to be heard as witnesses. It is getting harder and harder for the federal prosecution to explain why the case file against Temme should not be made part of the court file. Suspicions are on the rise that they are trying to keep certain information from becoming public.

The court, however, continued the questioning of Temme. Temme again feigned trouble remember much of anything. Again, his testimony could not be finished, it was interrupted shortly after 5 p.m and will continue at a date still to be determined.

28 January 2014

Today’s trial day was rather frustrating. Neo-Nazi Andreas Schultz, who was to testify on having provided Wohlleben and Schultze with the Ceska-pistol, refused to testify in order to avoid self-incrimination.

Witness Frank Liebau, who had according to the indictment referred Wohlleben to Schultz when Wohlleben asked about buying a pistol, still feigned problems remembering details.

On Wednesday, the court will inter alia continue the questioning of Andreas Temme, former officer of the interior domestic service.

23 January 2014

Testimony of Jürgen Böhnhardt

The only witness today was Uwe Böhnhardt’s father. In contrast to his wife and to the father of Uwe Mundlos, Jürgen Böhnhardt did not show a specific talkativeness and, above all, made no attempts to lay the blame for the development of his son on others.

The witness described the disputes concerning his son’s Nazi attitudes and clothing, disputes which had already been the subject of his wife’s testimony. The parents had not allowed him to wear Nazi symbols or combat boots or listen to Nazi music at home. However, the witness went on to state, these disputes had never been of a particular depth, their son had withdrawn when these issues arose. He had never suspected or thought possible that his son’s right-wing ideology could lead to the crimes charged in the indictment.

Asked about close friends of his son, he named Zschäpe and Mundlos, whom his son had both met in 1996/1997, accused Wohlleben and Gerlach as well as André Kapke.

After “the Three” had gone underground, acquaintances of his son had acted as go-betweens and transported clothing and money – DM 900 for Uwe Böhnhardt and DM 700 for a lawyer – to them. In 1999, 2000 and 2002 he and his wife had met their son as well as Mundlos and Zschäpe. During the last meeting, “the Three” had stated that they would not under any circumstances surrender. This would seem to indicate that they had not only spent the entire time together, but also that they had knowingly chosen to go and to stay underground.

Jürgen Böhnhardt made an emphatic and very touching apology to the victims of the NSU – the first apology to be heard in these proceedings which was forthright and without any minimization. He described the crimes committed by his son and the other NSU members as vicious and acknowledged that he too had made mistakes in dealing with his son.

22 January 2014

A „smoothed out“ investigation

Today’s trial day, concerning the murder in Heilbronn, showed how the taking of evidence is effected when all state organs involved, from the police to the court, try to sweep under the rug any possible contradiction. The evidence today, which in the view of the court was apparently meant to answer most open questions, in fact raised more questions than it answered. This, however, only lead all parties involved to pretend all the more forcefully that everything is now cleared up. The Zschäpe defense, in particular, was totally passive, it seems to be involved in the proceedings only when it comes to blocking questions from victims’ counsel. This passivity is surprising given that it would seem that Zschäpe would be interested in raising doubts that she, together with Mundlos and Böhnhardt, had committed the murder.

A medical expert testified on his examinations on cause of death and the order of events. He had apparently used a lot of modern technology, but still his report left open many essential questions, most importantly how the shots were fired and whether there were more than two perpetrators. What is clear, however, is that a pair of pants belonging to Mundlos was soiled with blood splatters from Kiesewetter that can only have arisen directly during the shooting, i.e. that Mundlos wore those pants during the commission of the crime. Also, this crime, similar to the other NSU murders, was perpetrated in the style of an execution.

The next witness was a police weapons expert who secured the weapons found in the mobile home with the dead bodies of Böhnhardt and Mundlos. He first of all confirmed that the duty weapons of Arnold and Kiesewetter had been identified rather quickly. Concerning the two pump guns, he reported that both had had the same caliber. The first one had been severely deformed by the heat, it had still contained a cartridge or a shell casing. The other weapon, a Winchester Defender – the gun which was almost certainly used by Böhnhardt and Mundlos to kill themselves – had been found with an open breech and in the condition after a fired shot, with a spent shell casing inside. Two shell casings, which could have come from either shotgun, had been found on the floor. This would seem to dispel the conspiracy theory that only a third party could have killed the two Uwes – however, a new question arises at the same time since the state of of knowledge before this testimony had never been that there had been three shots. Neither the court nor prosecution or defense saw any reasons to inquire into this new development, only victims’ counsel asked questions.

Other witnesses confirmed details of the indictment.

The final witness was the lead investigator of the federal police, detective Giedke. As could be expected, his testimony could not be finished today and will continue next week. In July and October 2012, the witness had authored concluding investigation reports, which later formed the basis for the indictment. In these reports, he apparently smoothed out all contradictions and doubts, e.g. as concerns a commanding officer of Kiesewetter’s and Arnold’s who had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan – in the report, Giedke simply notes that that officer had of course only been passively involved, had left the KKK in 2002 and had “credibly” stated that he had had no contact to “the Three” or the NSU. Giedke confirmed that Böhnhardt und Mundlos had been in Stuttgart, presumably to scout out potential murder victims – but at the same time he claims that there had been no clue which could have led to further investigations, for example into contacts into the Nazi scene in Southwest Germany.

Concerning an article by weekly Der Stern according to which an American secret service had, during the course of another investigation, happened to observe a shootout between “Nazi agents”, police and German secret service, Giedke claimed that this had been investigated and found out to be false as both the American embassy and German secret service had confirmed that no such events had taken place.

Asked about a statement by Kiesewetter’s uncle, an officer with the political police in Thuringia, before the uncovering of the NSU that there must be a connection between the killing of his niece and the “Turk murders”, Giedke at first claimed not to really remember. Only after some critical questions by victims’ counsel did he confirm that there had been such a statement.

It was only after court and prosecution had no further questions and the victims’ counsel raised some critical queries that it became evident that Giedke had not conducted any investigations, but had only summarized the summaries of the various lead detectives and had smoothed them out in the process. Asked about untrue statements in his report concerning Kiesewetter’s duties in the context of Nazi demonstrations, he finally admitted that he had “just copied” these statements and had probably not looked at all documents again.

It becomes apparent once more that the court and the prosecution are only interested in confirming the indictment, not in actually elucidating the facts. In February 2012, the German chancellor had promised victims’ families that the facts would be uncovered to the maximum extent possible. The federal prosecutor’s office, in a statement to the press last week, acted directly contrary to such promises when it asked journalists not to believe any theories by victims’ counsel and trust the investigations, stating that everything had been investigated and none of these theories had been confirmed. For the victims of the NSU, who on top of the Nazi terror had faced racist investigations targeting them as suspects, such requests for “trust” are a slap in the face.

21 January 2014

A Trial Day with Few Highlights

The taking of evidence today was, as expected, largely unproductive. Susan Eminger, wife of accused Eminger and friend of accused Zschäpe, refused to testify – she is herself accused of at least supporting the NSU.

A witness who was present at the internet café of Halit Yozgat in Kassel when Yozgat was murdered – the witness was 16 at the time – described the situation in which the murdered Yozgat had been found. He did not remember many details, but he did remember that there had been another man present at the time, whom he described as “white, tall, rather fat – simply German-looking.” This man was Andreas Temme, an agent of the domestic secret service. Temme had claimed that he had not seen the body of Halit Yozgat and had looked for him inside and outside the café, leaving and re-entering several times. The witness, however, remembered nothing of the sort.

Regarding the Heilbronn killings, one witness stated that he had seen two bicyclists having a loud discussion at a spot very close to the murder scene, a spot from which the entire surroundings could be watched. This spot had only been a very short distance from a parking lot where a mobile home could have parked. Another witness related that he had often seen police cars at the crime scene. The testimony of these two witnesses seems to indicate that the two victims had been picked randomly because that they had simply been at a secluded spot where police cars could often be found.

On the other hand, the testimony of a police officer concerning the commanding officer of Kiesewetter and Arnold might lead one to a different conclusion: This officer had been a member of the Nazi group “Ku Klux Klan”. According to the witness, he had given Kiesewetter and Arnold concrete instructions regarding where they should do their duties. In other hands, there had been a Nazi who not only knew that these two were on duty that day, but who could also have ordered them to the later crime scene.

16 January 2014

First witnesses regarding the murder of a police officer in Heilbronn

Today the court heard the first witnesses regarding the NSU attack of 25 April 2007 in Heilbronn in which police officer Michèle Kiesewetter was killed and her colleague Martin Arnold was severely injured.

This is the last known murder committed by the NSU and throws up many questions. Until today, it is not clear why the NSU changed its strategy of killing small business owners of foreign origin. It is also unclear whether these two were specifically chosen as victims or whether the killers simply targeted police officers and only happened to shoot these two officers. After all, Michèle Kiesewetter grew up in the same region as the NSU members and presumably knew them at least at some remove. On the other hand, it was mostly by chance and hardly foreseeable that these two would be on break at the place and time the attack took place. The theory of the indictment is that these two were not personally targeted.

The witness summonses so far seems to show the court interested only in that testimony which is needed for a conviction according to the indictment. Such conviction should prove easy in this case, easier than in the other cases: the pistols of both victims and other items stolen from them were found with the NSU, as were pants of Böhnhardt’s with blood from both victims, and finally the NSU videos contain a claim of responsibility for thus murder. It will be up to the court to decide whether it is only interested in a conviction or also in an actual elucidation of the facts.

Today’s witnesses reported on the crime scene and the situation in which the two victims were found. Martin Arnold, who had been very severely injured, reported on the long-term effects of his head wound. He also reported on the events of the day until several minutes before the attack. He does not remember the attack itself, even being questioned under hypnosis did not help bring back memories.

At the end of the trial day, the Schultze defence joined the motion by victim’s counsel Alexander Hoffmann which had led to disputes with the federal prosecution this week. The interest in Wohlleben’s dealings with guns and tools for car theft is rising.

15 January 2014

Conclusion of the taking of evidence on the Frühlingstraße fire

Today, the final expert witness was heard on the fire in the Frühlingsstraße 26 apartment. In the end, both experts agreed and confirmed what other evidence had already shown: the explosion and fire resulted from considerable amounts of gasoline being poured out and set on fire, there was considerable danger to all people in the building and surrounding it.

This largely concluded the evidence concerning the Frühlingsstraße fire. Victim’s counsel Eberhard Reinicke made a statement summarizing the evidence and concluding that the relevant charge against Beate Zschäpe – three counts of attempted murder – has been confirmed.

Victim’s counsel Alexander Hoffmann gave a short reply to the prosecution’s statement concerning last week’s motion for witness testimony (for more details, see the report of 14 January 2014). He noted again that the actions the witness related would constitute the crimes of giving aid to a terrorist organization and at least an attempt to aid and abet the NSU’s crimes after February of 2004, showing that it was necessary to hear the witness.

14 January 2014

Federal prosecutor opposes further elucidation

Today’s trial day was characterized by arguments between the federal prosecutors and the Zschäpe defence on the one hand and victims’ counsel on the other. The witness testimony today did not bring the trial forward otherwise.

The occasion for the first dispute was the motion by victims’ counsel of 8 January 2014 regarding a witness, currently incarcerated in Poland, who states that in 2004, he provided accused Ralf Wohlleben with a tool to overcome anti-theft devices for VW vans and in exchange received a gun. This could throw a new light on the role of Wohlleben, who so far is only accused of providing the Ceska pistol in 1999/2000.

The federal prosecution moved that this motion be denied as inadmissible as well as without merit. It is obvious that the prosecution is trying with all its might to defend the picture of the NSU as consisting of only three persons against all new developments. It would seem obvious that if Wohlleben tried, in 2004, to procure tools for the theft of vehicles often used by the NSU in its crimes, this can only mean that he was more deeply involved than assumed by the indictment. Since taking over the investigation, the federal prosecution has tried to keep the number of NSU members as low as possible by all means possible, trying to stay as close as possible to the traditional “lone wolf” theory. The decision on this motion will be a political decision, asking presiding judge Götzl and his senate to decide whether they are interested in an actual elucidation of the facts or whether they only want to work off the indictment.

The second dispute arose from a statement by several victims’ counsel concerning the testimony of Alexander Scheidemantel, who on 8 January 2014 testified on the provision of his wife’s health insurance card to accused Gerlach. The statement showed in detail that both the Scheidemantels and accused Gerlach had a reason to lie regarding this matter – Scheidemantel because he, and maybe his wife, knew whom the card was meant for. As far as Gerlach had a motive to lie, it was to protect his friends – which means that a lie on this issue does not render the rest of his statement untrustworthy.

This statement was interrupted by the Zschäpe defence, claiming that it was too comprehensive for a statement by victims’ counsel. The Zschäpe defence had claimed last week that Gerlach’s entire statement – which after all incriminates Zschäpe – was unbelievable because he had lied on this issue. Now this argument was proven false. The court decided to allow the statement in its entirety.

8 January 2014

The Scheidemantels – Lies and Forgetfulness

The trial day on 9 January was canceled due to a witness falling sick, leaving Wednesday the only trial day for the week. This day was again concerned with the health insurance card of Silvia Scheidemantel, which she had given to accused Holger Gerlach for 300 € and which Gerlach had then given to Zschäpe. Silvia Scheidemantel had already testified on 12 November. Today, her husband was questioned first, followed by additional questions directed at his wife.

Alexander Scheidemantel is an old friend and comrade of Gerlach’s. Both were active for many years in Hannover’s neo-Nazi scene and are still friends. Scheidemantel confirmed that he was active until at least late 2004. Back then, he confirmed, he was a National Socialist, denied the Holocaust, held anti-semitic and xenophobic views. This was also the mindset of Gerlach when they met.

More or less by accident, the witness revealed a lot about the attitude of neo-Nazis towards the German state – and indirectly of the state towards the Nazis – when he stated that he and Gerlach had tried to change society into a National Socialist one, but that he would never have presumed to change the state. While this statement was likely meant to downplay his own deeds, it still becomes apparent that the foremost goal of the Nazi scene was to fire up certain sentiments within society, especially as concerns the treatment of migrants, and less to take over institutions of the state by force. It is likely this attitude, and thus the fact that the Nazis do not call into question state organs, which leads German law enforcement agencies to constantly underestimate the danger emanating from militant Nazis.

As far as the health insurance card was concerned, the witness was less forthcoming, but tried – with some success – to play dumb. No recollection, no discussion the use the card would be put to, no thoughts on his part. Upon questioning by victim’s counsel Alexander Hoffmann, he accidentally let slip that Gerlach had told him in 2012 that the card was meant for Beate Zschäpe. However, he immediately tried to play down this statement, claiming that this had been only a conclusion he had drawn.

This statement stands in stark contrast to the fact that police found several documents – including a library card, a card for prescription eyeglasses – bearing the birth name of Silvia Scheidemantel, Rossberg, in the NSU flat in Zwickau. These documents contain personal information which can only have come from the Scheidemantels, showing that there must have been a more in-depth discussion. Presiding judge Götzl refrained from increasing the pressure on Scheidemantel, rather accepting that he gave conflicting answers and claimed memory gaps where there clearly were none. It seems that Götzl was content with having established the provision of the health insurance card. The federal prosecution, at least, warned the witness that he risked an investigation for perjury.

The further testimony of his wife was short and without specific results. The extent to which the Scheidemantels were engaged in the support of the NSU members in hiding remains unclear.

At the end of the trial day, victim’s counsel Hoffmann made a motion that a certain witness be heard. This witness has stated that in 2004, he had given to accused Wohlleben a tool to overcome the anti-theft systems for VW vans in exchance for a pistol. It is known that the NSU has used VW vans in committing its crimes, and not all vehicles used have been found. So far, the only count of the indictment against Wohlleben is that he provided the NSU with the murder weapon – this could change after the testimony of this witness, which the witness will be able to corroborate by showing the hiding place where the gun is still buried.