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.