Monthly Archives: February 2014

27 February 2014

Lies and Trivialization, Part 4.5: Mandy Struck continues to evade – and receives some pressure from the court.

Witness Mandy Struck continued to testify today, first answering the presiding judge’s questions on her vita, the Nazi scene in Chemnitz and other issues. It was again apparent that she tried to play down her own role in the scene, claiming that she had no idea of the identity or background of her “guests”, that she had never seen them again and that she had not even identified them as Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt after the NSU had been uncovered in 2011/2012.

Struck had been questioned, first by police detectives and later by a judge, in 2003 after investigations uncovered clues that she was in contact with “the Three”. Today, she claimed that back then, she had had no knowledge at all who was the subject of the investigation. Presiding judge Götzl warned her several times that her testimony was far from believable – after all, the minutes from 2003 contain both names and photos of all three persons being investigated and also refer to issues Struck had been involved in, such as the provision of fake identity papers. Struck nonetheless remained steadfast in her denials.

From the point of view of victims’ counsel, it is to be welcomed that the presiding judge does not accept memory gaps claimed by witnesses from the Nazi scene, instead asking critical questions. It is interesting that it is Mandy Struck, who has the right to refuse any testimony and who was accompanied by her lawyer, who is apparently talking her way into a perjury investigation.

After intense questioning by the presiding judge, victims’ counsel started their questions in the afternoon. However, they did not get to ask very many questions, on the one hand because Struck kept blocking everything, on the other hand because the prosecution and the Zschäpe defence kept interrupting and claiming that questions concerning, e.g., Struck’s position in the Nazi scene had no bearing on the case. This is transparently untrue, but these interruptions nonetheless lead to the testimony of Struck being stopped for the day at around 4.30 in the afternoon. Struck will have to continue her testimony on a later date.

26 February 2014

Lies and Trivialization, Part IV – Mandy Struck

Today’s trial day began with the report of weapons expert Nennstiel of the federal criminal police. He had already identified the Ceska and Bruni pistols found in the Frühlingsstraße apartment as those used in the NSU’s murders of migrant men. Today he reported on the two guns used in the murder of Michèle Kiesewetter and attempted murder of Michael Arnold in Heilbronn. Again, the expert witness identified two guns found in the Frühlingsstraße as those used in the crime.

Nennstiel was also asked to once again detail the identification of the Ceska and Bruni pistols found in the Frühlingsstraße as those used in the series of NSU murders – a few weeks ago, expert witness Pfoser, who had presented a convincing written report, had caused some confusion due to an unclear oral report (see the report of 4 February 2014). Nennstiel showed painstakingly detailed the accordance of the tracks in the ammunition which led him to conclusively identify the two weapons found as the murder weapons, thus clearing up any confusion.

Victims‘ counsel moved that several documents concerning witness Tino Brandt, which are part of the files of the parliamentary enquiry of the Thuringian parliament, be made part of the Munich files. Brandt, who was leader of the “Thuringia Homeguard” and informer for the domestic secret service, will testify in court in the next few weeks. Further motions concern evidence for the involvement of Zschäpe both in the surveillance of potential targets of NSU attacks and in the production of the “Pink Panther”-video with which the NSU claimed responsibility for its crimes.

In the afternoon, witness Mandy Struck began her testimony. There is an ongoing investigation against Struck who is suspected of supporting the terrorist organization NSU. Accordingly Struck would be allowed to refuse to testify. However, Struck has decided to testify, apparently she wants to tell her story. She testified for about three hours, to be continued tomorrow. What became apparent already today is that Mandy Struck systematically tries to downplay her own role, claims memory gaps and tells obviously unbelievable stories.

According to Struck, she had been introduced into the Nazi scene via her boyfriend beginning in 1994, first into the somewhat apolitical Nazi-Skinhead scene. Lateron, the entire scene had become politicized, inter alia because only those who attended demonstrations were told the locations of concerts. However, she claims to have started attending demonstrations only in 1999/2000.

One evening, a “comrade” had come to her apartment and had asked whether three “comrades” could stay there for a while. Those three, two men and a woman, were “in trouble”, there was no need for her to know more. Struck related that she allowed them to stay in Max Florian B.’s apartment, feeling that this was “aid among comrades.” However, she also claimed to have never been given the names of the three persons and to not have recognized Zschäpe, Böhnhardt und Mundlos as those persons later on.

As „aid among comrades“, then, she did not hesitate to help with finding them a place to stay, with requesting and picking up a new identity card for one of the two men and someone else’s personal details, and gave Zschäpe her health insurance card for a doctor’s visit.

Despite several rumors circulating in the Chemnitz scene that Nazis from Jena were in hiding in Chemnitz, and despite even asking the woman to intervene in her relationship troubles with B., Struck claims to never have been given the names of her “guests”. A few weeks after their arrival, she had ended her relationship with B. and, according to her, had never heard from the three guests until the police started questioning her.

Struck is obviously attempting to portray herself in as unimportant a role as possible. The case file, however, shows her playing quite an important role in the scene in Chemnitz. It was quite clear that presiding judge Götzl did not believe everything Struck said. It will be interesting to see how her testimony continues tomorrow.

25 February 2014

„Yes, I got them the damn gun“

This trial day was mainly concerned with the testimony of two police detectives who had questioned witness Andreas Schultz. Schultz, a Nazi who had provided Wohlleben and Schultze with the silenced Ceska pistol, refused to testify in court on 28 January 2014, relying on the privilege against self-incrimination. Now his statements to the police are being introduced via the detectives who had questioned him. The Wohlleben defense made no attempt to stop this procedure.

Mr. Bernhardt, a detective of the Thuringia office of criminal investigations, was involved in the first police interview of Schultz. At that time, Schultz had at first completely denied having provided a gun. However, the detective relayed, Schultze had then apparently been concerned about his new job, his relationship and his livelihood and had finally shouted out “Yes, I got them the damn gun”.

In a later interview, he had provided further testimony incriminating Wohlleben and Schultze: Wohlleben had come to Schultz, accompanied by a young man later identified as Carsten Schultze, and had asked for a gun, which Schultze had later picked up together with 50 rounds of ammunition. However, in that interview Schultz had still claimed that he had bought the pistol from “a Yugoslav”, and he had not mentioned the silencer which Wohlleben and Schultze had also asked for. Schultze had known Wohlleben, Böhnhardt, Mundlos, Zschäpe, Kapke and the people surrounding them as politically active Nazis from the „Thuringia Homeguard“; by contrast, he had described himself as more „lifestyle oriented.”

Another detective, who had participated in later interviews with Schultz, was sent home due to lack of time and will be heard later on.

Tomorrow will see the testimony of Mandy Struck, who is suspected of supporting a terrorist organization and against whom there is still an investigation. Several victims’ counsel had moved that that case file be made part of the Munich case file. The federal prosecutor’s office opposed this motion and instead presented a rather thin investigation report dated May 2013, which did not show that any further investigative steps had been taken.

According to this report, then, the investigation against Struck could have been formally concluded in May 2013. It is entirely unclear whether this investigation against Struck, but also against other accused supporters of the NSU, is only being formally continued and will be dropped without much ado in the future or whether there are still active investigations into their support of the NSU. In the case of Struck, certain acts of support have been proven, but are subject to the statute of limitations – accordingly the question in her case is how long her contact with and support of the NSU continued. Once again, the federal prosecutor is keeping all parties in the dark.

20 February 2014

The first witness today was Max-Florian B. B is suspected of having supported the NSU by providing Mundlos with his personal details for a passport and other documents. Accordingly he had a right to refuse to testify, of which he availed himself. However, B had made a number of statements to the police, and accordingly the police officers who had questioned him could be called as witnesses.

In his first testimony to police on 7 November 2011, three days after the death of Mundlos and Böhnhardt, he had claimed that Zschäpe and Mundlos had been random acquaintances who had spent one night in his apartment and had probably stolen his documents.

Two weeks later, in his first testimony to federal police detectives, he admitted that the he had given refuge to “the Three” as he considered them “comrades”. He also stated that Mundlos had persuaded him to give him his ID card for a time. In the following years, he had talked to Mundlos on the phone from time to time and there had been some visits, the last one in 2009/2010. All this time, he had provided further personal details, mostly without realizing.

B. stated that he had not had any idea of the crimes committed by the Three and that he had left the Nazi scene years ago. He was very sorry that he had unwittingly supported the crimes of the NSU and wanted to help uncover the truth. B. did indeed meet several times with detectives and provided further information, albeit often only after being asked concrete questions. Whether this is a result of the time that has passed and of his having suppressed his memories, or whether B knows more than he lets on and could do more to uncover the truth, remains unclear. The officer who was present at most of B.’s police interviews will continue his testimony in the next weeks.

Max-Florian B.’s testimony to the police, both as concerns his own person and as concerns the support given to “the Three” by other Nazis from Chemnitz, shows again that the NSU could count on a large number of dependable supporters. The assumption is still valid that this was the case not only shortly after their going undercover, but also for the time during which they committed their murders. In particular, B. had given evidence on André Eminger, who had long remained in contact with “the Three” and who had sent B a text with Nazi statements as late as 2010.

At the end of the trial day, victims’ counsel moved that the case file against Mandy Struck be made part of the court file. Struck, who has been called to testify in Munich next week, is also accused of supporting the NSU.

19 February 2014

Once more concerning witness Liebau

The first two witnesses today were police officers who had interrogated witness Liebau, the proprietor of a shop frequented by the Nazi scene in Jena where, according to the indictment, Ralf Wohlleben and Carsten Schultze bought the murder weapon for the NSU. In court Liebau had claimed not to remember Wohlleben or Schultze asking him for a gun. Asked about his police interrogation in which guns had come up several times, he had claimed to have meant only gas pistols. He had also claimed that the police officers had severely pressured him (see our reports of 7 November 2013 and 29 January 2014).

The testimony of the two detectives showed this to be untrue. In his testimony to the police, Liebau had at first claimed not to remember anything, but had later “not excluded” the possibility that Wohlleben might have asked him for a gun, adding that members of the Nazi scene had sometimes asked him for guns. He also spoke of a “Serb or Croat” who could provide weapons from the Kosovo war. Liebau’s claims to have spoken only of gas guns is thus exposed as an obvious lie – which is why victims’ counsel had moved that they be laid down in the minutes as evidence for the crime of perjury.

Liebau was the first of the witnesses testifying in court who played the game of not remembering, denying and playing down. It is thus to be welcomed that the court follows this issue further. However, today’s testimony also showed that Liebau’s “memory gaps” had already arisen in his police testimony – showing that the court should have been less forgiving with him in his testimony in court.

Another police officer reported on a search of Zschäpe’s apartment in January of 1998, which netted a number of weapons (a crossbow, a slingshot, knives etc.), a Nazi flag and an early version of the “Pogromly” board game (on which see yesterday’s report). These items again show that Zschäpe was deeply invested in Nazi ideology and violence-prone already in 1998.

The day concluded with statements and motions. Victim’s counsel Dr. Mehmet Daimagüler made a statement concerning the testimony of a neighbor from the Polenzstraße and the “German Normalcy” shown in her statement (see our report of 3 February 2014). Victim’s counsel Peer Stolle moved that several superior officers of the two Heilbronn victims be called to testify in order to clear up whether the attack was directed against the two victims specifically or against the police in general (see our report of 21 January 2014). Finally, victim’s counsel Seda Basay called for the testimony of a detective from the „investigative group personal networks” of the Baden-Württemberg office of criminal investigations. This detective would be called to testify on connections of the NSU to the federal state of Baden-Württemberg – inter alia on the statement of a witness that at the time of the Heilbronn attack, she had seen Zschäpe roughly 35 kilometers from the crime scene.

18 February 2014

On the „Pogromly“ boardgame

Three witnesses testified today, all federal police detectives. The first had written a report on the known addresses of “the Three” since their going undercover in 1998. Like other witnesses before him, this witness had not conducted any investigations, but simply summarized investigations by colleagues. His testimony showed quite clearly that, both in Chemnitz directly after going underground and later in Zwickau, “the Three” had the support of several “comrades” who allowed them to stay in their flats, rented flats for them or gave out their identities.

The Zschäpe defense seemed to be of the opinion that his testimony did not show that all three had lived together the entire time after going underground and that this threw into doubt the indictment as far as it concerns membership in a terrorist organization. This seems far-fetched as, particularly with regard to Zwickau, there exists a host of evidence concerning Zschäpe’s integral role in the structure of the group.

The second witness reported on the “Pogromly” board game which Mundlos had devised as a national Socialist and anti-Semitic variation on Monopoly and that was later sold by supporters of “the Three” to raise money. He detailed in depth the inhuman and Nazi content of this game – to give only a few examples, the railway stations of the original Monopoly game were changed to concentration camps, “Free Parking” was changed to “Visit with the Führer” and instead of building houses in Streets, players had to make cities “Jew free”.

The third witness had conducted investigations into the persons of witnesses Theile and Länger, who according to the evidence so far were involved in the sale of the Ceska pistol. His report showed that both knew Böhnhardt from early on and that both seemed and seem to hold right-wing views. It also showed that both had intensive contacts in criminal milieus, including to persons with access to firearms.

11 to 13 February 2014

All three trial days this week have been canceled since both witnesses called for this week cannot appear – the first witness, who is accused of being involved in the provision of the murder weapon, is travelling abroad while former domestic secret service informer Tino Brandt is unable to appear for health reasons.

5 February 2014

Lies and Trivialization, Part 3 – Further Testimony of André Kapke.

Today André Kapke, one of the closest “comrades” of Böhnhardt, Mundlos, Zschäpe, Gerlach, Schultze and Wohlleben, was questioned for the second time. Again, he made a brazen show, claiming time and again not to remember much. Again, presiding judge Götzl did not succeed in putting enough pressure on Kapke to pierce his blockades.

He did, at least, testify that the Jena group of the “Thuringia Home Guard”, which all NSU murderers belonged to, used a system of communications involving public phone cells and a “decoding table”, allowing rather clandestine operations. Kapke hat supported “the Three” in their flight and at least for the first period afterwards. He also stated again that, through contacts provided by secret service informer Tino Brandt, he had gotten fake passports for them.

When the pressure on Kapke first started to rise a bit, the questioning was interrupted because the Zschäpe defence wished to challenge one of the judged, judge Lang, for bias: Defense attorney Herr claimed that Lang had carried a folder marked “NSU trial”, which showed that he had already made up his mind on the existence of the terrorist organization NSU and was thus biased against Zschäpe. Although this challenge is obviously without merit, it did lead to a longer break in the proceedings and thus gave Kapke some breathing room.

Götzl did ask a number of questions on a “birthday newspaper” which Wohlleben and others had given to Kapke in 1998 and which contained open calls for the murder of Ignatz Bubis, then president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and contemptuous statements concerning the victims of the Holocaust. Kapke stated that these were “satirical” statements – his answer showed clearly that he still holds the same views today.

The federal prosecution put on a little more pressure and did receive some important answers:

  • Böhnhardt, Mundlos, Gerlach and Kapke were the central figures in the Jena Nazi scene, involved in networking in the form of weekly meetings every Wednesday.
  • The board game „Pogromly“, an anti-Semitic variation on Monopoly, was played by all of them.
  • Kapke and Wohlleben discussed how to involve accused Schultze in the support of the three who had gone underground.

One example of the surprisingly lenient way the presiding judge reacts to Nazi witnesses feigning memory loss arose during the questioning of Kapke by assistant federal prosecutor Weingarten. Weingarten answered one of Kapke’s claims not to remember by the statement, half directed at Götzl, that if he was in charge of the courtroom, he would stringently advise Kapke to start answering questions. Götzl did not use the opportunity to support the prosecution, but simply remained silent.

That he uses kid gloves on lying Nazi witnesses, particularly given the way the Nazi scene seems to be playing the court, is all the more surprising given that earlier trials Götzl presided over have left him with a fearsome reputation for dealing very harshly with witness. His lenient conduct surely contributes to a deeper elucidation of facts becoming harder and harder. Obviously Götzl does not want such deeper elucidation, but simply a guilty verdict according to the indictment, and as he holds the evidence provided so far to be sufficient for that he does not wish to make his way to a judgment more cumbersome by dealing with contempt proceedings and the like.

Kapke’s questioning by victims’ counsel will continue some time during the next weeks.

4 February 2014

4 February 2014

On the identification of the Ceska pistol as the murder weapon

A weapons expert of the federal police today caused some confusion in his failed attempt to orally summarize his written reports on the identification of the silenced Ceska 83 pistol found in the Frühlingsstraße apartment as the murder weapon. For a short moment, the Wohlleben defence scented the morning air, but a closer look at the evidence reveals no doubt concerning the identification.

First off, however, another weapons expert of the federal criminal police, Nennstiel, very clearly explained his inspections of the Ceska and Bruni pistols used in many of the NSU’s murders. He had fired shots with these weapons and had compared the resulting projectiles with those found at the murder scenes. The Ceska had clearly been identified as the murder weapon, with regard to the Bruni pistol, a modified gas pistol, identity with the murder weapon could neither be conclusively confirmed nor denied. He had also succeeded in rendering visible the Ceska’s weapons number.

Nennstiel was followed by weapons expert Pfoser, also of the federal criminal police, who had also written several reports. Most importantly, he had, early on in the investigation, not only found out that the murders had been committed with a Ceska 83, but had also found aluminum particles on the projectiles which could only have come from a silencer.

Sadly he was unable to comprehensibly present his analyses in court, thus inadvertently raising doubts concerning his results. This was all the more inauspicious since, given the clear expert report by Nennstiel, all that remained to be shown was which of the projectiles used in his studies were found at which murder scene.

The court may thus have to have the reports explained again by an expert who is able to present them in a comprehensible way in court. However, should the Wohlleben defence try to use his oral report to raise doubts concerning Wohlleben’s guilt, it will fail – the clear report of Nennstiel and the equally compelling written reports of Pfoser show that the Ceska 83 pistol provided by Wohlleben and Schultze was the gun used in nine of the NSU murders.

3 February 2014

German Normalcy

Today the court heard testimony from a neurologist treating Martin Arnold, the police officer shot in the head by the NSU, as well as from a neighbor of the NSU in the Polenzstraße in Zwickau.

The latter testimony showed again that the members of the NSU did not have to do much dissembling simply because racist and fascist attitudes were “normal” in their immediate surroundings. The witness testified that she had often eaten meals with Zschäpe, whom she knew as Lisa or Susanne Dienelt, had barbecued with her and spent evenings with her kids and Zschäpe in the yard. She too confirmed that Mundlos and Böhnhardt had withdrawn in contrast to Zschäpe, stating that she had only seen Lisa’s friend once.

She claimed that there had been no discussions on political issues and described her own political attititude as „normal“. Again it was the questioning by victims’ counsel that showed this to be untrue: Her husband’s facebook page features not only racist slogans and an anti-Turkish poem, but also a clear statement of commitment to the NSU, symbolized by the cartoon character Pink Panther, who figured prominently in the NSU video claiming responsibility for its crimes. The witness blocked all questions, but made clear that she knows of that facebook page, even has access to it herself. She agrees with the racist statements but claims that only her husband is responsible for the Pink Panther.