26 November 2014

Lies and Trivialization, Part X – „that feeling of comradeship that one knew from the army was somehow continued within the scene.”

There are certain trial days in the trial against members and supporters of the “National Socialist Underground” which are hard to endure and accordingly hard to report on. One of those days was the trial day of 26 November 2014. The court had summoned as a witness Ralph Hofmann, who is suspected of having given an ID card to Böhnhardt, Mundlos and Zschäpe in 1999 and of having rented a flat for them so that they could order items from catalogues without paying. The ID card was found in the burned-out Frühlingsstraße apartment, along with items which had been ordered in his name and delivered to another apartment in Chemnitz rented in his name. Among these items, which were never paid for, were night vision goggles, i.e. items which could be used in conducting attacks.

In his police interview, Hofman had claimed to have lost his ID card in a shopping centre. He also related that one evening, Thomas Starke had asked him whether two “comrades” could stay in his apartment. This had been in front of a pub; Starke had been accompanied by two men with hoodies whom he had not recognized. Another Nazi witness testifying in court on 19 March 2014 has told the court that Hofman had brought Starke and “the Three” in contact with him and that he had provided an apartment for them – something which Hofmann had not talked about at all in his police interview.

Hofmann was never part of the “Blood & Honour” network, but was rather active in more political party-like organizations. Among others, he was a functionary of the “Home Guard Chemnitz” and until recently a frequent guest of events organized by the “National Socialists Chemnitz”, which were forcibly disbanded just this year.

Like many witness before him, Hofmann tried to make himself appear harmless and rather nonpolitical. “I did share some of the views. One was young and could identify with some of that. In the army time, due to the military aspect, one developed an affinity for elitist thought.”

The presiding judge first questioned the witness in a precise and patient manner, circling his false statements, but never succeeding in pinning him down. Hofmann claimed, in contrast to all his earlier statements, that Starke had asked him a second time whether he could provide housing for the “two men” and that he had referred Starke to an acquaintance. That this is an attempt to shield himself from suspicion was apparent, but was never made explicit. The presiding judge finally ended his questioning without having put pressure on the witness to change his false statements.

The defense of course did not ask any questions – the unearthing of further details concerning support provided to the NSU is contrary to its interests. But neither did the federal prosecution ask any questions – it seems as if the prosecution has lost all interest in an elucidation of the facts.

Victims’ counsel tried to put pressure on the witness, but in order to do so, they had to refer to and repeat questions asked by the presiding judge – as it was already afternoon and, as is so often the case in the afternoon, the court was becoming impatient, many of these questions were objected to as already having been answered.

Hofmann’s questioning finally ended in a confrontation between the Wohlleben defense and a victim’s counsel when the defense objected to the latter recounting the names of the NSU murder victims.

What became clear once more is that the Nazi scene not only supported the NSU in its murders, but that it has up to this day done everything to keep the NSU crimes from being adequately investigated. It also became apparent that it was not only the “Blood & Honour” scene that was involved in supporting the NSU, but also Nazi activists from outside the Skinhead scene. This further scene may well become relevant when it comes to the support provided after the forced dissolution of “Blood & Honour” in the fall of 2000. One clue in this direction is the fact that Hofmann’s phone number was found in André Eminger’s telephone under the name “Ralph Jäger” (Ralph Hunter). This name is likely a reference to Hofmann’s army time where he was part of a “hunter unit” – a reference, thus, which also shows that Eminger knew Hofmann quite well.