25 March 2015

First evidence concerning the bank robberies

Today the court heard the first witnesses concerning the NSU’s bank robberies, beginning with that in Arnstadt on 7 September 2011, eight weeks before the robbery in Eisenach on 4 November 2011 which ended in the suicide of Böhnhardt and Mundlos.

The testimony of several bank employees and video prints show the following picture: shortly before 9 am, Böhnhardt and Mundlos, armed with several guns and a hand grenade, entered the bank, hit one bank employee over the head with a telephone several times in order to force her colleague to open the cashier’s box, and took some 15,000 Euros. They demanded that the chief teller open the safe, threatening to shoot him, but then fled since the safe was secured by a time lock. One witness saw them riding away on bicycles. They then continued their flight with a mobile home which Böhnhardt had rented under the name of „Holger Gerlach”.

The chief teller felt that the robbers acted rather amateurish – this could be because there had been a gap of four and a half years since the last robbery in Stralsund in early 2007. His colleague who was hit over the head is still suffering from psychological injuries and is unable to work in the customer are of the bank.

In contrast to the murder investigations, the chief investigator quickly saw the parallels to the other bank robberies, talked to the chief investigators there and had already begun to talk to profilers when his case was solved otherwise by the events of 4 November 2011. On that day, he was informed of the Eisenach robbery early on and called his colleagues there, informing them of the possibility of a flight by bike and mobile home and towards Saxony (the center of the series of robberies).

Further investigations showed that “Holger Gerlach” and another person had spent several days on a camp site close to Arnstadt two weeks before the robbery – likely in order to scout out the bank. During that time, there were several phone calls from a mobile phone which police assigned to Beate Zschäpe to the Frühlingsstraße apartment – which means that either Zschäpe was part of this trip or that this was conducted by the two Uwes, who called her in Zwickau several times.

Early in the day, the Eminger defense brought about a court decision concerning the right of victims’ counsel to ask questions of witness: the defense felt that, since none of the victims had been injured by the bank robberies, their counsel were not allowed to ask questions concerning these crimes. However, the court decided that such questions were allowed since the evidence on the bank robberies could influence the court’s findings concerning the murders and bombing attacks.

At the end of the trial day, the presiding announced that the court would continue to sit only on two days per week throughout the month of April – presumably with respect to the state of health of accused Zschäpe. Whether this is to be continued in May and the following months remains to be seen.