Monthly Archives: April 2015

29 April 2015

Surprising testimony concerning early crimes in Jena

Today marked the first time in a long while that a witness made a surprising statement. The witness was a former close friend of Beate Zschäpe’s who was also involved in the Skinhead fraction of the Nazi scene, but who fully left the scene sometime in the late 1990s.

The witness had much earlier testified in a 1997 trial, already discussed in this blog, against inter alia Uwe Böhnhardt for hanging a human-sized dummy with a star of David on its front from a highway bridge and for placing a mock bomb next to it. Böhnhardt was in the end acquitted since several “comrades”, including today’s witness, had provided him with an alibi.
Today the witness confirmed what was more than likely anyway, namely that that alibi was false. He then went on to report that he himself had been involved in the actual crime. Mundlos and Böhnhardt had asked him and told him they needed an alibi witness. As the witness was already then known as a “moralizer”, he was to tell both law enforcement and the scene itself that Böhnhardt and Mundlos had nothing to do with this. His statement today showed that it would otherwise have been only natural for the Uwes to be suspected, showing the extent of the political and ideological development already at the time of this crime in 1996. He also reported that involved in the actual crime itself were not only Mundlos, Böhnhardt and the witness himself, but also Beate Zschäpe and Ralf Wohlleben.

The witness further reported that after the Three had gone underground, Wohlleben had quite aggressively asked him for money to support them and had in that context reminded him of the common perpetration of this crime. He had been summoned to a meeting at the place of Böhnhardt’s parents. He first promised to give money, but later reneged since he disapproved of their crimes involving explosives and since he feared that they would finance their life underground with bank robberies or the like. Also, he had been certain they were already abroad: “I could not and cannot imagine that it is possible to live for more than a month or two in Germany without being caught, particularly if the police are looking for the person.” His surprise by the fact of their remaining undetected is a natural reaction, particularly given the number of informers surrounding the accused and their supporters in Chemnitz.

His testimony seemed very believable, especially as it was obvious that he had to overcome his own resistance: first because he had to confess his own involvement in the 1996 crime and his perjury in court, second because he obviously found it difficult, despite his rejection of her ideology and her crimes, to incriminate his childhood friend Zschäpe. Nonetheless, he made his statement of his own free will and thus contributed to the elucidation of the facts concerning the NSU and its crimes – and this in spite of fearing both legal and societal consequences for his statement. This is to be commended. Of course, at the same time this witness has only fulfilled his duty as a witness, namely to testify fully and truthfully – that his behavior in court seems almost exemplary once again throws into sharp relief the callous disregard most other witnesses have shown the proceedings and the extent to which court and prosecution have allowed them to do so.

His testimony, obviously, is also a strike against the Zschäpe and Wohlleben defenses, whose strategies so far relied inter alia on claiming that they had never been involved in the perpetration of concrete crimes. This claim is now – once more – challenged for both accused. Both defense teams seemed largely unprepared, shown by their telling the presiding judge that they would need a lengthy break before they could question the witness. The presiding judge instead interrupted the questioning today, the witness will come to court once more to finish his testimony.

28 April 2015

Lies and Trivialization, Part 13 – Once more on the „White Brotherhood in the Iron Mountains“ and on „Blood & Honour“

The first witness today was André Kö., a former member of the „White Brotherhood in the Iron Mountains“ (Weiße Bruderschaft Erzgebirge, WBE) led by André and Maik Eminger. He claimed not to be right-wing anymore, while sporting a rather large “Blut und Ehre” (German for “Blood and Honour”)-tattoo on his shaved head. No big surprise that this witness, like many before him, claimed not to remember any details concerning the WBE, but rather tried to downplay his earlier statements to the police, claiming that he had not worded things “as crassly” when talking about violence against foreigners etc. What he did confirm was that André and Maik Eminger were founders and leading members of the WBE.

He was followed by Stephan Lange, former leader of the Blood & Honour “Division” Germany. He tried to present B&H as purely a “music movement”, even claimed that it had been founded solely to guard against intra-scene attacks by Hammerskins. He did not change his tune even when presiding judge Götzl showed that he did not believe his strategy of trivialization, even explicitly discussed the consequences of perjury, even when several clearly political articles from the B&H magazine were read out. Later, he at least reported that there had been B&H members who proposed a strategy more in line with “Combat 18”, i.e. armed attacks against migrants, leftists etc. However, he claimed not to remember any details.

The Wohlleben and Zschäpe defenses once again followed their strategy of torpedoing the questioning by objecting to questions – once again largely without success. Interestingly, the Zschäpe defense even claimed that all questions concerning “B&H” were without relevance to the proceedings – a claim met with an incredulous shake of the head not only on the court bench.

23 April 2015

The 200th trial day – lies, trivialization and simply staying home

The 200th trial day showed once more that Nazi witnesses do not take the trial before the Munich Higher Regional Court seriously – and that the court allows them to do so. Witness Bernt Tödter wrote an email in the morning informing the court that, first, he was suffering from a gastric disease and, second, he did not have anything to tell the court anyway. Instead of simply having the police bring him to court, as many other courts would have done, he was first ordered to provide a doctor’s note concerning his claimed illness.

The next witness was a former member of the “Blood & Honour” scene in Chemnitz, nicknamed “Mappe” back then. She remembered that Mundlos and Zschäpe had once spent the night at her place and had been a lot friendlier than other Skinhead “comrades” from comrades. Other than that, she, like many others before her, did not have much of any substance to tell the court. One reason could be that she is still friends with the relevant “B&H” members in Chemnitz up to this day.

On the occasion of the 200th trial day, 22 victims’ counsel issued a press release, which we document (in German) here.

22 April 2015

Remembering little, taking no responsibility – a secret service career.

A witness statement that was awaited with great interest was that of Gordian Meyer-Plath, today president of the domestic secret service of Saxony. He had been contact officer of informer Carsten Szczepanski from 1996 to 1998. Szczepanski had reported in the second half of 1998 that Zschäpe, Böhnhardt and Mundlos were in contact with Blood & Honour Chemnitz/Saxony, that they had received money from them, that B&H members Antje Probst and Jan Werner had offered to help in procuring false identity papers and guns (on the testimony of Szczepanski, see the reports of 3 December 2014 and 13 January 2015). He had also reported that “the Three” had already committed one robbery and were planning further robberies.

Meyer-Plath claimed not to remember anything concrete regarding these facts. What few memories he had had come back to him when he read the case file in preparing for the parliamentary inquest and the trial in Munich. At the time in question, he had worked for the domestic secret service in Brandenburg, first in “analysis”, then in “procurement”, he had been second contact officer for Szczepanski. He remembered Szczepanski’s reports, but was unable to provide details. He also reported that there had been a meeting of the secret service agencies of Thuringia, Saxony and Brandenburg, but he had not been present at that meeting and thus could not relate why the police was not informed immediately. Of course, it would have been an obvious step to tell the police to look at Jan Werner, Antje Probst and their surroundings in Chemnitz in trying to catch the three who had gone underground – this could have prevented all the crimes forming the subject of the Munich trial.

Besides the memory problems, an issue well known to participants in the proceedings, this testimony showed once more how secret service officers avoid taking any responsibility and answering questions: somehow who worked in “procurement” claims not to know anything about what happened with the information he procured, while someone working in “analysis” of course has no knowledge of how the service came upon the material he is analyzing.

The witness was able, at least, to report that in the late 1990s, several discussion papers on “armed struggle” were circulating in the scene and that this had not been a regional or national, but an international discussion.

The next witness, whose testimony proved entirely useless, was a former secret service agent Wiessner from Thuringia. He claimed not to have had any knowledge of “the Three” having guns or planning bank robberies. As to the report by informer Degner that they did not need any more money since they were “doing jobs”, Wiessner claimed that he had taken Degner to mean they were working “cash in hand” – this despite the fact that “to do jobs” (“jobben”) is a well-known term in the scene for robbing banks, i.e. the actual way in which the NSU members procured money.

15 April 2015

On the bank robberies in Stralsund, another „forgetful“ Nazi witness, and on the ideology of Mundlos and Böhnhardt

Today, the court first heard another witness of the bank robbery in Stralsund on 18 January 2007. A police officer related that the combined loot of this robbery and that of 7 November 2006 amounted to more than 250,000 Euros. A detective of the federal police reported on correlations between surveillance camera footage of the robberies and pictures of items seized in the burned-out mobile home in Eisenach and the apartment in the Frühlingsstraße in Zwickau. He had found a number of corresponding items, including guns used, masks and gloves as well as bank notes still contained in the banderoles from the bank. Along with DNA tests, as well as maps found in the Frühlingsstraße which contained markings for the location of the bank as well as a plan of the layout of the building, these items clearly showed that the robbery had been committed by Mundlos and Böhnhardt.

The next witness was another Nazi witness of the brazen forgetful variety. It is known from several police interviews with him that he had lived in Chemnitz and in Ludwigsburg in Baden-Württemberg and had been a contact for Nazis from Baden-Württemberg to Saxony. Today, he simply denied all of this. In his case, like in many others before, it remains to be seen how exactly this brazen perjury will be punished. In the meantime, court and prosecution seem to allow the Nazi witnesses to conduct their campaign of “forgetfulness” without any visible repercussions.

The final witness was a childhood friend of Uwe Mundlos’ who had been in contact with Mundlos up to his going underground. Mundlos had confided in him that he was involved in placing a suitcase with a mock bomb in Jena, that he did not want to go to jail for that and therefore planned to go underground. After Mundlos had gone underground, accused Wohlleben had brought him Mundlos’ mountain bike and asked him to sell it.
The witness confirmed once more that Mundlos as well as Böhnhardt had been fanatical National Socialists. Mundlos had advocated for the ideas of Rudolf Hess. Those groups which had also been the target of crimes in historical National Socialism would not have had a place in a “clean Germany” as imagined by him. The same had been true for Uwe Böhnhardt, who had also been a fan of guns, Mundlos had told the witness that Böhnhardt was well prepared to use those guns.

14 April 2015

On the right to a speedy trial, and: the bank robbers spoke „Saxon”

Today’s trial day started extremely late and ended with the court sprinting through several witness testimonies – sadly without and real results.

Accused Gerlach had forgotten the trial day and was just on his was to Munich, leading the court to postpone the beginning of the trial to 3:30 in the afternoon – the court felt obligated to still have a trial day at that time because of the right to a speedy trial. The hearing finally started at 4:30 in the afternoon with the testimony of a police officer who had investigated the NSU’s car and mobile home rentals, followed by that of several witnesses of two bank robberies in Stralsund on 7 November 2006 and 18 January 2007.

These testimonies could be conducted very speedily. Their result: two masked men entered the bank, fired shots into the ceiling, took the money and fled. They spoke “Saxon”. It is likely that, for people from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, every South-Eastern dialect would be considered “Saxon”, the presiding did not seem to have the time to ask for more details.

One bank teller did describe the banderoles used in the bank with sufficient detail to allow a comparison to those banderoles found with Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt.