17 January 2017

Beginning of Prof. Saß’ expert opinion – „egocentric, lacking empathy, externalizing responsibility”

After the many delays during the last trial days, the plan was that expert witness Prof. Saß would finally give his expert opinion this week. Zschäpe’s assigned counsel – today only counsel Sturm and Heer – brought about a final delay by way of a motion for reconsideration against a court decision. After the lunch break, the expert was finally able to begin giving his oral opinion.

Today, Prof. Saß, one of the most renowned forensic psychiatrists in Germany, reported above all on the relevant findings arising from the court proceedings. His oral opinion would be much more detailed than his preliminary written opinion, given the new information to be considered, such as the letter sent by Zschäpe to a neo-Nazi detained in North Rhine-Westphalia (see the reports of  20 December 2016 and 14 September 2016) and testimony by police officers on possible attempts by the NSU to scout out the synagogue in Berlin and on Zschäpe’s participation in a training course at the Nazi centre in Hetendorf.

Prof. Saß then explained his methods, including dealing with the problem of giving an expert opinion in the absence of cooperation by the subject. He stressed that in this case, he had access to a large volume of material arising from the trial. The defense claims that his opinion was less reliable due to the lack of cooperation could thus be described as tendentious and misleading.

As to the alcohol abuse claimed by Zschäpe, it was noticeable that this issue had first arisen in Zschäpe’s statement in court – no witness, no neighbor, no holiday acquaintance had described such consumption habits by Zschäpe, rather only Zschäpe having consumed normal quantities of alcohol together with others. Also, Zschäpe had not reported on any withdrawal symptoms after her arrest.

He then turned to the information gleaned from the trial hearings concerning Zschäpe’s early development, her school career, partnerships, her ideological development, her development while underground and her statements on the acts she stands accused of.

He found it striking that Zschäpe’s statements on her development had impressed him as rather businesslike, unpersonal and lacking in emotions, Zschäpe not having reported anything on her goals, dreams, emotions. None of these aspects hinted at grave strains, deficits or mental health issues.

Zschäpe’s descriptions of acts of petty theft in her youth first showed Zschäpe’s tendendy to push the responsibility for her acts towards others and trivialize her own acts. This tendency had shown itself again when she described her political development.

Zschäpe had described herself euphemistically as “nationalist”. Witness testimony, police reports, judgments and pictures, however, had shown the circle of friends of Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt as seriously radical right-wing, focused not on music and concerts, but on concrete conflicts and politics. Their acts of hanging up a stuffed doll, laying down mock bombs, participating in Hess marches, their extremely provocative behavior in the former concentration camp in Buchenwald, finally of arming themselves with clubs and knives, painted a picture which seriously deviated from Zschäpe’s self-description. Kapke, in his witness statement, had also described Zschäpe as radical right wing and anti-semitic – which Zschäpe downplayed by, e.g., describing conflicts as “cat-and-mouse-games” with the police and secret service.

Zschäpe had stated that her becoming a part of “potent organizations” had resulted from Tino Brandt’s influence, who she claimed had changed the way they had lived together as he had provided money, initiated activities and brought propaganda material. Zschäpe’s claim that “none of our activities would have been possible without Brandt” again showed Zschäpe denying her own responsibility and pushing it towards third persons. The same tendency had been shown in her description of activities of the “Kameradschaft Jena.”

On the other hand, her cousin had described her relationship with Mundlos and Böhnhardt by stating that she had held the group together, that she had “had control over her boys”. If this was the case, it would show significant personal strength and self-assurance. On the evening of her arrest, she had told a police detective “I was not forced to do anything.”

As to Zschäpe’s explanations of the charges, he as a psychiatrist was not in a position to report on their truthfulness. Zschäpe had once more stressed the central role of deceased Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, her financial and emotional dependency and her being influenced by their threat to commit suicide. She had claimed not to have played a role in preparing, planning and carrying out the crimes – with the exception of the fire in the Frühlingsstraße apartment which she had set on behalf of the two deceased men.

However, it was to be noted that Zschäpe had told a police detective that she was a master of suppression. Her explanations could not be considered authentic attempts of dealing with past occurrences.

Taken together, Zschäpe’s explanations could be described, from the point of view of a psychiatrist, as egocentrical, lacking empathy, and externalizing responsibility.

The trial had to be interrupted at this point as the Zschäpe defense counsel claimed that they were unable to take notes sufficient to adequately instruct their own expert witness, and as accused Wohlleben claimed to suffer from severe headaches.

Prof. Saß’ will continue his expert opinion tomorrow.