5 December 2017

More closing statements from victims and their counsel.

Today Antonia von der Behrens wrapped up her closing statement. In the first part delivered last week, she had assembled a large number of facts to a mosaic proving her two central theses: the NSU was surrounded by a large network of secret service informers, and the secret service had a large body of information about the group’s members and their whereabouts, but several times failed to pass on this information, causing the police to fail to apprehend them and thus prevent further murders.

Today, Antonia von der Behrens turned to the time after the NSU’s self-uncovering in 2011 and considered not only the secret service, but also the federal prosecution. She painted a very clear picture: the secret service destroyed or “lost” files of informers in the NSU’s surroundings, its officers testifying in court claimed not to remember anything or told outright lies, it kept back information – most likely including a large body of information that no one will ever know about. In short: whatever the secret service agencies could do to hinder the finding of the full facts concerning the NSU, they did.

They were supported in this endeavor by the federal prosecution. Following the patently untrue thesis of an isolated cell of three persons, and indebted to safeguarding “state security” understood here as making sure state agencies do not have to face awkward questions, the prosecution had left witnesses working for the secret service out of their investigations, had omitted their names from the indictment, had objected to questions and motions for evidence by victims’ counsel in that direction, and had held back relevant information, inter alia by “parking” witness statements in the case files of other investigations or by refusing access to such case files under flimsy pretenses.

Finally, Antonia von der Behrens also criticized the court, which had taken up certain of the aspects named by victims’ counsel – such as ideology, the strategy of “leaderless resistance” or the role of supporters from the “Blood and Honour” network –, but had also frequently followed a much too narrow view of its fact-finding mission and had thus thwarted victims’ hopes for answers to their burning questions.

Zschäpe defense counsel Heer and Stahl tried once more to interfere with the closing statement – interestingly enough, it was once more the criticism of state agencies which led to them interrupting. These interruptions have become ritualized to the point where the two attorneys did not even bother to give actual reasons for their objections, instead simply repeating oft-heard and oft-rejected phrases of “only evidence considered in court”, “peripatetic” etc. It seems that the court is also losing its patience with the defense counsel, as evidence by the fact that the presiding judge did not intervene when Heer’s and Stahl’s statements led to laughter in the courtroom. In the end, these objections were – of course – rejected once more and Antonia von der Behrens could continue with her statement.

She ended with an uncomfortable conclusion

“This trial has not led to the necessary facts being uncovered. This is to be criticized, but it is not surprising. The power imbalance between our clients and ourselves on the one hand and the state security organs on the other is simply too stark. The finding of facts concerning crimes with state involvement often takes decades – if it happens at all. It can only succeed where the public continues to be actively involved and does not forget the victims and their calls for fact-finding, were politicians, journalists and lawyers pledge themselves to heeding those calls. It can only succeed where there are whistle blowers within the system or where divergences of interests within the security system lead to leaks of relevant information. The calls for fact-finding cannot end with the end of this trial, those calling for such efforts cannot let themselves be silenced by the adversities put upon them in the name of “reason of state” considerations. With regard to the bombing attack on the Octoberfest in Munich, it took 34 years, but the motion for re-opening was successful after that time.”

A German-language summary of the closing statement is available online.

The next closing statements were our own.

Björn Elberling dealt with the robberies committed by the NSU and with the investigations into these crimes. He showed that many of the aspects broached by victims’ counsel in these proceedings also find their echo here: the harrowing brutality of the crimes committed by the NSU members, their embeddedness in a network of knowing supporters, investigations which, owing to “reason of state” considerations, were focused much too narrowly based on the idea of an isolated cell, and the role of the secret service which failed to take steps to support the investigation of these crimes, thus again failing to prevent further murders.

Elberling showed that the attempts by the Wohlleben defense to present Böhnhardt and Mundlos as apolitical psychopaths echo similar reactions to racist and Nazi crimes of violence, reactions which downplay them and present them as acts of random violence by psychopaths, thus obviating the need of dealing with the true motives of the perpetrator. Of course, it is quite clear that the opposite is true here: the political and ideological basis of fascism and national Socialism necessarily leads to a dehumanization and to excessive brutality by perpetrators robbed of all human inhibitions against violence.

Björn Elberling also criticized the investigations after 2011, which were often unbelievably shoddy – one prime example being that his own client, after all a victim of an attempted murder, had only been found and named several years after the indictment, having only been referred to as a “sixteen-year-old youth” in the indictment. He showed that this shoddy work, which is also apparent in other parts of the post-2011 investigations, results from the narrow focus given to the investigation by the federal prosecution: everything that is not needed to uphold the extremely narrow indictment is investigated in a very half-hearted manner or not at all.

A German language summary of the statement is available online.

Alexander Hoffmann began his closing statement, but could not finish it today as Ralf Wohlleben claimed to suffer from an inability to concentrate. Hoffmann had begun to show the three interlocking strands of the ideology to which the NSU members and their supporters adhered: the “Thuringia Home Guard” as part of the “Community of Conviction of the New Front”, the scene surrounding “Blood and Honour”, the Hammerskins and groups modeling themselves after them such as the “White Brotherhood in the Iron Mountains” headed by the Eminger brothers, and the Nazi party NPD. Hoffmann had not yet had a chance to deal with Blood and Honour and the NPD and had thus not yet deal with Wohlleben’s own role, but we are quite willing to believe that already the impending refutation of his self-presentation as a national pacifist and ethnopluralist was enough to cause Wohlleben headaches.

Hoffman showed that the NSU crimes had succeeded in deepening the rift in society between “Germans” and “strangers”:

„By directing its murders above all against persons with Turkish roots, and by allowing for institutionalized racism to turn victims into perpetrators, such that there would be no finding of the true facts if they themselves did not claim responsibility for their actions, they attacked the ability of migrants to trust the German state to an extent which had never been seen before. These people therefore felt that they were not considered part of German society deserving of protection, that they were excluded from the system of mutual support and protection.

This division of society was one hundred percent in line with the ideology of all known members and supporters of the NSU. This motivation can be found in propaganda pamphlets from the network surrounding the Thuringia Home Guard, from Blood and Honour, from Eminger’s “White Brotherhood in the Iron Mountains”, from the Hammerskins, from the NPD under the heading of a “Europe of fatherlands”, but also from the “Alternative for Germany” (AfD) headed by Höcke and Gauland which is currently doing everything in its power to move society ever further to the right.”

In the first part of his statement, Hoffmann had dealt with the situation of his clients, two victims of the Keupstraße bombing attack. Under the heading “Nobody will be forgotten – Hiç unutmadık, hiç unutmayacağız”, he had detailed how his client had fought for her right to take part in the trial as an accessory prosecutor even though she had not been directly injured by the explosion or nails. He showed how the federal prosecutor had at first tried to deny the undeniable fact that the perpetrators had the mens rea to kill all people in the bomb’s range. His client had been the first victim of the Keupstraße attack whose status as accessory prosecutor had been based solely on the fact that she had been in the bomb’s range and therefore victim of an attempted murder. After her, several other victims with similar background had also been allowed to take part in the trial.

„The federal prosecution, in its closing statement, has moved that with respect to the bombing attack on the Keupstraße on 9 June 2004, accused Beate Zschäpe be convicted of 32 counts of attempted murder, concurrent with 23 counts of causing bodily harm by dangerous means, and sentenced to life imprisonment. None of the prosecutor has said one word about the fact that the indictment had only contained 22 counts of attempted murder. Neither of my clients is even named as victim in the indictment.” […]

„The fact that Beate Zschäpe stands to be convicted of 32 counts of attempted murder, of crimes against 32 human beings, is a result of the tenacity of the accessory prosecutors, who did not let themselves be discouraged, who insisted on their rights. The federal prosecution did not want to name these ten cases in the indictment, has tried with all its might to deny these people their legal position, the recognition by the state as victims of the NSU.”

Hoffmann’s closing statement will be continued next week.

Tomorrow, the court will hear the closing statements of counsel for the Yozgat family; family members will be present in person.