2 May 2018

Closing statement of Carsten Schultze’s defense tries to present him as non-political, unwitting supporter.

The closing statement of Carsten Schultze’s defense counsel had been awaited with some interest – after all, he is the only accused who had fully and believably tried to help clear up the NSU’s crimes. On the one hand, this led to attacks by the defense of Ralf Wohlleben, whom his testimony has massively incriminated. On the other hand, several victims have announced, directly or via their counsel, that they accepted his apology and that they would not be opposed to his being giving a suspended sentence.

The latter development was thwarted by the closing statement presented by his counsel, who declared that Schultze carried a “moral guilt” for providing the silenced Ceska pistol, but that he was not guilty of the legal charges against him. They tried to prevent any criticism of this line of reasoning in advance by stating that the knowledge of having played a part in nine murders would accompany him for the rest of his life, that he himself considered his actions unforgiveable, that he was visibly trying to deal with his guilt and would continue to do so for the rest of his life. And in fact, Schultze’s reactions to the closing statements of victims clearly show that he does indeed feel remorse for his actions.

However, the further explanations by his counsel stood in stark contrast to such a critical self-consideration. They began by noting – correctly – that, in contrast to the other accused from Jena as well as Böhnhardt and Mundlos, Schultze had not belonged to the close-knit community of the “Comradeship Jena”, had not taken part in their discussions of political means and strategies including the use of guns, had not taken part in their crimes of propaganda and threats including the hanging of a puppet from a highway bridge and several pretend bombs. Similarly convincing was their description of further developments, with three members of the core group going “underground” while three remained in Jena, the latter – Gerlach, Wohlleben and early on also André Kapke – having taken over the role of a “political arm” working “behind the front” to support the other three, based on a deep connection and trust, in other words: that the NSU was a follow-up organization to the “Comradeship Jena”, an organization consisting of a combat unit and a separate unit “behind the front.”

However, their story became implausible when counsel Hösl claimed that Schultze had not had any knowledge of any of this – and had therefore not been able to foresee the possibility that Böhnhardt and Mundlos would use the silenced Ceska he gave to them to kill people.

To support this claim, the defense counsel referred once more to their client’s own view of his time in the Nazi scene, according to which he had joined the scene for non-political reasons and had never shared their political views throughout the time until he left the scene again. According to this narrative, he had joined the scene as a 17-year-old as he was “erotically drawn to” a right-wing school friend. He had never been interested in politics, but only in social status, protest against his father, peer groups, respect, blah. In the summer of 2000, he had begun to distance himself from the Nazi scene, which however had not led to a change in his own politics as he had never believed in the right-wing politics anyway.

Accordingly, Schultze’s defense counsel concluded that their client could not have known what Böhnhardt and Mundlos would do with the pistol provided by him.

However, their description of his client as having been quite active in the neo-Nazi scene in Jena, of having taken an active part in political violence, but of not having internalized any of the concomitant ideology, is far from convincing even taken on its own. This is even more true given that Schultze’s entry into the scene had already been based on ordering political material from the Nazi party NPD and its youth organization JN, in other words: on a consideration of ideology. Schulte quickly rose in the scene, ending as second in command of the JN of all of Thuringia, while also personally leading the JN group in Jena. His counsel, like Schultze himself in his in-court statement, tried to play down these activities with the ridiculous claim that none of this had had anything to do with politics, that the aim had always been solely to draw these young people into the scene based on “adventures”. Their statement sounded very similar to Schultze’s own description of his activities, which had made him sound rather like a boy scout troop leader.

Defense counsel Hösl concluded that Schultze’s entry into the scene had been “socially adequate” as “everyone” in his part of town had been Nazi. He tried to argue for his client by comparing him to accused Eminger, who had his hatred tattooed onto his body, and accused Wohlleben, whose defense counsel had spread Nazi propaganda in the courtroom – both statements are totally true, but the fact that these two things do not apply to Schultze of course cannot be taken to mean that he could not have been a Nazi, could not have been a racist at the time of the acts he is charged with.

The defense attempts to present the abettor or murder and Nazi functionary Schultze as someone internally opposed to all core aspects of Nazi ideology, who was thus unable to foresee that the murder weapon he provided would be used to commit murders, are of course easy to disprove. But what’s more, they seem structurally similar to the historical case of German sustained delusion –  according to which the German populace had never had an inkling of the crimes committed by the Nazis and had by and large consisted of good people. Similar to “Grandpa was not a criminal”, Schultze was simply a young man who remained totally non-political while giving others severe kickings, while taking part in mass demonstrations denying the crimes of the Wehrmacht, while successfully recruiting young people into the Nazi party NPD.

Schultze’s counsel in fact went far beyond their client’s statement in court, during which it often seemed that he had suppressed the memories of his earlier ideology since he was unable to square them with the way he lives his life now. After all, Schultze himself had in fact allowed that the Nazi scene in Jena had been split into “side partings”, of whom he had been one, i.e. those explicitly focusing on political ideology, and Skins, who were more interested in alcohol. He himself had stated that the members of the “Comradeship” were held in high regard because of their propensity for violence, that he knew that Böhnhardt, Mundlos and Zschäpe were hiding from the police.

It is absurd to claim that Schultze had not had any knowledge of the pretend bombs planted by the group, of the massively violent characters of Böhnhardt and Mundlos, or of the fact that they had already had an impressive arsenal including a machine pistol when he procured and delivered the silenced pistol. He himself had related how Wohlleben had taken the pistol and pointed it at his forehead, a gesture which would have cleared up any remaining doubts as to its anticipated use if there ever had been any. To the contrary, it is easy to see that it was exactly the violent, radical character of Böhnhardt, Mundlos and Zschäpe which appealed to him as his closeness to such persons could enhance his own statues, or that this violence and radical nature was something to which he simply submitted.

In addition, at the very time that Schultze was active in the Nazi party and its youth, the party spent a lot of time discussing its stance towards political violence including murder. After neo-Nazi Kay Diesner, who in 1994 had shot and maimed a leftist bookseller and shot and killed a police officer, was convicted and sentenced in 1997, many Nazis began presenting vocal messages of support for him at marches and other events. While some party functionaries tried to suppress such messages for tactical reasons, others in turn encouraged these open avowals of armed violence. Announced star speaker at one of the party congresses at that time was none other than William Pierce, mastermind of armed “racial holy war” and author of the “Turner Diaries”. Jena was one hotbed of such discussions. Of course, Schultze’s motives for his actions may not have been the same as those of Wohlleben, but it was clear that he knew all the facts necessary to know what with happen with the silenced pistol he was asked to deliver – and nonetheless he delivered it.

At the end of the day, his counsels’ closing statement will hurt rather than help Schultze. For one, the Wohlleben defense will try once more to present him as noncredible – unsuccessfully as Schultze’s statements on the material facts are all believable and in line with the objective evidence. But above all, the court will not buy the defense attempts to downplay Schultze’s ideological leanings and thus to deny his having the mens rea for aiding and abetting murder. Accordingly, the defense would not only have acted in line with the expectations of victims, raised by his statement and apology, but would also have objectively acted more in line with his interests, if they had referred to and built on the statements by several victims that they wished for him to be sentenced only to a suspended sentence.

It may, however, be more in line with Schultze’s self-image, and above all with that of his counsel, who after all define themselves as rather belonging to the political left, to present Schultze not only as remorseful, but also as not guilty of the legal charges brought against him.