In the fall of 2011, it was revealed that a neo-Nazi group was responsible for a series of murders which at first seemed unimaginable. Over the course of almost a decade, the Nazis of the “National Socialist Underground” shot and killed several people of primarily Turkish descent, carried out two bombing attacks in districts inhabited primarily by migrants, and robbed several banks. That their killing spree was discovered is not the result of the investigations by the police and the domestic intelligence agencies: those agencies worked on the assumption that these crimes, which they referred to as “Kebap killings”, had been perpetrated by “Turkish criminals.” Rather, the crimes were discovered due to confession videos presumably sent out by the main accused Beate Zschäpe after two of her co-perpetrators – Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos – had been found shot dead after a bank robbery.
This discovery caused a scandal which to this day has not been adequately processed. Questions concerning the investigation methods employed by the police, institutional racism, and whether the domestic intelligence agencies, the “offices for the protection of the constitution”, have a right to exist were raised and have not at all quieted down.
On 17 April 2013, the trial against Beate Zschäpe and other alleged NSU perpetrators will begin bevore the state security division of the Higher Regional Court of Munich. The beginning of the trial has been preceded by an emotional discussion concerning the conduct of the the trial and by a procedure for the accreditation of journalists which many people of Turkish descent saw as an exclusion of the Turkish press.
More than 70 family members of those killed and victims of the bombing attacks have joined the prosecution as private accessory prosecutors. They are represented by about 50 lawyers.
The main focus of the trial will be on establishing whether the charges brought by the Federal Prosecutor General against the accused Beate Zschäpe, André Eminger, Holger Gerlach, Ralf Wohlleben and Carsten Schulze can be proven.
It is to be expected that the trial will be the focus of intense news coverage by media from all of Germany, if not all of Europe. However, our experience has been that such news coverage is often focused on scandalizing rather than on elucidating. Even those who have a specific interest in the proceedings will often find it difficult to keep abreast of all developments. It is for this reason that we will try to give an account of the criminal proceedings from the perspective of an accessory prosecutor – day after day, week after week.
As representatives of an accessory prosecutor, we represent the interests of the victims of the attacks. This interest will not always be identical to that of the public prosecutor to effect a full conviction of the accused. From the point of view of our client, the process of evaluating the crimes of the NSU must also include the failure of law enforcement agencies, their investigation against families of the victims and their apparent institutional racism. If it becomes apparent that informers of the police or other agencies were in fact part of the murderers’ personal surroundings or that they even aided in their crimes, this too must be made an issue in the trial.
We will try to illustrate the development of the trial, the taking of evidence and the activities of the private accessory prosecutors in a way that is accessible to all readers. We see ourselves as part of the struggle of the Nazi murderers’ victims to escape the role of victims and to at least take an active part in the process of throwing light on these crimes. One question to be asked in this process is who, besides those accused in this trial, has supported the NSU, whether others on German territory took part in planning and carrying out the murders, and what organizational structures the murderers could rely on.