The NSU-Case in Germany


by Antonia von der Behrens [1]

Summary of Political, Social and Legal Aspects of the Case against the National Socialist Underground (NSU) – as of March 7th, 2017

The neo-Nazi terrorist organization, the National Socialist Underground (NSU) committed ten murders, three bomb attacks, and 15 bank robberies in the years between 1998 and 2011. They did not claim responsibility for their crimes and were not discovered by law enforcement until November 4, 2011.

The so-called NSU case has been called one of the biggest “failures” of the German law enforcement and the secret services, by politicians and the mainstream media. These failures, were allegedly caused by individual “mistakes” and a lack of coordination and competition between the responsible authorities [2].

From a progressive perspective, the NSU case is an unprecedented example of the close connection [3] between the secret services and the neo-Nazi movement as well as the structural racism within the law enforcement authorities.

The case raises three main questions:

  • Why was it that until 2011, the year in which the NSU brought about its own detection, even progressive parts of German society widely underestimated the extent of right wing/neo-Nazi terror? And why did they think that something like the NSU would not be possible given Germany’s history of right wing terrorism since the 1950s and pogrom-like mob violence against refugees since the 1990s?
  • What was and is the overall role of the police and the secret services4 in building the neo-Nazi scene, especially through its informants, who held and hold high-ranking positions in neo-Nazi organizations? And what did the secret services know about the existence of the NSU, its crimes and the whereabouts of its members and supporters?
  • What is the extent of structural and institutional racism in Germany? What mechanisms does it use? And how did it allow law enforcement agencies to attribute the crimes of the NSU to the “Turkish mafia” and organized crime rather than to neo-Nazis? What is the state’s ability and willingness to protect immigrant communities from racially motivated terrorism?

On the political level, eleven parliamentary inquiry committees have been established to investigate the NSU case and consider possible consequences. Of these eleven committees, five have finished their work and five are currently working. In addition, special rapporteurs and investigators have conducted investigations on the federal and state level, especially with regards to the destruction of files and the work of informants (see para 3.d).

On the judicial level, the federal prosecutor has so far only brought one case against four alleged supporters and one alleged member of the NSU before court. This trial before the Court of Appeals in Munich has been ongoing since May 2013. It is the biggest and most important trial against neo-Nazis in Germany with 350 days of trial so far. Although there is no clear estimate as to when the trial will be over, a judgment is expected this summer (see para 4.).

Despite these ongoing parliamentary and judicial investigations, the questions posed above are far from being answered and will most likely remain so for some time. This paper aims to provide a very general introduction to the topic and explain why these questions are raised by the NSU case. Over the course of the investigation more and more questions have been raised and very few have been answered. Therefore, this paper can only provide a basic overview and refer the reader to links for some further reading.

After a brief synopsis of the case, this paper will describe the police investigations and discuss the reactions of society and various actors, followed by an overview of the ongoing court case.

1. The Crimes of the neo-Nazi Terror Organization NSU [5]

The existence of the neo-Nazi terror organization National Socialist Underground (NSU) only became known after the suicide of two of its alleged members, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, after a botched bank robbery in Eisenach, Thuringia on November 4, 2011. Only hours later, the third alleged [6] member, Beate Zschäpe, allegedly set fire to their shared apartment at the address Frühlingstraße 26 in the city of Zwickau, Saxony in order to destroy evidence. The fire caused an explosion, endangering the lives of three people in the house. Four days later, on November 8, Zschäpe turned herself in to the police. In the meantime she had driven through Germany and allegedly distributed several DVDs with a video in which the NSU claimed responsibility for ten murders and two bomb attacks [7]. This video was shocking and horrific, using the cartoon figure Pink Panther to cynically illustrate the murders.

In the following days, it became apparent that Zschäpe and her two male co-conspirators had lived underground since 1998. On January 26, 1998, the police raided a garage in Jena, Thuringia where the three of them had stored 1.4 kg of TNT and begun to build pipe bombs. At that time they were already well known to the authorities as very active and radical neo-Nazis pursuing racist, anti-Semitic and neo-National Socialist ideas.

They were organized in the so-called Thuringia Home Guard (Thüringer Heimatschutz [THS]), a neo-Nazi organization founded in 1994 which formed part of a German-wide network of militant neo-Nazis. The Thuringia Home Guard was led by Tino Brandt, an informant for the domestic secret service of Thuringia. Brandt later also played a part in the keeping the NSU’s members underground.

After the 1998 raid on the garage, Mundlos, Böhnhardt, and Zschäpe all in their early twenties at that time, were able to flee. With the help of neo-Nazi comrades, they assumed false identities and lived in the state of Saxony for the next thirteen years, allegedly evading detection.

During that time, according to the indictment of the federal prosecutor, Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe founded the terrorist organization National Socialist Underground National, the NSU, whose main aim was to kill migrants, especially of Turkish [8] origin. They called these migrants the “enemies of the German nation” and they hoped to spread fear within their communities. In line with their ideological belief and their tactical course of action to spread their message through their actions, they did not claim responsibility for their crimes.

a) Crimes committed by the NSU

According to the indictment of the federal prosecutor in the case against Zschäpe and others the NSU is responsible for murders, bomb attacks, and robberies.

  • The NSU committed ten murders between 2000 and 2007. The victims were eight men of Turkish and Kurdish origin, one man of Greek origin and one police woman of German origin: Enver Şimşek9 (killed in 2000), Abdurrahim Özüdoğru (2001), Süleyman Taşköprü (2001), Habil Kılıç (2001), Mehmet Turgut (2004), İsmail Yaşar (2005), Theodoros Boulgarides (2005), Mehmet Kubaşık (2006), Halit Yozgat (2006) and Michèle Kiesewetter (2007). All nine of the victims of non-German origin were shot execution-style with the same weapon, a Ceska 83 pistol with a silencer. This quickly enabled the police to consider these murders as part of a series. The victims were apparently chosen randomly, the only criteria being that they were of Turkish origin (or thought to be of Turkish origin, as in the case of the Greek victim). They lived in different German cities and were all proprietors of small shops and businesses. The last murder took place in 2007. A police woman was shot and killed and her colleague was shot in the head and severely injured. This crime is determined by a different and still unclear motive. The indictment sees it as an attack on representatives of the German state. The police officers were not shot with the Ceska 83 pistol, but with two other weapons. Therefore this murder was not considered as part of the series until 2011. The modus operandi of all ten murders was always identical; the victims were shot in their shops or in the case of the police officers in their car and the offenders fled on bikes. The bikes were later loaded into a parked caravan and hidden there or left behind in the city.
  • The NSU committed three (nail) bomb attacks aimed at migrants.

According to the testimony of the defendant Carsten S. [10] the first bomb attack took place in Nürnberg, Bavaria on June 23, 1999. The Turkish proprietor of a bar was wounded. The bomb, which was hidden in a flashlight, exploded, but did not function in the way intended by the perpetrators, thus preventing the victim from being severely injured or killed.

The second attack happened on January 19, 2001, in Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia. A bomb was hidden in cake box which was seemingly forgotten in a grocery store run by an Iranian couple. Their daughter, who opened the box and thus brought about the explosion, was very lucky to survive, but suffered severe burns.

The last attack was carried out on June 9, 2004, again in Cologne. The bombing took place on Keupstraße, an area inhabited by many people of Turkish and Kurdish origin, with many shops and restaurants owned by members of this community. The bomb was placed on a bicycle which was left in front of a barber shop. It contained a large amount (at least several kg of gun powder) as well as 800 nails, each 10 cm in length, rather similar to the bomb used in an attack in London in 1999 by neo-Nazi David Copeland. Again, it was only by chance that no one was killed. Many people, however, were severely injured (23 wounded all together) [11] and many more were traumatized.

  • The NSU committed a total of 15 robberies of banks, post offices and one supermarket in the years between 1998 and 2007 and in 2011. These were aimed at financing the operations of the organization. During these robberies one bank customer and one passerby were shot, both of whom survived.

The NSU only claimed responsibility for the murders and the two bomb attacks in Cologne after the death of Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos, by way of the mentioned video allegedly sent out by Beate Zschäpe after she had set fire to their hideout 2011.

Between 1998 and 2011, while committing the crimes the three members of the organization, Mundlos, Böhnhardt, and Zschäpe, lived in the cities of Chemnitz (January 1998 until June 2000) and Zwickau (July 2000 until November 2011), both in Saxony and not far from Jena, from where they had initially gone underground. They were aided and abetted by a large number of neo-Nazis and by the neo-Nazi network Blood and Honour [12], who provided accommodation, passports, medical aid and even tried, and in some cases successfully so, to procure them with weapons. Some of the neo-Nazis in this support network were police or intelligence service informants and many more informants existed in their wider networks as associates or friends of friends. The most important informants were Tino Brandt, who worked for the domestic secret service of Thuringia [13], and Carsten Szczepanski, who worked for the same organization in the state of Brandenburg [14]. The services claim that neither they nor other informants provided information which was sufficient to arrest Zschäpe, Böhnhardt and Mundlos.

Even while being underground and especially in later years, they led quite comfortable lives, for example spending the money from the robberies on long vacations.

Until today, it is still unknown whether the organization NSU may have had more than three members. However, the federal prosecutor has asserted at all times that the NSU consisted of only three members.

Very little information existed about the terrorist organization until 2011. The intelligence services and law enforcement deny ever having heard of the existence of such an organization before November 2011. However, there are strong indications that this is not true and that they had access to information concerning an organization called the NSU. It is known for example that in 2002 the NSU sent a one-page letter, the so-called NSU-letter, to several Nazi publications and organizations, introducing its underground organization. In that letter it read. “The National Socialist Underground embodies the new political force in the struggle for the freedom of the German Nation … Loyal to the motto ‘Victory or Death’ there will be no reverse. … The NUS will never be contacted through an address which does not mean however that it is unapproachable. Internet, newspapers, and zines are excellent sources of information even for the NSU.” Enclosed with these letters was a sum of money, loot from the bank robberies, to support these organizations. As a reaction to this letter, one magazine printed a thank you note to the NSU – something which the intelligence services definitely knew about. In the video in which the NSU claimed responsibility they referred to the NSU a “network of comrades with the principle deeds instead of words”.

b) A short Historical Background of the Radicalization of the NSU Members and Supporters

Mundlos, Böhnhardt, and Zschäpe were radicalized as teens and young adults in the early 1990s in Jena, a small university town in Thuringia, one of the former states of the German Democratic Republic (GDR).

During the 1980s neo-Nazis in West Germany had tried to organize themselves in different parties and organizations. After some of these had been banned, they resorted to so called independent comradeships (Freie Kameradschaften) under an umbrella organization.

After the unification of East and West Germany in 1990, the neo-Nazi scene in both parts of Germany experienced a boom. The West German neo-Nazis exported their model to the East, where comradeships also sprang up. Others joined the legal neo-Nazi party National Democratic Party of Germany (Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands [NPD]), which led to conflicts within the party concerning the course the party was to take.

At the same time seemingly unorganized attacks by neo-Nazis were also on the rise. Anyone was attacked who did correspond with the perpetrators’ world view, in particular migrants and refugees. Some of these attacks were openly supported by average citizens. The worst of these pogroms, which killed and severely injured many people, happened in the German cities of Hoyerswerda (1991), Rostock-Lichtenhagen (1992), Mölln (1992) and Solingen (1993). From 1990 until 2013, 184 people were killed due to right-wing motives in Germany. [15] The neo-Nazis also achieved one of their main aims in that the individual right to asylum as defined in the German constitution was severely curtailed and the rights of refugees severely limited by reforms in 1994.

In the mid-1990s, the British based neo-Nazi organization Blood and Honour formed a “division” in Germany. Some Blood and Honour members established a militant arm of the organization called Combat 18. A wide-spread debate sprang up within the ranks of Blood and Honour, including Blood and Honour Germany, about the methods employed by Combat 18. The German neo-Nazis translated the two Blood and Honour pamphlets The Way Forward (1998) and The Field Manual (2000) into German. These pamphlets featured concepts of armed struggle, such as Combat 18, the ideological concept of white supremacy, the organizational concepts of leaderless resistance, and a right wing form of propaganda-of-the-deed. These concepts were discussed within the German neo-Nazi scene. Similarly, the original source of the concept of leaderless resistance, the Turner Diaries, were also discussed. As well as the Diaries by William L. Pierce were published in 1978 and depict a dystrophy of right-wing terrorism aimed at causing a civil war between white and black US-Americans.

There was a connection between such discussions and the general radicalization of the neo-Nazi movement at the beginning of the 1990s. This radicalization and militarization became apparent to law enforcement agencies who, when conducting searches of homes of neo-Nazis, regularly found firearms and bombs. This dangerous situation was aggravate by German neo-Nazis returning from the Yugoslavian civil war with combat experience.

It was in this political situation and climate that the members of the NSU and their supporters were radicalized. It was also this climate which led them to think of themselves as members of a growing movement. Thus, it was likely they believed their racist attacks would find support amongst the average German populous, and furthermore that there were people within the neo-Nazi movement which could be organized and radicalized by their acts. This is the backdrop for the concepts of leaderless resistance and a right wing version of propaganda-of-the-deed employed by the NSU.

The NSU was not alone, and several other neo-Nazi terrorist groups founded during the 1990s and early 2000s also plotted and committed attacks. Seemingly, due to informants tipping off the authorities none of these groups were able to grow significantly. However, this pattern was not true for the NSU insofar as although there were many informants close to the group, allegedly none of the information gathered was enough for the authorities to locate them.

2. Police Investigations into the Crimes committed by the NSU

a) Investigations before November 4, 2011

The police investigations into the crimes were carried out by many different state police authorities and were not centralized by the federal police.

The police authorities never saw a connection between the murders of nine migrants executed with the Ceska 83, the murder of the police woman, the three bomb attacks and the robberies.16

Regarding the nine murders of migrants with the same weapon, the investigations focused almost exclusively on the victims and their alleged and actually non-existent ties to organized crime, the “Turkish mafia”, drug dealing, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and so on. In the murder cases where police investigated the possibility that these acts might have been committed for right-wing motives, they did so in a very superficial manner and leads in this direction were hardly ever followed up. The constant failure of the police authorities to solve the murders was attributed to the Turkish and Kurdish background of the victims and the supposedly unwillingness of their family members to cooperate with the police. The “evidence” for this claim was that each family had repeated to the police they had no idea who could have possibly had an interest in killing their father or brother. The police had only one explanation for the seemingly lack of information coming from the families; they lived in a “parallel society” with their own sets of values, thus preventing them from speaking with the police. These allegations were both wrong and distressing for those involved, as the families were questioned by the police repeatedly, often for whole days at a time. Furthermore the families cooperated fully with the police investigations turning any information they had over to police in the hope this would help to find the murderer. They disclosed information relating to their financial situation, private problems, and even information on distantly related cousins in Turkey that the police were interested in.

Most of the victim’s families, having suffered the murder of their loved ones and not knowing who the murderer was, now found themselves attacked by police investigations and the media. Furthermore, the reputations of the dead men and their families were put into disrepute as they were henceforth associated with organized crime. Even when the victim’s families asked the police to consider the possibility of a right wing motive for the crime, this was to no avail. Additionally, the police authorities ignored a Criminal Investigative Analysis, which had been conducted by the FBI at the request of the German police. This analysis came to the conclusion that the victims were killed “because they are of Turkish ethnic origin”. However, these findings failed to trigger any serious investigation into the validity of those claims [17].

Most of the media accepted the police information uncritically as the basis for their reporting. They were mainly responsible for spreading the allegations that the Turkish mafia or similar groups were responsible for the crimes and that the families were refusing to cooperate with the German police. The term “Dönermorde” (the murders of Döner kebab) coined by the German media particularly shows the racial connotation that the reporting of the murders had, as this soon became the catchword to refer to the series of murders [18]. The perception of the murders as a internal problem for the Turkish community as well as the stigmatization of the victim’s families was partly due to the media’s coverage of the crimes. The tenth murder of the police woman was not seen as part of the series since she and her colleague were shot with a different weapons.

The same pattern can be seen in the investigations of the bomb attacks. In all three cases, which the police did not regard as connected, the police looked for suspects close to the victims or in connection with organized crime, and neo-Nazi suspects were never seriously considered. In the case of the bomb attack in Keupstraße in Cologne, the police denied the terrorist character of the attack and yet again the bombing was attributed to organized crime. This denial contradicted internal analysis of the secret service and the police considering a racist motive. The former lively shopping street Keupstraße also experienced an economic decline as tourists and people form other parts of the city were afraid to go there. Since many victims of the bomb attack were small shop owners they were particularly affected by this. Furthermore, given the severe consequences for the victims of the attack in Keupstrasse, the investigations were later referred to as the “bomb after the bomb”.

Most of the 15 robberies were believed to be connected as the offenders were always two young men fleeing the crime scene on bikes. But no connection was ever made between the robberies and the murders and/or bombings, despite the fact that many witnesses had seen two young men with bikes close to the scene of the respective crimes.

As it was unknown who was carrying out the murders and the bombings, these attacks spread fear within the Turkish and Kurdish community, which was obviously what the perpetrators had intended. After the eighth and ninth murder, family members organized a demonstration in the cities of Kassel and Dortmund calling for a thorough investigation into the series [19]. Almost all of those taking part in this demonstration belonged to the migrant community.

b) Specific Questions concerning two of the Murders

The circumstances of the last murder of Turkish man, Halit Yozgat, in Kassel, Hesse on April 6, 2006, are particular noteworthy [20]. He was shot in the head in his internet café while several customers were present in the café. One of these “customers” was Andreas Temme, a Hessian domestic secret service agent. Temme did not inform the police of his presence at the crime scene, but was tracked down by police through a witness statement and the login data from the computer he had used. Temme was arrested two weeks after the murder and questioned for one day. Until today, this secret service agent denies having witnessed the murder or having heard the gunshot being fired. This claim is almost impossible since the investigation revealed that there was not enough time for Temme to have left the café before the murder happened. As to his reasons for not notifying the police, he claims that as a secret service agent he was not supposed to be in that particular internet café and that he was embarrassed as he, a married man, had surfed dating websites.

Of course Temme’s presence at the crime scene raises many questions, all the more so given that he was in charge of two informants in the Kassel Nazi scene. Temme and one of his informants by the name of Benjamin G. talked on the phone for more than 15 minutes just before the murder.

Not only the family of the victim considers it more than likely that the secret service agent was aware of information indicating that something (possibly even a murder) was going to happen. Furthermore, there is evidence that Temme knew the brand of the murder weapon before that information became public. In the aftermath of his arrest in 2006, the Hessian secret service tried to protect Andreas Temme and to control the police investigation. A leading member of the homicide division, which investigated the murder of Halit Yozgat, testified before the court that he is convinced Andreas Temme either saw the murderers or was in some way involved in the crime himself [21]. The question of why Andreas Temme was at the crime scene, what he saw and what he possibly knows about the murder of Halit Yozgat are vital and lead to the parliamentary inquiry of the Hessian parliament. So far these questions remain unanswered.

The final crime in the series of murders, the murder of police woman Michèle Kiesewetter and the attempted murder of her colleague in Heilbronn, Baden-Wuerttemberg in 2007, also raises many questions like the of the reason for the murder. They were both shot in the head while sitting in their car having lunch on a Theresienwiese in Heilbronn, a big area that was being used for a fun fair. The perpetrators not only shot them, but also took their service weapons and other pieces of equipment. Unlike all the other murders there was no investigation into the families of the police officers but instead extensive investigation into a group of Roma, who were at the fair ground. They became one of the main focus’ of the investigation and some members of the group were traced throughout Europe, without any hard evidence that they had anything to do with the crime. Only in 2011 it became apparent that the NSU had committed the crime and also that there were connections between the NSU, its supporters and the killed police officer, who came from a small town in Thuringia. Until today, the federal prosecutor is of the opinion that there were no ties between her and the NSU and that it was pure coincidence that Michèle Kiesewetter was from Thuringia. In order to answer this and many more questions surrounding the murder there was a parliamentary inquiry committee set up in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg. In its finding it comes to the conclusion that Michèle Kiesewetter was chosen randomly and was killed for being a police woman.

c) Investigations after November 4, 2011

It was only after November 4, 2011 that it became known that neo-Nazis were responsible for this unprecedented series of crimes.

The official criminal investigation of the case after November 4, 2011 was carried out by the office of the federal prosecutor (Generalbundesanwalt [GBA]) and the federal criminal police (Bundeskriminalamt [BKA]). In the indictment of November 2012, the federal prosecutor claims that the NSU consisted solely of an isolated cell of three people, with no others having had direct knowledge of the crimes, and without any involvement from the secret services or its informants. The investigations are ongoing and a small task force of the federal criminal police are investigating the case against the five defendants before the Munich Court of Appeals. Furthermore, an additional nine other suspected supporters of the NSU and an unnamed number of potential supporters are under investigation. One of the task force’s main assignments is to investigate where the 20 weapons used by the NSU came from. Until now the federal prosecutor has denied the victims and their lawyers access to these case files.

It was mostly the work of investigative journalists and parliamentary inquiry committees which brought to light the following facts:

  • Many severe “mistakes” made during the search of the garage on January 26, 1998 in Jena and the following manhunt of the police raised the question, as to whether the three suspects intentionally went underground or whether the authorities were simply not interested in finding them.
  • Many high-ranking and influential neo-Nazis were informants of the domestic secret service. They reinvested part of their earnings as informants in the neo-Nazi scene and were warned of house searches to be conducted by the police. What is more, it is unclear to what extend the domestic secret service agencies acted upon the information of their many informants regarding the whereabouts and the doings of Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe in the years between 1998 and 2011. There is evidence that the secret services knew of their whereabouts and doings. At the very least they made no contribution to bring about their arrest. However, a careful consideration of the case, which could put all the pieces together and point to the gaps in the official story has been made difficult by the many conspiracy theories surrounding the case. The question of the knowledge and the role of the secret service especially the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) has been the center of the two federal parliamentary inquiry committees.
  • Related intelligence files on seven informants within the neo-Nazi scene, which the Mundlos, Böhnhardt, and Zschäpe were part of, were purposely destroyed by the federal domestic secret service on November 11, 2011, just after the crimes of the NSU had come to light. Among them was the file of the informant Michael See [22], who had been asked to help hide Mundlos, Böhnhardt, and Zschäpe after they had gone underground. Until today, neither the parliamentary inquiry committees nor expert groups have been able to provide convincing explanations for the destruction of the files. In addition to these files, many more relevant files which had been kept by different secret service authorities were destroyed before the summer of 2012. At that time, the destruction of the files on November 11, 2011, became known, and after a public outcry a moratorium was issued stating that no files, which could be potentially relevant, should be destroyed until the investigations are complete.

3. Reactions to the Discovery of the neo-Nazi Terror Cell in 2011 and the Following Years

a) Society and Media

After the exposure of the NSU and its crimes in 2011, there was complete bewilderment that a neo-Nazi terror organization could live and commit crimes in Germany and go undetected for 13 years. Society had to realize that Nazi terror in the Federal Republic had existed since the 1950s [23], but had never been assessed as being an imminent danger, at least not by the society. Antifascist organizations which had given out warnings that neo-Nazis were being underestimated for years and that new terrorist structures were in the process of being built in the 1990s, had simply not been heard.

Subsequently a debate sprang up about the secret service ignoring possible dangers from right-wing groups. Credit must be given to two German journalists, Stefan Aust and Dirk Laabs, who showed in their book, Homeland Security (2014) [24] that the domestic secret service was well aware of right-wing terrorist structures and had informants close to or within these organizations. Nonetheless, they claimed not to have known about the NSU or its activities.

b) Political Reactions

On 23 February 2012, an official state ceremony in commemoration of the victims was broadcast live from Berlin; there was a nationwide moment of silence, flags flown at half-mast and an official apology was made for the poor police work. However, structural racism within the police force was not acknowledged. In the following period of time the victims’ families were invited to meetings with two German presidents. They were granted a very small monetary “compensation” in the amount of 10,000 Euros for close relatives of murder victims and 5,000 Euros for other NSU victims. Furthermore, a so-called “ombudswoman for the victims” was installed by the Government [25]. Many of the victims feel rather betrayed by these official acts. The thorough investigation promised by the German Chancellor on February 23, 2012, has not truly taken place and only very few of them have been called before any of the many parliamentary inquiry committees to testify.

c) Resignations in the Aftermath of the Discovery of the NSU

The uncovering of the NSU also led to the resignation of several high-ranking public officials in the secret services, including the head of Germany’s federal domestic secret service and the heads of three state services. These resignations, however, were mostly for public image, as can be seen by example of the career of Gordian Meyer-Plath, who took over the position as head of the domestic secret service of Saxony when its former president had resigned in connection with NSU case. Meyer-Plath however, was himself not without involvement in the NSU case, as he had been a secret service employee in the state of Brandenburg. In that position he was responsible for one of the most important neo-Nazi informants, the aforementioned Carsten Szczepanski, from whom he had personally received important information on the whereabouts and the actions of Mundlos, Böhnhardt, and Zschäpe in 1998. Information which the service never passed on to the police so as to lead the police to the whereabouts of the NSU.

d) Parliamentary Inquiry Committees

As stated above, eleven parliamentary inquiry committees (Parlamentarischer Untersuchungsausschuss) have been established to investigate the NSU case and consider possible consequences [26], [27].

A parliamentary inquiry committee was set up by the federal parliament (Bundestag) to look into the “systemic failure” of the police and the domestic secret services in 2012. After consulting roughly 12,000 documents and questioning over 100 witnesses, it published its final report, some 1,300 pages in length, on August 21, 2013. The report contains the first to be published information about the NSU, its network, the investigations and the acts and omissions of the domestic secret services. In its more political conclusions on topics such as the responsibility of the law enforcement and the domestic secret service or on the issue of structural racism however, the report is rather lacking [28]. The committee’s 47 recommendations have so far only led to new laws strengthening the law enforcement authorities on the federal level and the federal domestic secret service [29]. After some political struggle the Bundestag decided to install a second parliamentary inquiry committee on the federal level in November 2015 in order to investigate the NSU complex further. Since the closure of the first committee a lot of new information regarding the secret services and their role emerged and it became known that they had withheld many files as well as crucial information. The report of the second committee is due this year.

In addition, several parliaments of the German states in which one or several NSU murders were committed have also established parliamentary inquiry committees. Some states have also established a second committee after receiving the report of the first. All of their final reports have in common that they focus on the failure of the authorities in terms of “mistakes” rather than structural problems or even intention. An exception is the very thorough work and the resulting report of the first parliamentary inquiry committee of Thuringia. One of the findings in the 1,800 page report is that there is strong evidence of the direct obstruction and of the deliberate thwarting of the police search for the three fugitive Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe [30].

In addition, several official reports were prepared by special rapporteurs (Sonderermittler) investigating single aspects of the case, such as the destruction of the intelligence files and the sudden death of Thomas Richter, an informant of secret service who passed on information on Uwe Mundlos and possibly the NSU which is why his death received special scrutiny.

e) Disciplinary Measures and Criminal Investigations against civil servants

Although the police officers and the secret service members involved in the investigation did not explore alternative explanations for the murder series before 2011 there were no disciplinary measures taken against them. This was despite the clear omission and overlooking of evidence which would have led to alternatives explanations for the crimes being investigated.

The above mentioned destruction of files by the federal domestic secret service on November 11, 2011, has been the center of criminal investigations into a possible cover up. After the destruction became public, many lawyers for the victims, NGOs, and private persons filed complaints with the police and asked them to open criminal charges due to the suppression of documents and the obstruction of punishment. These charges were to no avail. The public prosecutor in Cologne closed the preliminary investigation because supposedly there was no evidence the files were destroyed with criminal intent. Exploring questions about the destruction of files and the motives behind the act was one of the tasks of the first federal parliamentary inquiry committee. However, it was only at the end of the second federal parliamentary inquiry committee that it became known that Lothar Lingen (pseudonym), who ordered the destruction, had admitted to the federal prosecutor that he had destroyed the files on purpose. His account is that he wanted to protect the federal secret service from the painful questions as to why they supposedly did not know about the murders and the existence of the NSU if they had many informants close to the Mundlos, Böhnhardt und Zschäpe. After that testimony came to light in the fall of 2016 there was a new push for criminal investigation and this time the public prosecutor opened formal investigations which continue today [31].

4. The Case against Zschäpe and others before the Munich Court of Appeals [32]

a) Overview of the Proceedings

Since May 6th, 2013, Beate Zschäpe and four other defendants are standing trial before the Munich Court of Appeals (Oberlandesgericht [OLG]) [33]. Amongst other charges Zschäpe is accused of founding the terrorist organization the NSU, complicity in ten murders and many attempted murders, complicity in fifteen bank robberies, as well as aggravated arson and attempted murder committed as a direct perpetrator. She has not been charged with the bomb attack in Nuremberg in 1999 as it only became known during the trial that this attack had also been committed by the NSU. The four male defendants standing trial alongside her, are Ralf Wohlleben and Carsten S., who have been charged with supplying the Ceska 83 gun and silencer used in the murders, and André Eminger and Holger Gerlach, who are accused of having supported the NSU and in the case of Eminger also of aiding and abetting one bomb attack.
Zschäpe faces life imprisonment, Wohlleben and Eminger face prison sentences of up to 15 years and Carsten S. and Gerlach of up to 10 years. Only Zschäpe and Wohlleben are still in detention.

The five defendants are represented by thirteen defense lawyers. Beate Zschäpe alone has four public defense lawyers, which were chosen by her but paid for by the state. She has one additional lawyer whom she pays for herself.

The court chamber consists of five judges, led by presiding judge Manfred Götzl, and now only one backup. The trial started with three backup judges of which two already had to replace an outgoing judge. This is important because in German criminal procedural law the presiding judge must have been part of the trial from the beginning, therefore if two more judges left the case the trail would collapse as no-one would be able to replace them.

The federal prosecutor’s office is represented by three federal public prosecutors. In general, the federal prosecution keeps a very low profile in the case.

German Criminal Procedure Act [34] gives victims of certain crimes or surviving family members the right to join the proceedings as private accessory prosecutors (Nebenkläger). They have the right to have a lawyer (Nebenklägervertreter) represent them and may participate in the trial proceedings with almost the same rights as the defendants. The approximately seventy private accessory prosecutors (victims or close family members of the murdered victims) are represented by approximately fifty lawyers.

The court room has 100 seats for the public. Half of these seats have been reserved for the press the other half is open to the general public. At the beginning of the trial, there was much media interest and the press seats were allocated on a first come, first serve basis. All Turkish media outlets missed out on that scheme. After the Turkish daily newspaper Sabah obtained a judgment from the German Federal Constitutional Court [35], the Munich Court of Appeals had to allocate the press seats anew by way of a lottery system, with a certain number reserved for the Turkish press.

The huge media interest however, wound down very quickly. What is more, there have been hardly any reports of the case and the trial in the international press [36] other than Turkish newspapers. With exception of the early days of the trial, there have almost always been empty seats in the public gallery. There are no regular observers of the trial with the exception of a handful of journalists and the NGO NSU-watch [37]. The latter has set itself the task of taking records of every trial day, which it publicizes on its public website in German and some in Turkish and English [38].

The case file, which is made available to the participants of the trial in electronic form, is huge and contains about 900 file folders averaging at 300 pages and the electronic version amounts to over 50 GB of data.

Since the start of the trial in May 2013 there have been 350 trial days, during which about 600 witnesses have testified. It is anticipated that the trial will be finished by the spring or early summer of 2017 as the court has introduced all the evidence it needs and has set a time limit for filing further motions until March 14th, 2017. The trial has been one of the longest in the recent German history. However, considering the number and severity of the crimes, as well as their complexity, the length is not out of line with other cases.

German criminal procedure follows the inquisitorial system. The court decides which evidence to examine and which witnesses to question. The court is also the first to question the witnesses, followed by the prosecution, the private accessory prosecutors and their lawyers, and the defendants and defense lawyers. Parties to the proceedings (prosecution, defense, private accessory prosecutors) can bring motions to call witnesses or consider other evidence, which the court either grants or denies based on the rules of criminal procedure. Parties also have the right to make statements on each witness testimony or other piece of evidence. The official trial record only contains formalities such as motions brought by parties or the identity of witnesses questioned, and there is no record of the content of witness statements or the statements of other persons in the courtroom. Accordingly, all parties and the judges have to take their own notes, with no way to verify whether they are accurate. Therefore, there are frequent arguments about what certain witnesses have said.

b) Evidence

Two of the defendants, Holger Gerlach and Carsten S. testified during the investigative phase of the case and have incriminated themselves and the three other defendants. The three others have remained silent since the very beginning and only recently Zschäpe and Wohlleben decided to testify (see para. 4.e). The only defendant that has not made any statement so far is André Eminger.

The public prosecution’s case against the five defendants is mainly built on circumstantial evidence. Two significant pieces of evidence are the statements of Holger Gerlach and Carsten S. However these need to be complemented by a chain of circumstantial evidence, especially as both deny having had knowledge of the existence of the organization the NSU and of the murders. There are no witnesses who admit to having known of the NSU‘s existence and of the murders it planned and committed. At this stage of the trial all important pieces of evidence have been examined and they have all confirmed the indictment. This circumstantial evidence consists amongst other of:

Regarding the existence of the terrorist organization NSU:
– The aforementioned video in which the NSU takes credit for the crimes.
– The aforementioned NSU letter, which was sent out to various neo-Nazi magazines and organizations, introduced the NSU and included donations to the addressees. This letter was written on the computers found in the remnants of the apartment in Frühlingstraße 26 used by the three NSU members.

Regarding the murders and bomb attacks:
– The video in which the NSU claimed responsibility for ten murders and two bomb attacks in Cologne. The police found video files involved in the production of this video on the computers found in the remnants of the apartment in Frühlingstraße 26. Some of the video footage is made of photos from the crime scenes which only the murderers could have taken.
– The murder weapon, a Ceska 83, was found in the apartment in Frühlingstraße 26 in Zwickau, which according to the indictment was set on fire by Beate Zschäpe on November 4, 2011.
– The testimony of Carsten S. regarding the acquisition and the handing over of the Ceska 83 with a silencer and the bomb attack in Nuremberg in 1999.
– The service weapons of the murdered police officer and her colleague which were found in the remnants of the apartment in Frühlingstraße. Sports pants with blood stains from Michèle Kiesewetter were also found in the apartment. Those pants were not washed after receiving the stains.
– Video footage from surveillance cameras in Keupstraße around the time of the bomb attack showing Mundlos and Böhnhardt.
– Also found in the Frühlingstraße 26 apartment were maps on which the crime scenes are marked, a collection of newspaper articles regarding the murders with Zschäpe’s fingerprints.
– None of the murders were witnessed directly, but witnesses close to the crime scenes at the relevant times stated that they had seen two young white males, often on bikes.

Regarding the robberies:
– Video footage from surveillance cameras shows two persons of very similar age and build to Mundlos and Böhnhardt.
– Money was found in the hideout of the NSU members that could be traced to several of the robberies and still had the revenue stamp around it.
– Witnesses described the robbers as two young white males fleeing on bikes.
– Items of clothing, guns etc. were found in the Frühlingstraße apartment which look exactly like items worn and carried by the robbers seen in the surveillance footage.

c) Testimony of Beate Zschäpe and Ralf Wohlleben starting in 2015

Defendant in criminal cases in Germany have not to plead guilty or not guilty. Furthermore, German criminal procedure law allows a defendant to speak in his defense at any time and in any way they chose during the trial. A defendant is not required to speak for himself, but can let his lawyer speak for him and authorize what she/he says later. Accordingly, there are no sanctions for defendants who lie to the court. However, a defendant’s statement does not have the same status as a witness testimony and the court can dismiss whatever the defendant brings forward if it does not correlate with the other evidence and the court deems it a false.

From the first day in police custody Beate Zschäpe made clear that she wanted to explain herself and speak. Yet it was the strategy of her first three lawyers for her to remain silent during the trial to which she agreed. Accordingly, she made no statement until the 249th day of trial.
The victims and victims’ families had often said they wanted her to speak and try to explain to them what exactly happened. Why were their husbands and brothers chosen by the NSU as victims? Were there supporters near the respective crime scenes who helped to choose the victims and aided and abetted the members of the NSU? How extensive was the supporting network of the NSU? Did the NSU have contact with neo-Nazis in other European countries? What contacts did the members and supports of the NSU had to informants of secret service and how much did these informants knew about the members and supporters of NSU?

For a long time it seemed that Zschäpe agreed with the strategy of her lawyers. However, since the middle of 2014 it became clear that she grew unhappy with her lawyers and their strategy of remaining silent [39]. Subsequently, she tried everything to get rid of her old three lawyers, which is very difficult under German criminal procedure law as the lawyers were appointed as public defense lawyers. Her aim was to get a new lawyer who would help her draft a defense statement. Finally, in the summer of 2015 she was able to persuade the court to assign her a forth public defense lawyer of her choice. On December 9, 2015, this new lawyer read her prepared statement during trial [40].

As it was the first time in four years that the main defendant would make a statement and as it was expected that she would be able to shed light on mentioned questions, the expectations and hopes ran high. The media interest was almost as extensive as during the first days of trial. Some of the victims and victims’ families also attended the trial on the day that was chosen for her statement.

It took her lawyer only about two hours to read her statement and to make it obvious that she was not willing to provide answers to the open questions. Rather her statement was poorly assembled and it was hard to comprehend what she and her lawyers had hoped to accomplish with it.

She claimed in her statement that only the two dead men, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, had planned and committed the murders and the bomb attacks. She did not know of an organization called the NSU and only found out about its respective crimes after they had been committed. She was supposedly horrified by the crimes but unable to stop the two men she was living with. As she was supposedly emotionally and financially dependent on them, she was unable to leave them and turn herself in. In her statement she tried to paint a picture of an ignorant, emotionally and financially dependent housewife of two terrorists. For example, she claimed Mundlos and Böhnhardt built the bomb while she was out running and therefore did not notice anything. This is a common stereotype for the wives of neo-Nazis and Zschäpe tries to use it to her advantage.

However, her plan is not succeeding. During the trial many witnesses testified that she was a convinced neo-Nazi who played an active part in the neo-Nazi organizations in Thuringia before the trio went underground. Many also confirmed the impression of her during the trial as being a confident woman with the ability to handle the two men and stand her ground. Most observers of the trial are sure that her statement has not helped Zschäpe’s defense at all and do not find the story credible. Despite this, she provided confirmation of many details for which there was previously only circumstantial evidence. Her denial of having knowledge of the organization and its crimes was an obvious and unfounded assertion, designed solely to avert the claim of the prosecution that she was a member of the NSU and aided and abetted its crimes by camouflaging their operation and providing it with a credible facade. Accordingly, the media coverage was crushing and the victims were appalled that she not only answered none of their questions but had the boldness to apologize to them. Almost in the same breath her lawyer read the apology and said that Zschäpe would not answer questions from the lawyers of the victims and the prosecution but would only answer questions by the court and other defense lawyers in writing. This lead the court to dictated its questions to Zschäpe’s lawyer and he provided the answers within a few weeks. So far, the answers have been almost as equally meaningless and evasive as her main statement and only confirmed what witnesses had testified before [41]. The court went through this circle a few times until all the questions it had were answered. In the early summer of 2016, after the court had finished with its questions the victims and their lawyers finally had the chance to ask questions themselves. Even if Zschäpe had said she would not answer their questions they took the chance and made clear how many questions she had not answered. The victim’s lawyers had all together more than 300 questions which they directed at her and read aloud [42]. Zschäpe stated, she would only answer the questions which the court adopted as its own. However, very few of these questions were taken up by the court and posed to Zschäpe. The vast majority of the victims’ questions have gone unanswered.

Since Beate Zschäpe broke her silence, Ralf Wohlleben, the only other defendant who also remains in detention, also decided to testify on December 16, 2015 [43]. He also prepared a written testimony, read it himself and answered questions by the other parties of the trial personally. Despite this, like Zschäpe, he did not reveal any previously unheard information and thus did not enlighten the case any further.

Wohlleben admitted that he had a part in obtaining the pistol with a silencer, which was brought to Mundlos, Böhnhardt, and Zschäpe by the defendant Carsten S. However, he alleged he did not know that the three had founded the terrorist organization the NSU and planed to commit murders and bomb attacks. Supposedly, he assumed that the weapon was only to be used to commit suicide if the police found them. He tried to paint a picture of himself as a victim of the political left and the state, as he is being prosecuted solely for his right-wing ideas. Unlike Zschäpe, who gave no information about her political stance and claimed she had no interest in politics after going underground, Wohlleben openly admitted his right-wing views and activism. However, he claimed to have always rejected violence. His statement too was seen to lack credibility and to conflict with the evidence. Furthermore, the statement was only provided after 250 days of trial, during which time he had listened to all the other testimonies. Witnesses testified that he shared the same radical views as the three alleged NSU members and knew about the bombs in the garage and the robberies.

The much anticipated testimonies have not helped to provide answers to the greater questions and therefore the parliamentary committees will have to continue with their work.

d) Certain characteristic aspects of the trial

The prosecution has narrowed the scope of the case in its indictment, as it only charged five people and claimed that the NSU consisted of only three members, of which two are dead. Furthermore, the other neo-Nazis supporting the NSU allegedly did not know the details of the crimes committed. This official story is being challenged by the lawyers of the victims’s families who are trying to establish that Mundlos, Böhnhardt, and Zschäpe did not act alone, but were part of a network of neo-Nazis which aided and abetted them. For example, these accessories may have helped the NSU scout victims and locations for the bomb attacks in different cities all over Germany. The testimony of Zschäpe and Wohlleben has shed no light on the network surrounding the NSU as both were careful to protect others in their statements. In addition, by not calling them as witnesses, the federal prosecutor tries to keep the secret service informants out of the trial, even if they apparently have important knowledge regarding the defendants. The lack of discussion from the defense as to the role of the secret service and their attempts to disrupt investigations in that direction has then been questioned by the victim’s families and their lawyers. As a result the role of the informants and the secret service have played a much larger role at the trial than from the federal prosecutor intended. Several informants and their secret services officers had to testify before the court.

Witnesses (neo-Nazis and secret service officials) frequently and sometimes brazenly gave false testimonies in court. Whether or not they are going to be investigated and brought to trial on perjury charges is currently unknown, as perjury charges are usually only brought forward after the conclusion of the trial in which the witness had testified. This leaves the impression that they are able to lie in court without any repercussions, thus encouraging other neo-Nazi witnesses to follow their example.

Despite their numbers, the presence and the voice of the victims‘ and their families (most of whom are also private accessory prosecutors) has not been heard loudly at trial. Not even all of the families of the murder victims have testified as witnesses to speak of their sufferings caused by the murders and the subsequent police investigations. After the first days of the trial it also became clear that it was emotionally stressful for the victims’ families to regularly participate in the proceedings. Many of them now abstain from this. The lawyers representing the victims have so far been unsuccessful in making the structurally racist investigations an issue. But at least they were able to raise the above-mentioned questions in regard to the supporting network of neo-Nazis and the role of secret service.

5. Summary and Outlook

To summarize what has happened after the crimes of the NSU came to light:

  • Law enforcement and the secret service agencies have been involved in a cover-up and the main question regarding their role is still unanswered. Despite severe criticism, the obvious involvement in aiding and abetting the neo-Nazi scene, and unsolved question of what the service actually knew about the NSU, the secret service emerged as one of the “winners” from the course of events, as they were provided with more responsibility and money. Up to now, there is only one case in which a criminal investigation has been opened against a former secret service servant for destructing files.
  • The extend and intensity of the work of the eleven parliamentary inquiry committees were and are very different. Some have played and are playing an important part in gathering information and shedding light on some of the most pressing questions. However, even these have often fallen short in their findings with regard to structural racism within the law enforcement agencies and in clarifying the involvement of the secret services. Accordingly, the police work has not been changed in regard to the way racist and neo-Nazi crimes are being handled and often the political aspect of these crimes are played down [44].
  • So far, only five people are standing trial for the crimes of the NSU. After 350 days of trial, the factual allegations in the indictment are proven and it seems very unlikely that the defendants will not be found guilty on all accounts. The judgement of the Court of Appeals is expected in spring or early summer of 2017. At the same time, the federal prosecutor will most likely not charge any of the nine supporters whose cases are still under investigation. Rather he will close these cases once the judgement will be final. As there is no official trial record of the trial it is left to the antifascist group NSU-watch to document the trial and write thorough protocols of each trial day.
  • Investigative journalist have played an important part in investigating certain aspects of the NSU case and writing about otherwise classified information. Newspapers and TV have covered the trial thoroughly [45] and many prime time documentaries and series have been broadcasted. Yet some media outlets used racist stereotypes writing about the victims and depoliticized the crimes by focusing on the psychology of the defendants, especially on the one of Beate Zschäpe, her looks, her struggle with her lawyers and her behavior during the trial whilst using sexist clichés [46].
  • What should have been called for after the first shock but is still lacking until today is a wider debate in society about racism and structural racism. An exception is the conference the “Apparatus of Racism” facilitated by the Haus der Kulturen (Berlin) which aims at “jump-starting an international debate about the NSU complex as a composite of neo-Nazi terror, institutional and structural racism within the context of German history and within the longue durée of colonialism, migration and genocide in the globalized modern age.” [47]
    After the NSU brought about its own detection in 2011 a wider debate sprang up questioning the reason of the secret service to exist if it was not able to prevent or detect the NSU. After the first half year though, this discussion died down fast. As well as the discussion about the significance of the fact that some of the alleged “mistakes” of the secret service are not mistakes but hint to further but still unknown knowledge and operations of the secret service in regard to the NSU.
  • Also academics are only slowly showing interest in the case [48]. It was up to NGOs to organize a lecture series comparing the NSU case to similar cases around Europe [49], such as the Hrant Dink [50] case in Turkey and the murder of Roma in Hungary [51].
  • Only the creative and cultural scene has shown a strong interest in the NSU case and its wider meanings. There have been many plays at well-known and small theaters, bringing aspects of the NSU case and the issue of structural racism to the stage, many focusing on the perspective of the victims.


[1] Antonia von der Behrens is a Berlin based lawyer and one of the lawyers of the family of Mehmet Kubaşık, one of the victims who was murdered on April 4, 2006 in Dortmund. His family joined the proceedings against Beate Zschäpe and the four other defendants as private accessory prosecutor. (Contact details: vdbehrens[at] The text ist published on the website of NSU-watch.
[2] Koehler, D. (2017). Right-Wing Terrorism in the 21st Century. New York, NY: Routledge; p. 5; Deutscher Bundestag (2013). Beschlussempfehlung und Bericht, Drucksache 17/14600, dated 22.08.2013, p. 833 ff. Retrieved from:
[3] The concept of collusion is not very well known in Germany but might be a helpful tool to understand the NSU case. See the article: Committee on the Administration of Justice Ltd. (2015). Collusion? Germany and the National Socialist Underground (NSU) cases. Just News. Human Rights in Northern Ireland. March 2015, p. 2. Retrieved from:
[4] There are 19 different secret services all together in Germany: On the federal level there is the “Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution” (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz [BfV]), the Military Counterintelligence Service” (Militärischer Abschirmdienst [MAD]), and Federal Intelligence Service” (Bundesnachrichtendienst [BND]) i.e. the foreign intelligence agency. In addition, each of the 16 German states (Bundesländer) has its own intelligence service.
[5] There is hardly any scientific writing in English regarding the NSU. One exception is the cited book of Koehler (footnote 2) and MaGowan, l. (2014). Right-Wing Violence in Germany: Assessing the Objectives, Personalities and Terror Trail of the National Socialist Underground and the State’s Response to It. German Politics Vol. 23, Iss. 3, 2014; General information in English regarding the NSU and the surrounding questions are found on the following websites: NSU-watch:; the blog NSU Trial Reports written by Rechtsanwalt Alexander Hoffmann and Rechtsanwalt Dr. Björn Elberling, two lawyers representing victims of the NSU,; the news magazine Der Spiegel:; Deutsche Welle:; information in Turkish are found on the following websites: NSU– watch:; the blog NSU Trial Reports,; Deutsche Welle: and Funkhaus Europa:; and Aljazeera: and some Turkish newspapers.
[6] Since Beate Zschäpe and the other defendants have not been found guilty, these circumstances cannot be treated as facts.
[7] The video was posted on you tube by a dubious organization; this is demeaning for the victims as the NSU ridicules the victims and uses the video material for propaganda purposes.
[8] As far as we know the NSU made no distinction between people of Turkish and Kurdish origin.
[9] A description of his murder and a short overview of the NSU case is given by the article: Burschel, Fritz (2016). The NSU Complex: Racist Murder, Neo-Nazi Terror and State Collusion in the Federal Republic. NSU-watch. Retrieved from:
[10] Since the defendant Carsten S. is under witness protection for testifying against Ralf Wohlleben his last name is abbreviated.
[11] 2004 Cologne bombing. (2017, January 26). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 08:16, March 7, 2017, from
[12] Blood & Honour. (2017, February 8). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 08:17, March 7, 2017, from
[13] Tino Brandt (code name “Otto”) worked for the secret service of Thuringia from 1994 until 2001 when he was uncovered by the press, most likely because of leak within the secret service of Thuringia. Brandt and his two secret service officers Norbert Wießner and J. Z. have testified before the Court of Appeals in Munich and in front of some of the parliamentary inquiry committees.
[14] Carsten Szczepanski (code name “Piatto”) worked from 1994 until 2001when he was as uncovered by the press, how the information about his identity leaked is not yet clear. Until today he is under witness protection and has a new identity. Szczepanski and his two secret service officer Gordian Meyer-Plath and R.G. have testified before the Court of Appeals in Munich and in front of some of the parliamentary inquiry committees.
[15] The official statistics “only” count 58 victims: Cold Cases: Germany May Revise Up Statistics in Far-Right Killings, Spiegel Online, December 04, 2013. Retrieved from:
[16] Parallel Report (2015): “Institutional Racism as exemplified by the case of the terror group National Socialist Underground (NSU) and necessary steps to protect individuals and groups against
racial discrimination”. Retrieved from:;
And there is a report in Turkish of the Human Right Committee of the Republic of Turkey: Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi Insan Haklarini Inceleme Komisyonu (2012): „2000-2006 Yıllarında Almanya’da Neo-azilerce İşlenen Cinayetler“. Retrieved from:
[17] Deutscher Bundestag (2013). Beschlussempfehlung und Bericht, Drucksache 17/14600, dated 22.08. 2013, p.577. Retrieved from:
[18] Grittmann, E., Thomas, T., Virchow, F. (2015). Das Unwort erklärt die Untat. Die Berichterstattung über die NSU-Morde – eine Medienkritik. Otto Brenner Stiftung, Arbeitsheft 79. Retrieved from: A summary of the study has been pbulshed in Turkish: TR: Otto Brenner Stiftung (2015). Tabu kelime aşağılamayı açıklıyor“ –Almanya’da ‘Nasyonal Sosyalist Yeraltı’ adlı Neonazi grubu tarafından işlenmişolan seri cinayetlerinin basında ansıması –bir medya eleştiris. Retrieved from:
[19] A film about a demonstration by the families and their supporters called „No Tenth Victim” in German but with the families speaking Turkish:
[20] Fekete, L. (2013).German justice: from Jeremiah Duggan to Halit Yozgat”. Retrieved from:
[21] Summary of the testimony by KHK Wetzel: NSU Trial Reports (2014). 6 August 2014. On the murder of Halit Yozgat: massive obstruction of the police investigation by the domestic secret service. And: Temme knows more than he admits. Retrieved from:
[22] Gude, H. (2014). Neo-Nazi Mole: Could the NSU Murders Have Been Prevented?, Spiegel Online International, February 27, 2014. Retrieved from:
[23] For an overview in English of right wing terrorism in Germany: Koehler, D. (2017). Right-Wing Terrorism in the 21st Century. New York, NY: Routledge, p. 71 ff.
[24] Aust, S. & Laabs, D. (2014). Heimatschutz: der Staat und die Mordserie des NSU. München: Pantheon.
[25] The post is very controversial and filed by Prof. Barbara John: „Barbara John“. In: Wikipedia, Die freie Enzyklopädie. Bearbeitungsstand: 20. November 2016, retrieved: 7. März 2017,
[26] The following parliamentary inquiry committees regarding the NSU have finished their work and published a report about their findings, the date in brackets is the year of the final report followed by the official index number of the report: The Federal parliamentary inquiry committee (2013, Drs. 17/14600) and the parliamentary inquiry committees of the states of Bavaria (2013, 16/17740), Thuringia (2014, Drs. 5/8080), Saxony (2014, Drs. 5/14688), and Baden-Württemberg (2016, Drs. 15/8000).
[27] The following parliamentary inquiry committees regarding the NSU are still in session: The second Federal parliamentary inquiry committee and second parliamentary inquiry committees of the states of Thuringia and Saxony and the first parliamentary inquiry committee of the states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse, and Brandenburg.
[28] Hansen, F. & Sanders, E. (2014). An Incomplete Explanation: The NSU-Committee presents its final report, rertrieved from (Translation of: Hansen, F. & Sanders, E. (2013). Lückenhafte Aufklärung. LOTTA – Antifaschistische Zeitung aus NRW, Rheinland-Pfalz und Hessen, Nr. 53, 7.10.2013, source:
[29] Deutscher Bundestag (2013). Beschlussempfehlung und Bericht, Drucksache 17/14600, dated 22.08.2013. Retrieved from: A small portion of the report has been translated into Turkish: Federal Parlamento araştırma komisyonu:
Special report of the party „Die Linke“ (The Left) in addition to the common report of the parliamentary committee with a Turkish summary: Die Linke (2015, January). Neo-Nazi Terror in contemporary Germany. The national socialist underground (NSU) – racist murders, bomb attacks, neo-Nazi networks and state collusion. Retrieved from:
[30] Thüringer Landtag (2014), Bericht des Untersuchungsausschusses 5/1 “Rechtsterrorismus und Behördenhandeln, Drucksache 5/8080, dated 16.07.2014. Retrieved from:
[31] Simsek, Ayhan (2016). German spy agency ‘destroyed neo-Nazi files’. Anadolu Agency. Retrieved from:; NSU Trial reports (2015, August 3). Victims‘ counsel request access to files the secret service tried to destroy. Retrieved from:
[32] There is not much literature in English regarding the trial: Summaries of the trial after one year: and after two years: Protocols of each trial date in German and some in Turkish and English: A blog by the lawyers of the victims’ families in German, Turkish and English
[33] Eddy, M. (2013, May 6). Trial Begins for a Neo-Nazi Suspect in Germany. New York Times. Retrieved from:
[34] Section 395 ff. of the German Criminal Procedure Act (Strafprozessordnung [StPO]); a translation of the German Criminal Procedure Act can be found under:
[35] The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany, Press Release No. 34/2013 of 12 April 2013. “NSU Trial”: Application of a Turkish Newspaper for a Preliminary Injunction Successful in Part – Further Applications Unsuccessful. Retrieved from:
[36] The Guardian is one exception with continuous reporting on the case since November 2011, e.g.: Dowling, S. (2011, November 15). Suspected founder of neo-Nazi cell held as Merkel pledges inquiry into killings. The Guardian. Retrieved from:; Connolly, K. (2013, May 6). Neo-Nazi cell survivor in dock for biggest German terror trial for decades. Beate Zschäpe is accused of involvement in multiple racially motivated murders, nail bombings and armed robberies. Retrieved from:; Meaney, T. & Schäfer, S. (2016, December 15). The neo-Nazi murder trial revealing Germany’s darkest secrets. The Guardian. Retrieve from:
[37] NSU-watch:
[38] Translated trial reports by NSU-watch are found under:
[39] It first became known on July 16th, 2014 when she made a motion that the status as public defense lawyers would be withdrawn for all three of her lawyers: NSU Trial Reports (2015, July 16). Zschäpe wants new defence lawyers. NSU Trial Reports. Retrieved from:
[40] Summary of Zschäpe’s testimony: NSU Trial Reports (2015, December 9). Much ado about nothing – on Beate Zschäpe’s statement. Retrieved from:; the reporting of the Deutsche Welle in English: Fürstenberg, M. (2015, December 9). Opinion: Loyal to the end. Deutsche Welle. Retrieved from:; Zuvela, M. (2015, December 9). Neo-Nazi trial suspect Zschäpe denies prior knowledge of NSU crimes. Deutsche Welle. Retrieved:; Smale, A. (2015, December 9). German Woman Denies Role in Murders in Neo-Nazi Case. New York Times. Retrieved from:
[41] Summary of her answers to the first set of questions from the court on January 21st, NSU Trial Reports (2016, January 21). More meritless challenges for alleged bias by the Wohlleben defense – and more vacuous and unbelievable statements by accused Zschäpe. Retrieved from:
[42] NSU Trial Report (2016, July 6). Questions for accused Zschäpe. Retrieved from:
[43] Summary of his testimony: NSU Trial Reports (2015, December 15) I! Am! A Victim! Accused Wohlleben claims to be entirely innocent. Retrieved from:
[44] One example is the case of Burak Bektas, who was shot on the open street in Berlin by an unkown perpetrator. The circumstances make it possible that the driving motive behind the crime was racism: Wiedemann, C., Kampf, L. (2015): Der rätselhafte Mord an Burak Bektas, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 06.08.2015. Retrieved from: And the website of the NGO pressing for thorough investigations:
[45] Newspapers which writing continuously are Süddeutsche Zeitung, Der Spiegel, Die Zeit and Die Welt; also the Bavarian radio station Bayrischer Rundfunk writes reports from each trial day.
[46] Hansen, A. (2015). Journalistische Charakterisierung der Akteure im ‚NSU‘-Prozess. Online-Veröffentlichung der Otto Brenner Stiftung Frankfurt. Retrieved from:
[47] Aiming a broader discussion regarding racism and structural racism in the context of the NSU case: see the conference: The Apparatus of Racism, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, March 8th and 9th, 2017;
[48] One attempt to promote the subject by academics was the conference organized by the Humboldt University of Berlin “Blind Spots – Interdisciplinary Scientific Perspectives on the NSU Complex” in 2015; see: and the one organized at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences “Interdisziplinäre Betrachtung des NSU-Komplexes: 5 Jahre nach dem Öffentlichwerden des NSU“, October 21 and 22, 2016,
[49] See the speech series organized by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung “Inside NSU” comparing the NSU trial with other trials against right wing suspects in Europe, e.g. Turkey, Hungary, Greece;
[50] Hrant Dink was an Istanbul based journalist of Armenian origin who was murdered by a young right wing Turkish extremist in 2007. It turned out that the secret service had known about the plans to murder Dink and had kept the offender and the crime under surveillance. Further reading: Hrant Dink. (2017, February 16). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:16, March 7, 2017, from
[51] In 2008 and 2009, a group of Hungarian right-wing extremists committed a series of attacks on random members of the Roma community without claiming responsibility. Just as in the NSU the victims and their families where main focus of the murder investigation. Further reading: Hajdu, El. (2014, November 13). Voices – Judgment in Hungary: An Attack on Roma, and a Search for Justice. Retrieved from: