In the year since the last issue of datacide came out there has been continued fallout from the scandal surrounding the activities of the National Socialist Underground terror group and the involvement of the state security forces in the extreme right. Well, at least until about May, which is when the court case against Beate Zschäpe finally started after a few weeks delay. One reason for the delay was that the 50 seats for the press had been allocated, and not a single Turkish newspaper was allowed to report from inside the courtroom. Needless to say, there is considerable interest in the case in Turkey, as most of the victims had Turkish roots. Finally, the seats were rearranged and the trial could start.
There are obvously many open questions: Where did the NSU come from, and how was it possible it was not detected for so many years despite the fact that the state security had paid agents very close to the perpetrators of the killing spree?
After the Berlin wall came down, there was a national delirium, especially in the former East, that led to a situation where in some areas neo-Nazis achieved some kind of cultural and political hegemony. With the major racist riots of Rostock-Lichtenhagen and Hoyerswerda, the Nazis imagined themselves as the avantgarde of a new racist Germany. The ideas of the provincial „mainstream“ were thus so reactionary as to provide a backdrop where the neo-Nazis of the NSU could blend in. Therefore, it is probably no accident that the „terror trio“ could live for eight years in a flat in Zwickau, and had fabulous relations with their neighbours with whom they apparently often drank ample amounts of alcohol. At this time Mundlos and Böhnhardt still walked around in their usual fatigues: Steel-toe boots, bomber jackets, shaved heads. Apparently, they could move like the proverbial fish in the water…
Although there was an FBI profiler who was working on the case and came quite close to describing the killers, German police was so convinced that they were looking for „Turkish mafia“ or „Gypsy criminals“ that they ignored any other leads. In fact there are indications that they consciously didn’t investigate in the right direction around 2006 because it would have meant bad press for Germany in the summer of the football world cup championship. The country was trying hard to present itself as an open and friendly land. The news about a gang of neo-Nazis on a murder spree against foreigners would have undermined that perception.
It is particularly interesting how the judiciary is handling this case, since Zschäpe is the sole survivor of the „terror trio“ who is on trial for membership in a terrorist organization. She has so far refused to make any sort of statement. The strategy of the defense council appears to be to portray her as a mere follower of the group and not one of its core members. Indeed, it will be hard to prove that she was directly involved in any of the killings.
As early as January 2013, she was allowed more lenient conditions of imprisonment because the court in Munich reasoned that there were no structures of support for the NSU outside of prison, which would have justified a stricter imprisonment. This is quite telling as it is in tune with the de-politisation of right wing extremism. It echoes the standard practice to deny a political component to dozens of racist killings that happened (mainly) in the ’90s. Granted, there is barely any kind of solidarity movement for Zschäpe from the far right. With the unsurprising propensity for conspiracy theories in that scene, she is seen by some as an agent of the VS. However, things look a bit different in the case of one of her co-defendents, Ralf Wohlleben. A prominent neo-Nazi since the mid-90s, he enjoys a degree of support from the local neo-Nazi scene.
In any case, it is in stark contrast of how cases of alleged left wing extremism are handled. Here the state doesn’t shy away from implicating the whole supposed scene in a scenario of „supporting terrorism“. In the ’70s, there was a veritable witch hunt against left wing intellectuals for even challenging the need to incarcerate members of armed groups in conditions that were defined as torture by the European Human Rights Court.
This was obviously not necessary for neo-Nazi prisoners, as they were never held under any condition of sensory deprivation. Instead, one can assume that – if anything – they were recruited to report on their milieu. The quality of this reporting was always of secondary importance. The „Office for the Protection of the Constitution“ (Verfassungsschutz, VS) collects endless amount of data, places agents all over the neo-Nazi scene, pumps ample amounts of money into it, and supposedly doesn’t have a clue about a killing spree lasting many years.
Reading the yearly report of the federal VS, one will not find much self-criticism. It is acknowledged that there was a „loss of trust“, but the incompetence and inefficiency that supposedly led to complete ignorance regarding the NSU is blamed on a lack of communication between the various state security apparatuses.
We ended datacide 12’s round-up on the NSU with the prediction that once the dust would settle the VS would return to „business as usual“ – which is exactly what is happening. The statement of one politician that the NSU terrororism would be to Germany what 9/11 was to the U.S. was completely ridiculous from the start.