National Socialist Underground
|This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the German Wikipedia. (November 2011)|
The National Socialist Underground or NSU, (German: Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund) is a far-right German terror group which was uncovered in November 2011. So far, the following crimes have been attributed to the NSU: the Bosphorus serial murders, a series of murders of nine immigrants (eight Turkish and one Greek) between 9 September 2000 and 6 April 2006; the murder of a policewoman and attempted murder of her colleague; the 2001 and 2004 Cologne bombings; and a series of 14 bank robberies. The Attorney General of Germany called the NSU a "right-wing extremist group", who have the purpose to "kill out of xenophobic and anti-state sentiments all citizens of foreign origin".
Investigations and public response
On 4 November 2011, after a bank robbery in Eisenach, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt were found shot dead in a mobile home, which was burning. Police said that the two set the vehicle on fire and killed themselves when their vehicle was found. In that caravan, the service pistol (HK P2000) of murdered police woman Michéle Kiesewetter was found. Some hours later on the same day, their flat in Zwickau, where the trio had lived under false identities, also was set on fire, and an explosion occurred. Beate Zschäpe, the alleged third core member of the terrorist group, is suspected of having caused that. She later turned herself in on advice from her lawyer and is now in custody awaiting charges.
Police found a CZ 83 silenced weapon, which had been used throughout for the Bosphorus serial murders (as they were named for short then) and a number of other guns in the remains of the house. Further, a DVD was found with images of three of the dead persons that had been taken immediately after the killings.
On 13 November 2011, Holger G., a possible fourth member of the NSU was arrested and brought before a judge at Germany's Federal Court of Justice the following day, who ordered him to be detained in custody. The German Attorney General's Office wanted Holger G. detained on suspicion of membership in a terrorist group. However the court's investigating judge only authorized G. to be detained on suspicion of supporting a terrorist organization. The Attorney General of Germany also supposed that he had rented a motor caravan for the NSU, which they used for the murder of the policewoman and severe maiming of her colleague, in Heilbronn.
On 24 November 2011 agents from the German federal GSG 9 special police arrested Andre E. in Grabow. E. is suspected by the Attorney General of Germany to have produced the notorious propaganda movie mocking the victims of the serial murders and claiming responsibility for the previously unknown NSU.
The discovery that all these mysterious and unsolved high profile crimes were committed in cold blood by one obscure, previously unknown "Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund" terror group, that went unnoticed for 13 years, plunged Germany into a state of shock, even though right-wing terrorism has historical roots in Germany. After the underlying ideological pattern of the brutal crimes became known by the public, Chancellor Angela Merkel stated on 14 November 2011 that she wants to consider a ban of the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) to weaken the power of extremist right-wing groups.
A previous attempt to ban the NPD party had been refused by the Federal Constitutional Court in 2003 because more than 130 confidential informants for police and domestic security had infiltrated the party. Among these a number of leading figures, e.g. Udo Holtmann, the leader of the NPD party's state chapter in North Rhine-Westphalia collaborated with the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution for 24 years. Thus it was not clearly distinguishable to the deciding court whether parts of the party's ideology were genuinely its own, or were in fact instigated by the confidential informants on purpose, because the security agencies declined to disclose their identities. Nor did the police give the relevant background information. (In 2010 the party had only 6600 members.)
Confusion and uncertainty increased among German citizens when a report by Stern magazine stated that two German confidential informants and two US investigators were eyewitnesses to the murder of the policewoman during their observation of two men who had contact with the "Sauerland" group, an Islamist terror group who planned assaults on US institutions in Germany. The day of the shooting, one of the men had deposited 2.3 million € in a bank in Heilbronn; then he drove to the place where the policewoman was shot. The authenticity of the observation protocol – supposedly from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) – on which Stern magazine based its report was swiftly denied by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, and an unnamed U.S. insider expert for intelligence matters told Der Spiegel he deemed it unlikely that the DIA could be involved in that type of operation at all. German and U.S. security circles regard the document as most likely a forgery, Stern magazine did not comment nor declare whether it stood by its story.
Prior to that it became known that an officer of the Hessian State Office for the Protection of the Constitution was inside the internet cafe while the Turkish owner was killed by the NSU terrorists in 2006 in Kassel. This agent (Andreas T.) openly held right wing views, and in his home village he was known by the nickname "Little Adolf". He has since been transferred to an administrative post (outside and unrelated to the agency).
On 23 February 2012, an official state ceremony in commemoration of the victims was broadcast live from Berlin; a nationwide moment of silence was observed and flags were flown at half-mast.
Various German politicians from all parties unanimously urged for a parliamentary enquiry committee, which has now been formed and begun its work, to dig deeply into the details of what is widely regarded as growing to one of the biggest scandals concerning domestic security in modern German history. The affair is casting Germany's security apparatus into public disrespute for an obvious, complete failure and is causing sarcastic comments from the press. On 2 July 2012, the President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution Heinz Fromm resigned from his post shortly after it was revealed that on 12 November 2011, employees of his agency had destroyed files connected with the NSU case immediately after their role in the murders became public and the agency itself had received a formal request from the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) to forward all information relevant to these crimes. Two more resignations of the presidents of the State Offices for the Protection of the Constitution in Thuringia and Saxony respectively soon were to follow suit.
Trial in Munich
The original start date on April 17 was cancelled. The trial began on Monday, May 6, but ″the Munich court handling the historic trial of neo-Nazi Beate Zschäpe adjourned proceedings until May 14 after her lawyers accused the presiding judge of being biased.″
On May 14, Federal Prosecutor Herbert Diemer read out the indictment against Beate Zschäpe. Diemer accused her of involvement in 10 murders and of being a member of a group whose aim was to "commit murder and criminal acts dangerous to public safety" in order to intimidate the public and "wreak major damage to the state." The only purpose of the National Socialist Underground, said Diemer, "was to kill people."
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- [dead link]
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- Speech by Federal Chancellor Merkel at the Central memorial ceremony to commemorate the victims of extreme right-wing violence. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
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- Trial in Spring: Court Approves Neo-Nazi Terror Cell Trial Der Spiegel (in English). Retrieved 30 April 2013.
- Postponing the neo-Nazi terror trial is both a curse and a blessing, say German media commentators (Der Spiegel)
- First Day of Historic Trial (Der Spiegel)
- Prosecutor Reads Out Charges in Chilling Detail (Der Spiegel)
- The Brown Army Faction. A Disturbing New Dimension of Far-Right Terror
- Deutscher Bundestag: 2. Untersuchungsausschuss ("Terrorgruppe nationalsozialistischer Untergrund") (German Parliament: Website of the Inquiry Committee, German)
- German Criminal Code, Section 129a: Forming terrorist organisations (english translation)
- Recent news and background at SPON: Neo-Nazi Terror Cell