NSU Trial

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The place of the trial: the Higher Regional Court of Munich (Oberlandesgericht), Nymphenburger Strasse, Munich

The NSU Trial is the trial against several people in connection with the National Socialist Underground (NSU) – an extreme-right terrorist organization in Germany – and the NSU murders. It has been taking place since 6 May 2013 in Munich in the 6th Criminal Division of the Munich Higher Regional Court before five professional judges.

Accused are Beate Zschäpe and four suspected helpers and supporters: André Eminger, Holger Gerlach (de), Carsten Schultze and former NPD official Ralf Wohlleben (de).[1]

Zschäpe must answer charges of, inter alia, being a principal in ten murders and a serious arson and of being a member of a terrorist organization.[2]

André Eminger is accused, inter alia, of being an accessory in the nail bomb attack in Cologne in 2004.[1]

Holger Gerlach is accused, inter alia, of being an accessory by providing false documents for the so-called NSU trio.[1]

Carsten Schultze is accused, inter alia, of being an accessory by providing the NSU trio with arms.[1]

Ralf Wohlleben is accused, inter alia, of being an accessory by providing the NSU trio with arms.[1]

A critical issue for Zschäpe may be the differentiation in German law between principal and accessory. In her case it may hinge on the interpretation of the word "gemeinschaftlich" as used in Section 25 of the German Penal Code.[3][4] In the Red Army Faction trials three of its members were found guilty of being principals, even though it wasn't known which of them had done what, because they were part of a unit whose combined goal it was to carry out the attacks for which they were charged. On these grounds it would seem possible that Zschäpe could be convicted as a principal. The jurist Claus Roxin, however, believes that a principal must in some way be in control of the illegal act, something commonly believed to be beyond Zschäpe's participation.[5]

Although a Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry into the NSU is said to confirm that German authorities were not involved and did not cover up the NSU killings,[6] doubts remain. Some people question why a member of the German intelligence service happened to be at the scene of at least one of the murders right after they happened.[7] Another case for suspicion is that colleagues of the murdered policewoman Michèle Kiesewetter were members of the Ku-Klux-Klan[8] and that she lived close to a public house frequented by the extreme-right. Some have questioned the forensic evidence for the deaths of Böhnhardt and Mundlos (de).[9][10] The German government, domestic intelligence and the police, it is thought, will also be on trial.[11]


On Saturday, 4 May 2013, objections were submitted against the judges, to be considered before the start of the trial.[12] The objections centred on defence as well as plaintiff counsel being searched before entering the courtroom, while federal prosecutors and members of the court were not.[13] On the first day of the trial, 6 May 2013, the presiding judge, Judge Götzl, deferred the decision on the applications, adjourning the trial until 14 May 2013.[14] These motions of bias were rejected four days later.[15]

Mahmut Tanal, a member of the Turkish parliament who attended the first day of the proceedings, complained that the presence of a crucifix in the courtroom violated the secular principles of the rule of law and was a threat to all non-Christians.[16]

Anja Sturm

On 4 June, the fifth day of the trial, Anja Sturm, representing Zschäpe, sought a discontinuation of the trial in that the Attorney General's prosecutors, the Federal Criminal Police Office and other public figures and authorities had taken the accusations against her client as true fact before trial, thus breaching the constitution and making the trial untenable.[17] The request was denied. On the same day, several representatives of the plaintiffs demanded that trial observers from the Federal and State Criminal Police Office and the Militärischer Abschirmdienst should be excluded from the courtroom, since they would endanger the establishment of the truth. Some defenders also felt this might be the case. This Götzl also declined, as he saw no way in which observers could influence witnesses. Neither the plaintiffs nor the defenders agreed with this argument. The accused Carsten Schultze admitted being involved in the procurement of a firearm with silencer.[18] Holger Gerlach admitted to organizing passports and driving licences for Zschäpe, Böhnhardt, and Mundlos.[19] Gerlach confessed to having deposited €10,000 for the trio in his hometown of Lauenau in Lower Saxony. He apologized for this in a read statement.[20]

In July 2015 Mathias Grasel joined Zschäpe's defence team. Dispute and distrust had arisen between Zschäpe and those representing her: Anja Sturm, Wolfgang Heer, and Wolfgang Stahl.[21][22]

On 9 December 2015 Zschäpe, the only surviving member of the NSU trio, broke her silence after two-and-a-half-years and made a statement, denying that she had been a member of the NSU; although she was involved with members, she herself claims not to have been a member and to have disapproved of their actions. She apologised to victims' families, saying that she felt morally guilty that she could not prevent the murders and bomb attacks carried out by Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt. Few took her apology seriously, with opinions that she was trying to deny her responsibility. Newspaper Bild ran a headline "Zschaepe's confession - nothing but excuses!"[23]

Zschäpe had stated through her defence lawyer, Mathias Grasel, that she would only answer questions from the judges and lawyers for the four co-accused put in writing and that she would not answer questions from prosecutors. On 15 December 2015, Judge Götzl read out 63 questions in court. These included:

  • What effect alcohol had on her
  • Whether she took drugs
  • What her relationship with Böhnhardt was like
  • What she knew about the origin of the weapons used in the Frühlingsstraße
  • What she knew about the selection of the police officer victims
  • Whether she had contact with Susann Eminger, wife of the accused André Eminger
  • In what way Böhnhardt was politically motivated
  • What his attitude towards guns and violence was
  • What nationalist songs they sang and to which words
  • Whether they (Böhnhardt and Mundlos) had in any way mistrusted her
  • In what way she had tried to persuade them against their acts
  • What she knew about the racist game "Pogromly"
  • Who had obtained the motor caravan on 25 October 2011
  • From which radio station she heard that the motor caravan had been discovered
  • How she knew it was theirs and that they had been killed

Prosecutors wanted to know about contacts Böhnhardt and Mundlos had with people who had not appeared in court and if Susann Eminger knew about the criminal activity.[24][25][26]

On 16 December 2015, in contrast to Beate Zschäpe who had her statement read by her defence lawyer, Ralf Wohlleben read his own statement out in court. He stated that he took no part in the activities of the group and did not acquire the Česká weapon used in the killings for them. He said that since the mid-1990s he had had nothing against foreigners, although he was against politics promoting the influx of foreigners, and did not want Jena to have areas where there were only foreigners, as he believed was the case in Frankfurt am Main. [27]

Before Zschäpe's and Wohlleben's statements a verdict was expected in late Spring 2016. Arrangements now exist for the trial to continue until September 2016.[28]

On 21 January 2016 Zschäpe gave answers to the questions put by Judge Götzl.[29] On 3 February 2016 Judge Götzl asked a further 39[30] which included:

  • What she (Zschäpe) meant by drunk and slightly drunk
  • In what situations Böhnhardt got rough with her and when they were
  • What she knew about the alleged sexual misuse Böhnhardt experienced in jail
  • What she meant exactly by rather a lot of champagne. What she meant by "felt drunk". When she started to drink and when she stopped
  • From when until when she drank on 4 November 2011, the day she set fire to the apartment. Whether the champagne was having any effect then
  • How she had wanted to go on after setting fire to the apartment. Whether she had thought about it. If she had, in what way
  • What she knew about the alleged gambling addiction of co-accused Holger Gerlach
  • How the meeting with the co-accused neo-Nazi Andre Kappke had come about
  • What Susan Eminger knew of the NSU trio and of their crimes
  • Whether she (Zschäpe) knew what Mundlos and Böhnhardt expected to achieve with the video they produced and whether she knew that the content of the film included the murders
  • Whether there was an understanding between her and Mundlos and Böhnhardt of how to go on if they were killed or if they killed themselves
  • Why there was a plan to emigrate
  • How much money she had available to her
  • How the space in the apartment was used

Arrangements now exist for the trial to continue until September 2017.[31] In september 2017 the prosecutors demanded a life sentence for Zschäpe.[32]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e Debakel der Ankläger Deutsche Lobby, 24 September 2013
  2. ^ NSU-Prozess – Gericht lässt Anklage gegen Zschäpe zu Süddeutsche Zeitung, 31 January 2013
  3. ^ § 25 Täterschaft Strafgesetzbuch
  4. ^ German Criminal Code (English)
  5. ^ Zwischenbilanz NSU-Prozess FAZ, Helene Bubrowski, 2 August 2013
  6. ^ Parliamentary Report on Right-Wing Murders Important to Restoring Trust German Embassy, USA, 27 August 2013
  7. ^ Der flirtende Agent, der einen Mord übersah Stuttgarter Zeitung, Armin Käfer, 12 September 2012
  8. ^ Kollegen von Polizistin Kiesewetter waren Ku-Klux-Klan-Mitglieder Die Zeit, 31 July 2012
  9. ^ Zweifel an Selbstmord von Böhnhardt und Mundlos Die Welt, 21 November 2011
  10. ^ Was hat sich in den wenigen Sekunden im Fahrzeug abgespielt? Stuttgarter Nachrichten, Andreas Förster, 25 November 2012
  11. ^ Neo-Nazi Case Also Puts Government on Trial Spiegel Online, Daryl Lindsey, 9 November 2012
  12. ^ Interview mit Zschäpe-Anwältin Anja Sturm N24 Interview with Anja Sturm, 7 May 2013
  13. ^ First Day of Historic Trial: German Court Adjourns Neo-Nazi Case Until May 14 Spiegel Online, 6 May 2013
  14. ^ Zschäpe-Anwälte können Richter Götzl nicht stoppen Die Welt, 6 May 2013
  15. ^ NSU-Verfahren in München: Gericht weist auch Zschäpes Befangenheitsantrag ab Spiegel Online, 10 May 2013
  16. ^ Türkischer Politiker gegen Kruzifix in Münchener Gericht Der Tagesspiegel, 7 May 2013
  17. ^ NSU-Prozess: Zschäpe-Verteidiger fordern Einstellung Focus, Göran Schattauer, 4 June 2013
  18. ^ NSU-Prozess in München: Erster Angeklagter sagt aus Tageschau, 4 June 2013
  19. ^ Holger G. gesteht und entschuldigt sich Tageschau, 6 June 2013
  20. ^ Ablesen ist einfach Tageschau, 6 June 2013
  21. ^ Vierter Anwalt übernimmt Zschäpes Verteidigung Süddeutsche Zeitung, 6 July 2015
  22. ^ Zschäpe zeigt ihre Anwälte an Der Spiegel, 24 July 2015
  23. ^ "Germany neo-Nazi trial: Zschaepe denies role in attacks - BBC News". BBC. 9 December 2015. Retrieved 9 December 2015. 
  24. ^ Zeuge widerspricht Zschäpes Aussage Die Welt, 9 December 2015
  25. ^ Das sind die Fragen des Gerichts an Beate Zschäpe Stern, 15 December 2015
  26. ^ Jetzt treibt der Richter Zschäpe in die Enge Die Welt, Per Hinrichs, 15 December 2015
  27. ^ Wohlleben bestreitet Beschaffung der NSU-Mordwaffe Die Welt, 16 December 2015
  28. ^ Mit offenen Fragen ins nächste Jahr TAZ, 17 December 2015
  29. ^ Zschäpe bezeichnet sich als machtlos und abhängig Die Zeit, 21 January 2016
  30. ^ Weitere Fragen des Gerichts im NSU-Prozess Bild, 3 February 2106
  31. ^ ZVerfahren gegen Zschäpe wird bis September 2017 verlängert Die Zeit, 25 July 2016
  32. ^ "Neo-Nazi murders: Prosecutors want Zschäpe to serve life". BBC News. 12 September 2017. Retrieved 12 September 2017.