The state prosecutors began their final arguments in the NSU trial this week, and it didn’t bode well. Germany’s problems with its networks of neo-Nazi killers won’t exactly be solved if the judiciary refuses to acknowledge them.
To catch up: Beate Zschäpe, a neo-Nazi murderer, has been on trial for the last four years in Munich for being a part of the most sustained terrorist campaign in Germany since the one orchestrated by the RAF. She was a member of the National Socialist Underground (NSU), which is responsible for 10 murders, two bomb attacks, and 14 bank robberies between 2000 and 2007. Two other members, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, died in a suicide pact as they were about to be arrested in 2011.
While the trial was going on, various parliamentary enquiries – federal and state, across all parties – decided that a) there were almost certainly more than three members, and b) that the Verfassungsschutz (the German domestic intelligence agency that is supposed to track extremists) destroyed a lot of its NSU files after Zschäpe’s arrest – firstly to protect their “informants” (actual neo-Nazis paid with actual tax money who were no help in catching the NSU), and secondly to protect their own officers, (also no help and may even have warned the Nazis when the cops were coming).
The state prosecutors decided to ignore all this in court. Though they argued that Zschäpe was a perpetrator and not just an accessory (as she claimed), they said that the victims had been chosen randomly, and that there had been no other perpetrators – even though the parliamentarians believe the NSU support network included up to 200 people. A number of witnesses said they saw at least two people shooting the police officer Michèle Kiesewetter, for example.
In other words, the prosecution has ignored the systematic racism in the German police and collusion with neo-Nazi networks in the intelligence agencies. That’s a shame, because that’s the whole point of Angela Merkel’s promises that the NSU murders would be investigated and cleared up “without gaps.”
That’s not what’s happening. By narrowing its remit to Zschäpe and her two dead friends, the German judiciary is making it impossible to fill the “gaps” between the NSU and the police, and the police and the Verfassungsschutz – and those are the most important gaps, because that’s where the real racism, which allowed the NSU to get away with its killing for so long, happened.