NSU in Zwickau: Don’t Let It Sink into Oblivion! Fight Nazi Terror and Racism
November 4, 2016 marks the fifth anniversary since the National Socialist Underground (NSU) blew its cover. There is no better example of how racist German society is as a whole than the crimes committed by the NSU and how they’ve been dealt with. The core trio, able to move around Germany “undiscovered” for years, was responsible for nine racist murders of Enver Şimşek, Abdurrahim Özüdoğru, Süleyman Taşköprü, Habil Kılıç, Mehmet Turgut, İsmail Yaşar, Theodoros Boulgarides, Mehmet Kubaşık und Halit Yozgat as well as the murder of Michèle Kiesewetter. Numerous people were wounded in three bomb attacks in Cologne and Nuremberg and it was only by chance that no one was killed.
Such a series of terrorist attacks was made possible due to racism kept alive through the actions of the majority of people in this country, its government and the police. On the example of the NSU crimes, one can clearly see the connection between the murderous actions of neo-Nazis and the citizens who either keep quiet or approve of them. Triggered by their nationalist ideology, the group consisting of Beate Zschäpe, Uwe Mundlos und Uwe Böhnhardt committed murders while being supported by a nationwide neo-Nazi network. More than 40 informers of the police and the intelligence are known to have been involved in it. Many of them were employed in the key neo-Nazi organizations in the ’90s, working on their financial and structural development. The Thüringer Heimatschutz association, in which the future NSU trio was involved as well, was established by an informer, Tino Brandt. He later even transferred the Thuringian intelligence agency funds to those in hiding with the help of intermediaries and reported to his superior where the “missing” trio is. This information did not lead to the arrest of Böhnhardt, Zschäpe and Mundlos.
In this way, the government itself made a contribution to the political socialization thus enabling the trio to live “underground”. Moreover, due to the institutionalized racism, the investigations have been focusing on the family members of the victims instead of the actual perpetrators. The racism is also evident in the names of the special commissions in charge of the investigations of the series of murders and attacks, namely “Crescent” and “Bosporus”. The intention was to present the crimes as “foreign crimes”. This can be seen clearly in a report by the State Criminal Police Office (LKA): “Based on the fact that homicide is a taboo in our culture, a conclusion can be drawn that the perpetrators come from a very different system when it comes to norms and values.” This was supposed to imply that the perpetrators “grew up abroad or still live there.”
These interpretations are taken over by the media. The Nürnberger Zeitung daily newspaper came up with a pejorative expression “Döner Murder” for the nine murders and it was immediately taken over by the media throughout the country. Even the radical left accepted this interpretation since it hadn’t even occurred to them that there might have been a racist motive behind the killings, until the NSU blew their cover in November 2011. All the attempts of the relatives to draw the attention of the public to a possible racist background, either in interviews or at demonstrations (for example, with the request “Not another victim” at demonstrations in Dortmund and Kassel in May and June, 2006) were in vain.
Zwickau: A Good Hiding Place for Nazi Terrorists
Five years ago, in November 2011, the uncovering of the NSU seemed to be a big surprise. But Zwickau is a place that serves as an example of how the majority supported the development of the NSU. An extended network allowed the NSU to have a comfortable haven despite living “underground”. Apart from the strong neo-Nazi network, it was precisely the combination of neighborly ignorance and acceptance that protected the NSU. Former neighbors talk about Beate Zschäpe as a nice woman and “a cat lady”. The photos of Hitler found in a neighbor’s basement used as the neighborhood meeting place testify to ideological unity and fellowship in Zwickau’s Frühlingsstraße. A situation where neo-Nazis and “normal people” live together, enabled the emergence of a community in its utmost misanthropic form. This is true of Zwickau in a recognizably Saxon manner, but it is a reality throughout Germany.
It was not only the immediate neighborly surroundings that made a comfortable life underground possible. The citizens‘ willingness to help is visible on other levels as well: apart from boutiques, neo-Nazis in Zwickau and Chemnitz own construction and security companies. Since 1990s they’ve built up an infrastructure which has not only brought them money but also provided the NSU with the basic conditions for living “underground”. Ralf Marschner, the owner of a construction company, numerous shops selling Nazi clothes as well as a right-wing brand, is presumed to have occasionally employed the NSU trio. This kind of work could have been done all over the country and in that way, the people involved had the possibility of renting the cars which might have been used in the murders without drawing attention to themselves.
Such social climate still exists. Since November 2011, 288 criminal offenses in connection with the NSU have been reported to the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). In Saxony and all over Germany, the attacks on refugees and any other group which is labeled foreign or hostile are an everyday occurrence. What began in the fall 2013 on places such as Schneeberg continues here. People are being attacked, shelters set on fire. In Heidenau the events escalated into pogroms in August 2015 whereas in Bautzen violent attacks on refugees took place in September 2016. “Concerned citizens” are stirring up hatred against refugees through demonstrations, by blocking refugee shelters and through other forms of the so-called civil disobedience together with organized neo-Nazi groups.
In Zwickau, up to 1000 people keep protesting against the building of refugee shelters. In May there was an arson attack on the shelter in Kopernikusstraße. The absence of a noteworthy resistance of the majority enabled the birth of a nationalist movement. The continuation of the racist pogroms of the 1990s is evident.
At the same time, a clear link can be seen between Rostock-Lichtenhagen and Hoyerswerda riots on the one hand and the NSU on the other, all the way through the neo-Nazi scene and the Thüringer Heimatschutz association: the basis for the political socialization of the members of the Thüringer Heimatschutz, which later developed into the NSU, was a climate of hostility and pogroms. They were able to live a life in which racism was perceived as normal and to promote their values in the street without encountering a noteworthy resistance. On the contrary, their actions were often met with approval. What they were able to learn from this was that they could count on the support of the society and that militant actions are rewarded in such a climate.
Hushed up, Downplayed, Belittled – Both in the Past and Today
Silence and the absence of any attempt to deal with the NSU and the people involved show how dealing with the NSU issue and the commemoration of the victims are systematically suppressed and prevented. In 2011 Sabine Zimmermann (Die LINKE), a Member of the Parliament from Zwickau stated: “This whole thing has nothing to do with Zwickau!” Local initiatives aimed at criticizing the fact that the NSU trio resided in Zwickau are still being attacked by the local authorities and the majority of the citizens. The demolition of the building in Frühlingstraße is a symbol of the local politics according to which watching grass grow is preferable to facing a long series of failures.
The fact that Zwickau represents a perfect setting for the neo-Nazi scene, with its boutiques, right-wing martial arts events and neo-Nazi concerts, that it offers the possibility for people to express their right-wing beliefs openly in local football clubs or at work with colleagues who share their nationalist beliefs is not something people like to talk about in this town. Not even the uncovering of the NSU triggered a change of the mindset. A commemorative plaque for the victims remains unwanted and a school project dealing with the topic was initially obstructed by the local culture committee. After the funding was approved, it is now the AfD that is taking steps to stop the project. The lack of interest in clarification and commemoration ridicules the victims of the NSU and the right-wing violence in Germany. In the Zwickau which has nothing do to with all of this, a T-shirt with Pink Panther and the inscription “Enemy of the State” was hanging for weeks in 2011. Numerous videos claiming responsibility for the murders committed by the NSU, in the form of Pink Panther cartoons, were found in the apartment which was burned down and where Zschäpe, Böhnhardt and Mundlos lived. Various graffiti related to the NSU also indicate clearly that the local scene prides itself on the fact that the trio lived in their town.
Reason Enough to Expose the Situation in Zwickau
We are organizing a demonstration on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the uncovering of the NSU. On November 5, we are going to Zwickau where institutional racism and the supporters of the NSU made the killings possible. We are going into the streets to protest against a racist daily life in Zwickau and Saxony and all over Germany:
- We commemorate the victims of the series of killings and attacks committed by the NSU and express our solidarity with the victims and their families.
- We want to draw the attention to the neo-Nazi organizations and their comfort zone and repress them.
- We call for the abolition of all intelligence services which secretly support the development of neo-Nazi groups.
- We call for the investigation of the racially motivated murders by an international investigation commission, which will include the family members.