The surviving member of the neo-Nazi terrorist group the National Socialist Underground (NSU), Beate Zschäpe, has been found guilty of 10 counts of murder. The trial was one of the biggest in postwar German history.
Beate Zschäpe, member of the neo-Nazi terrorist group the National Socialist Underground (NSU), was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday for the murder of ten people between 2000 and 2007, as well as her part in two bombings, and several robberies and attempted murders. She was also found guilty of membership in and the foundation of a terrorist organization.
The judge Manfred Götzl also attributed Zschäpe with serious culpability, which means the 43-year-old is likely to serve more than the minimum of 15 years.
Ralf Wohlleben, who was found to have provided the gun with which nine of the murders were carried out, was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Two other accomplices, Holger G. and Carsten S., were sentenced to three years in prison each for helping a terrorist organization and nine counts of accessory to murder, while a third man, Andre E., was sentenced to two years and six months for helping the group. Andre E. was released, having already served his prison time during the trial.
The judge said the three members of the NSU had resolved to carry out “ideologically-motivated attacks” and kill foreign citizens, and had planned the murders together. He added that Zschäpe had played a “special role” in creating a “harmless legend” for the outside world, while the two male members of the group, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos, now dead, had carried out the attacks.
The judge emphasized that the NSU’s attacks could only have succeeded if all three members had planned them together, rejecting Zschäpe’s defence that she had not committed any of the killings herself and had only found out about them afterwards.
Zschäpe’s attorney Wolfgang Heer said afterwards that his client would lodge an appeal, calling the conviction “legally flawed.” “The court reasoning is extremely thin,” he said. “The court is very clearly flouting the unambiguous rulings of the Federal Court of Justice on complicity.”
The Munich state court ruling marks the end of one of the most important trials in Germany’s postwar history. It was also one of the most complex, covering five years — more than 430 trial days — and featuring the testimonies of around 600 witnesses. Nine of the NSU’s victims were of immigrant background; the tenth was a police officer.
Almost as soon as the verdict was released, a number of community organizations, political parties and lawyers released statements saying the verdict should not be the conclusion of the NSU case and calling for more investigations into Germany’s neo-Nazi terrorist network.