Many questions remain unresolved about the murders of far-right NSU terror group, Germany’s spy chief admitted on Thursday.
Thomas Haldenwang said a larger network of neo-Nazis might have supported the three members of the NSU terror cell, who killed eight Turkish immigrants, one Greek citizen, and a German policewoman between 2000 and 2007.
“How did the NSU trio chose their victims, and the places? Was the money they got from bank robberies enough for them during these years, or did they receive financial support from others? Many important questions are still unanswered,” he told a panel discussion.
Haldenwang said there were also question marks about the former intelligence officer Andreas Temme, who was at the crime scene, when the NSU killed Halit Yozgat in Kassel in 2006.
The NSU’s motives for the murder of police officer Michele Kiesewetter in 2007 have also remained unclear to date, he noted.
Neo-Nazi murder spree
The German public first learned of the NSU’s existence and its role in the murders in 2011, when two members of the group reportedly committed suicide after an unsuccessful bank robbery. The police found evidence in their apartment, showing that they were behind the seven-year killing spree.
Until 2011, Germany’s police and intelligence services ruled out any neo-Nazi motive for the murders and instead treated immigrant families as suspects, questioning them over alleged connections with mafia groups and drug traffickers.
Haldenwang, who took the helm of the domestic intelligence agency BfV in 2018, said security agencies made serious mistakes in the past, failed to prevent the murders or arrest the neo-Nazi suspects.
But he said the authorities drew lessons from the failures of the past, made significant changes in the organization of security agencies, and strengthened units responsible for the fight against right-wing extremism.
Shadowy far-right group
The NSU is believed to have been founded by neo-Nazis Uwe Mundlos, Uwe Bohnhardt, and Beate Zschaepe. The trio lived underground from 1998 with fake identities.
Its only surviving member Zschaepe was sentenced to life in prison by Munich’s Higher Regional Court in 2018, after a five-year-long trial, and four other suspects who provided support to the group were given lighter sentences.
During the trial, Zschaepe declined to give any insight about the NSU and tried to lay the blame on her two deceased colleagues.
The scandal surrounding the NSU sparked a debate in Germany about institutional racism and the failures of German security and intelligence organizations, which have long been criticized for underestimating the far-right threat.