The final member of the German neo-Nazi group, who has been accused of a number of racist killings, finally broke her silence Thursday for the first time while in court. She spoke about not holding the same far-right views she once did, and that her opinions have changed over the years she has been in custody.
It’s been more than three years since the trial for Beate Zschaepe began, following the condemnation of the murders that were carried out by the two other members of the neo-Nazi crew who titled themselves National Socialist Underground (NSU), Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boehnhardt.
The 41-year-old read out a brief statement during which she admitted that, as a teen living in the communist eastern portion of Germany following the fall of the Berlin Wall, she did “indeed [identify] with nationalist ideology.” In a nervous and quiet voice she added that, “today I judge people not by their origin and political affiliation but by their behavior. I regret my own misconduct.”
— GIRDS (@GIRD_S) September 29, 2016
The woman, along with Mundlos and Boehnhardt, lived in hiding for years, following the men who shot dead eight men with Turkish roots, a Greek immigrant and a female police officer of Germany, all between the years of 2000 and 2007. The men reportedly died in a murder-suicide in 2011.
Following the death of the men, the nation was in disbelief when the discovery was made that the killings were the result of actions by members of a far-right movement with motives that were based on their own xenophobia. Prior to this, the murders were blamed by police and media on crime gangs made up of migrants.
The Associated French Press shares what role authorities and prosecutors believe Zschaepe played in the crimes.
“Prosecutors charge that Zschaepe was an NSU member and aided the crimes, also including two bomb attacks and 15 bank robberies, by covering the men’s tracks, handling finances and providing a safe retreat in their shared home.”
On Thursday, the final member of the trio stated, “”I condemn what Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boehnhardt did to the victims.”
The defendant addressed the court for the first time last year, via a 53 page statement that was read out by her lawyers, within which Zschaepe describes herself as a “passive and innocent bystander to the bloody crimes.”
She went on to insist that she was involved, “neither in the planning nor the execution” of any crimes and added that she was “horrified” when she learned about them after the fact. The defendant faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. The woman also shared during her 2015 deposition that she only stayed with the men because she was afraid to go to prison and admits that she was both financially and emotionally dependent on the two.
Zschaepe did, however, confess to an arson charge, after having torched their home following the death of the men. She also admitted to having distributed a DVD which involved a clip of the trio boasting about the killings while the Pink Panther theme song played as background music.
Scores of Unanswered Questions: Neo-Nazi Terror Cell Still Shrouded in Mystery – SPIEGEL ONLINE – Ne http://t.co/l57PkwZB
— Chuck Weinblatt (@Chuck_Weinblatt) November 16, 2011
The discovery of the NSU in 2011 was a great embarrassment to German authorities. It exposed the police and intelligence shortcomings, seeing as the trio went undetected for 13 years. As noted, authorities and media were assured that the gruesome killings were simply linked to migrant gangs and groups, and were not aware that there was any cell that was targeting specific cultures as a part of a right-wing neo-Nazi group in the nation.
Beate Zschaepe faces life imprisonment if convicted of the killings for which she claims the deceased group members were responsible.
[Feature Photo by Joerg Koch/Getty Images]