The Nazi bride murder trial of 38-year-old Beate Zschäpe (alternately spelled Zschaepe) will begin on Monday in Munich, Germany. The alleged last surviving member of a far-right terror group called the National Socialist Underground (NSU), Zschäpe is charged with accessory to the murder of 10 people and membership in the neo-Nazi terror organization.
Nine of the victims of the racial hate slayings were immigrants. The tenth was a German policewoman.
According to Der Spiegel, Zschäpe’s trial will likely represent the biggest terrorism trial in Germany since the Baader-Meinhof Group — later known as the Red Army Faction — peaked in the late 70s.
According to German prosecutors, Zschäpe and her associates preyed on Turk small business owners. Many Germans have expressed anger that authorities allowed the slayings to go unsolved for years, wrongly dismissing the racial crimes as foreign gang-related killings over drugs or gambling.
Eight Turks were slain. The ninth victim was a Greek, possibly mistaken for a Turk.
After the neo-Nazi links to the murders were discovered, several senior officials in Germany had to resign from their jobs. The investigations had been so badly bungled that agencies had even wrongly shredded files related to the Nazi bride murder case.
Der Spiegel said that it isn’t just Zschäpe on trial but German intelligence and police services that allowed her to get away with murder for so long.
Her associates, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boenhardt funded their life in the underground with a string of at least 15 bank robberies. After a bungled robbery, they left weapons at the scene tying them to the decade-long murder spree.
As time finally ran out for the NSU, the two men killed themselves in an apparent murder-suicide pact, and Zschäpe set fire to their apartment, presumably to destroy the evidence. She surrendered to police after four days on the run but hasn’t broken her silence in the year of interrogation and investigation since she was jailed.
Questions remain about Beate Zschäpe’s role in the NSU. Was she just a convenient lover and groupie to the two men? Prosecutor Harald Range plans to argue that she was a key figure in a “unified killing commando” unit that treated all three members as equals.
Michaela Koettig, a Frankfurt professor who has studied the German far right for 20 years, says that women are on the rise in neo-Nazi groups, with as many as 40 women’s far-right groups being formed since 2000.
The so-called Nazi bride now on trial for murder has been called “Germany’s most dangerous neo-Nazi.”
[photo of explosion aftermath at National Socialist Underground house in Zwickau, Germany by André Karwath via Wikimedia Commons]