Germany is engrossed today in the opening of the trial of the woman dubbed the "Nazi bride,” who has been charged with complicity in multiple, racist murders.
The BBC says that the accused was part of an underground neo-Nazi group called the NSU or National Socialist Underground, which was involved in the murder of 10 people, mostly of Turkish origin. Ms. Beate Zschaepe, 38, faces life in prison if convicted, though she is pleading not guilty.
Zschaepe was a founding member of the Nazi hate group and is believed to have played a role in the murders of eight Turks, a Greek immigrant and a German policewoman between 2000 and 2007. According to the BBC, she is also accused of participating in 15 armed robberies, arson and two bomb attacks.
Reuters reports that “Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in 2011, wrote to Zschaepe in May 2012, addressing her as "Dear Sister" and urging her to use the trial to spread far-right ideology.”
The trial is a controversial one, because there are accusations that the German police turned a blind eye to the execution-style killings, blaming them on the Turkish mafia and even investigating the victims' families as suspects. The resulting scandal forced the head of internal security to resign. Reuters describes it as a case of “staggering intelligence failings.” The police knew of the trio's racist actions and bomb making activities years before, when they were teenagers, but they escaped arrest. The security forces failed to track down the killers for more than 10 years and admitted to shredding files on neo-Nazi groups, which could have helped the investigation.
Al Jazeera's reporter at the trial, Jonah Hull, says that “Beyond the court, the public debate is likely to continue and rage over this issue, ranging from official incompetence to institutional racism and why this neo-Nazi cell was allowed to exist for so long.” The media outlet quotes the lawyer for the family of one of the victims, Enver Simsek, a flower seller, who stated, "With its historical, social and political dimensions the NSU trial is one of the most significant of post-war German history."
There were only three members of the cell. The two males involved set fire to their caravan and committed suicide after a botched bank robbery. Zschaepe also set fire to her apartment, but gave herself in to police not long afterward. The guns which were discovered tied the group to the racist murders and police found a “Pink Panther-style” DVD video made by the group claiming responsibility for the murders.