Support Network Neo-Nazi Terror Cell Received Help from Friends
The members of the Zwickau neo-Nazi terrorist cell lived underground for years, remaining undetected and planning their crimes. It is becoming increasingly clear that they were able to do this because right-wing extremist friends supported the trio with money, places to live and papers. One of them was Matthias D.
His silver car was often parked in front of the well-kept house at number 26 Frühlingsstrasse in the eastern German city of Zwickau. The letters ERZ on the license plate identified the owner, Matthias D., as a resident of the Erzgebirgskreis district. He drove regularly from his home in Johanngeorgenstadt, a town of 4,600 people on the Czech border, to the house in a quiet Zwickau neighborhood to see Beate Zschäpe, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt.
The trio were apparently members of a neo-Nazi group calling itself the "National Socialist Underground" which is suspected of killing eight Turks and one Greek man between 2000 and 2006, as well as the murder of a German policewoman in 2007, and two bombings in which more than 20 people, primarily with immigration backgrounds, were injured.
Matthias D. was very familiar with the apartment where he met with the trio. SPIEGEL ONLINE has learned that he had lived there himself for many years. He moved out in 2008 and turned over the apartment to his three right-wing extremist friends, who then renovated it according to their taste and even set up an exercise room inside.
As SPIEGEL ONLINE has previously reported, the lease remained in Matthias D.'s name. According to police sources, the 34-year-old also gave the trio his identity card. He was arrested and questioned only a few hours after the bodies of Mundlos and Böhnhardt, who shot themselves on Nov. 4 in a camper in Eisenach after robbing a bank, were found.
In addition, the ARD television program "Fakt" reported on Tuesday that, according to the owner of the building, not only was Matthias D. the sole tenant of the apartment -- but the rent was paid by direct debit from a bank account in his name.
According to "Fakt," the 34-year-old also rented an apartment on Polenzstrasse in Zwickau, where Zschäpe allegedly lived under a false name from the spring of 2001 to the summer of 2008.
Friends from the Jena Days
Matthias D. is associated with the right-wing extremist scene in the eastern state of Saxony, and he was open about his sympathies in the Johanngeorgenstadt area. He is since believed to have moved to the northwestern state of Lower Saxony, to a town near Hanover where a man named Holger G. also lived. Holger G. was arrested on Sunday and detained on suspicion of supporting a terrorist organization.
G. allegedly supported the National Socialist Underground (NSU) to which Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt belonged. Authorities believe the group is responsible for the murders of nine people in a 2000-2006 killing spree dubbed the "Doner Killings," as well as the 2007 murder of a police officer in the southwestern city of Heilbronn. The 37-year-old allegedly teamed up with Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt in 2007. He gave them his driver's license and, about four months ago, his passport.
The camper van that Mundlos and Böhnhardt were apparently using when they shot and killed Heilbronn police officer Michele Kiesewetter was supposedly registered in Holger G.'s name. Police are looking into whether he may have been directly involved in the murders.
Like Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt, Holger G. is from the eastern city of Jena and was a member of a right-wing extremist group called the Kameradschaft Jena ("Jena Comradeship"). He also grew up with one member of the trio. He is believed to have been in contact with the right-wing extremist scene in the eastern state of Thuringia until recently.
After an attempted attack on an official vehicle from the district office of Left Party state parliament member Katharina König in Jena was thwarted in July 2010, a special police task force called "Feuerball" ("Fireball") was set up in September to investigate several members of the right-wing extremist scene, including Holger G.
He had attracted the attention of police after the phones of the four men suspected of planning the attack on König's vehicle were wiretapped. The goal, says an investigator, was to prevent possible further attacks. The authorities speculated that right-wing extremist groups were stockpiling explosives or were in the possession of bomb-building instructions.
"Overt Right-Wing Extremist Sympathies"
In a raid on the morning of Oct. 6, 2010, 16 properties were searched including the so-called Brown House in Jena, a meeting place for local right-wing extremists, the "Schützenhaus" (Marksman's House) in Pössneck south of Jena, and apartments in the towns of Gotha and Suhl as well as in western Saxony and the Middle and Upper Franconia regions of Bavaria. The police seized computers, but found no substances resembling explosives or bomb-making instructions.
Even though it looked like the proceedings would be closed, the supposed perpetrators filed a complaint. The case is currently pending before a board of appeal at a regional court in the town of Gera. One of the suspects is Karl-Heinz Hoffmann, the leader of the right-wing extremist group Wehrsportgruppe Hoffmann, which was banned in 1980. His former estate in western Saxony was also searched.
"There are indications that there were other accomplices," said Social Democratic Party (SPD) politician Thomas Oppermann, the chairman of a parliamentary committee that monitors Germany's intelligence agencies, after a meeting in Berlin on Tuesday. "The terrorists' accomplices must be investigated and severely punished."
Right-Wing Extremist Sympathies
The possible involvement of an employee of the Hesse branch of Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, in one of the "Doner Killings" was also discussed at the meeting. Oppermann reported on the current state of the investigation, which indicates that the man left the scene of the crime -- an Internet cafe in the city of Kassel -- shortly before the murder was committed. He had no comment on media reports that the man was in fact present at the scene during the murder, and was also seen near six other crime scenes. "This man has overtly right-wing extremist sympathies," Oppermann said. "He currently works for the regional government in Hesse."
According to Oppermann, it is unclear whether employees of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Thuringia were in contact with the presumed members of the Zwickau cell, who lived underground for years. Although there is no concrete evidence to this effect, he added, it cannot be ruled out.
Oppermann was critical of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) for not having taken over the investigation sooner. After all, he said, after the second murder in the Doner Killings series there were already indications that they had been committed by the same perpetrator.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan