Fotostrecke

Photo Gallery: The NSU in the Underground

Foto: DPA/ Ostthüringer Zeitung

Cats and Camper Vans The Bizarrely Normal Life of the Neo-Nazi Terror Cell

The neo-Nazi terror cell of Uwe Böhnhardt, Beate Zschäpe and Uwe Mundlos managed to hide from the police for almost 14 years. But between murders, attacks and bank robberies, the trio led a surprisingly normal life. They kept cats, played computer games and even went on vacation several times together. By SPIEGEL Staff.

After 10 people were dead, two bombs had exploded and four post offices and six savings banks had been robbed, Uwe Mundlos, Uwe Böhnhardt and Beate Zschäpe went on a vacation together.

It was the summer of 2007. They had loaded up a van and driven north, and now they were staying at a camping site on the Baltic Sea island of Fehmarn, located near Germany's border with Denmark. A few months earlier, the two men had killed a police officer and severely wounded her partner with a shot to the head. But now they were about to spend a few relaxing weeks on the beach.

Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe, who went by the names Max, Gerry and Liese, strolled over to one of the nearby campers and asked whether anyone wanted to play cards. The campsite neighbors later said that they had quickly developed a friendly relationship with the trio. Böhnhardt bought an inflatable boat with an outboard motor, Mundlos went windsurfing with one of the neighbors and Zschäpe spent a lot of time sunbathing. Life was peaceful in that summer of 2007.

They didn't discuss politics. None of the other campers had any idea that the three were leading a double life, that they had been on the run  for almost 10 years, and that at least two of them were under the delusion that it was up to them to save the German people. Böhnhardt and Mundlos believed that enemies were lurking around every corner: in politics, in the media and -- naturally -- among leftists. They also thought they had enemies among ordinary Turkish greengrocers and owners of döner kebab stands.

They began running from the authorities in January 1998, when police found a pipe bomb, among other incriminating items, in a garage that Zschäpe had rented in the eastern city of Jena. Their lives as fugitives came to an end in November 2011, with the deaths of Böhnhardt and Mundlos in a camper in the eastern city of Eisenach. Thirteen years and nine months had passed in the interim.

What happened during that time? What was life like for the three fugitives? Was Zschäpe the lover of the two murderers, or was she their housekeeper? Or were the three merely a group of people that fate had thrown together, who could no longer find their way back to normal life?

Coming Clean

Zschäpe, now imprisoned in Cologne, is saying nothing. But Max B., Holger G. and Carsten S., former associates who helped the group hide from the police -- and without whom the trio could not have committed murders -- are now willing to come clean. SPIEGEL has gained access to thousands of pages from investigative files, including statements by neighbors and vacation acquaintances, as well as evidence found in the rubble of their last hiding place in Zwickau. All of this yields a picture of three people who, near the end of their years on the run, were leading a surprisingly open life. At the same time, the reconstruction of this period of almost 14 years shows how close the authorities came to finding them at times -- and yet never did.

The three met in the early 1990s in Jena. Zschäpe and Mundlos were a couple at the time. Later, after the relationship had ended, she became romantically involved with Böhnhardt. The three couldn't have been more different. Mundlos was the smartest member of the group. His father had taught computer science at the Jena University of Applied Sciences since German reunification. After finishing the 10th grade, Mundlos completed a training program in data processing at Carl Zeiss, a famous Jena company that makes optical systems. Then he performed his compulsory military service and went back to college to obtain his Abitur, the German high-school diploma that is a requirement for university. Three months before the final examinations, however, he disappeared with Böhnhardt and Zschäpe. He was 24 at the time, and the oldest member of the trio.

Böhnhardt, the son of a teacher and an engineer, had dropped out of school, and he had multiple convictions on charges of theft, assault and extortion -- a repeat offender, in other words. He said little, saw himself as a man of action and worked in construction. In 1997, he was about to be sentenced to a prison term of two years and three months for various offences, including an episode in which he hung a mannequin decorated with a Star of David from a highway overpass. Böhnhardt, 20, had a strong incentive to disappear.

Only Zschäpe came from a difficult background. After she had given herself up to police on Nov. 11, 2011, she told the officers that the two Uwes had had a sheltered upbringing compared to her childhood. For that reason, she said, it was "inexplicable" to her as to why the two had "developed in that fashion." Zschäpe referred to herself as a "grandma's child." Mundlos and Böhnhardt became her substitute family. She was 23 when the three went into hiding.

Although the trio is often described as having gone "on the run," it is perhaps not the right expression. After all, Zschäpe, Böhnhardt and Mundlos didn't have to go far to remain undetected. According to the investigators' reconstruction of their lives underground, they lived in at least seven different apartments in the cities of Chemnitz and Zwickau in eastern Germany. And the longer they lived underground under assumed names, the safer they felt. For instance, they went on vacation more frequently than was previously thought. They went to the Baltic Sea island of Usedom in 2000, and to the northern German cities of Flensburg and Lübeck in 2002 and 2004, respectively.

Just 100 Kilometers Away

Their disappearance in January 1998 took them from Jena to Chemnitz, 100 kilometers (60 miles) to the east, where they stayed with a friend for the first few weeks. After that, an acquaintance from the local neo-Nazi scene offered them the apartment of her boyfriend, Max B., a tall, broad-shouldered man with the powerful hands of a stonemason. He had become part of the Chemnitz skinhead scene with the help of classmates in the vocational school he attended.

His small apartment in an old, three-story building wasn't far from downtown Chemnitz. At first, Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe lived there alone, while Max B. stayed at his girlfriend's apartment. The trio had brought along a computer and a printer, which they set up in the bedroom. When Max B. and his girlfriend broke up a short time later and B. returned to his apartment, he moved into the bedroom, while the trio occupied the living room.

Max B. didn't feel entirely at ease with his guests. They told him about a fake bomb that they had supposedly deposited in Jena. Once he saw the butt of a pistol sticking out of a bag. He would have preferred to get rid of the three as quickly as possible, he later told police, but they didn't want to leave.

Instead, B. accepted the situation. He and Mundlos used to play "Panzer General" ("Tank General") on Mundlos's computer, a strategy game that simulates World War II battles. In his later interrogation, he referred to Mundlos as "Uwe the intellectual." He described Böhnhardt, on the other hand, as "authoritarian" and said that Böhnhardt would dominate Mundlos in conversations.

It was a tense time. Once, when a police officer turned up in front of the building, Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt jumped behind the door. Mundlos told Max B. in a whisper that he should watch the policeman to see if he went away, "otherwise we'll go up on the roof."

Habitual Liars

People on the run are habitual liars. They live in a state of panic, constantly fearing that the truth about them could be discovered at any moment. Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt had been wanted by the police since January 1998, and they had almost no money. Because of their circumstances, they hit upon an idea that would have serious consequences for Max B. He and Mundlos were roughly the same height, had about the same build and even similar faces.

Mundlos had passport photos taken of himself and went to a registration office with B.'s identity card and birth certificate. On Sept. 7, 1998, the Chemnitz city government issued a passport that contained the personal data for Max B. and a photo of Mundlos. According to the passport, its holder was 1.82 meters (6 feet) tall and had brown eyes. There was now a second "Max B.," in the shape of Mundlos.

Duplicating someone's identity is a clever method for someone who wants to disappear but doesn't want to assume the risks associated with a completely forged passport. It's also cheaper. And all the person with the duplicate identity has to do is to ensure that the "original" doesn't do anything stupid.

During this period, Mundlos was spending a lot of time in front of the computer in the bedroom, writing articles for skinhead magazines and designing layouts -- his intellectual contribution to furthering the neo-Nazi cause. But whenever he flipped through right-wing extremist fanzines, he only saw reviews of concerts and references to drinking, rather than the militant propaganda he would have preferred. He was irritated by the apathy he saw.

Running Out of Cash

In October 1998, an article titled "Thoughts on the Movement" appeared on page 26 of White Supremacy, a German skinhead magazine. The author was anonymous, but it was probably written by Mundlos. It was the first piece he had written from the underground, a lament on the lack of discipline among fellow extremists. In it, he chastised them for making "pleasure" the focus of their lives rather than the "struggle." He also criticized neo-Nazis for the hypocrisy of pushing anti-drug messages while at the same time indulging in heavy drinking, writing that they "wouldn't survive a single day without alcohol." Mundlos used the word "Kampf" ("struggle" or "fight") eight times. "Those who are not willing to actively participate in the struggle," he wrote, are merely supporting everything "that is directed against our people, our country and our movement."

Mundlos didn't see himself as an ordinary neo-Nazi, but rather someone who had a goal and was determined to fight for it. Together with Böhnhardt and Zschäpe, he developed a board game they called "Pogromly," a Nazi version of Monopoly that they hoped to sell to fellow radical right-wingers.

The trio was low on funds. They accepted donations at right-wing concerts, which were sometimes even organized as benefits for the three fugitives. In January 1999, Ralf Wohlleben, then an official with the far right National Democratic of Germany (NPD), told an associate that something had to "happen as soon as possible," because the trio urgently needed money.

At the same time, they were also becoming more demanding. According to investigators, they asked their associates for documents, money, weapons and, in 2000, even motorcycles. But it was more than their helpers could provide. Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe gradually came to the realization that if they wanted to live underground, they would have to take matters into their own hands.

Leading a Quiet Life

They moved out of Max B.'s apartment and, between September 1998 and April 1999, lived in an apartment in Chemnitz, using an assumed name for the lease. After that, they moved to the southwestern outskirts of the city, to a development of communist-era prefabricated apartment blocks that had been built shortly before the Berlin Wall came down. It was a quiet neighborhood where new arrivals could remain relatively anonymous and inconspicuous. They found an apartment on the second floor of a six-story apartment building near a small patch of woods.

The lease for the two-room apartment at Wolgograder Allee 76 took effect on April 16, 1999, and it was made out in the name of André E. The monthly rent for the apartment -- which was just 39 square meters (420 square feet) in size, plus a small balcony -- amounted to 416.40 deutsche marks (€212.90).

That autumn, Mundlos and Böhnhardt took a radical approach to solving their money problems, robbing two post offices in Chemnitz. They came away with 69,000 deutsche marks.

It wasn't long before the police showed up at their door, but not because of the robberies. Neighbors had complained about the loud noise coming from the apartment, telling police that they had heard people bellowing Nazi songs. One neighbor complained about cigarette butts that had been thrown onto her balcony, burning holes into the plastic outdoor carpet. It remains unclear whether the noise was actually coming from the apartment where the trio lived.

Apparently Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe felt relatively safe during this time, and their sense of security prompted them to discuss expanding their activities beyond bank robberies. Holger G., who is currently in pretrial detention on charges of providing support to the trio, told investigators that around the year 2000 there were several heated debates involving him, Wohlleben and the three fugitives, and that they discussed the possibility of arming themselves "to do more." According to G., the debates led to a split, with Wohlleben and G. favoring caution. Böhnhardt, Mundlos and Zschäpe, however, opted for a more radical approach.

The Killing Spree Begins

On Sept. 9, 2000, a 38-year-old Turkish flower vendor was killed in Nuremberg with eight bullets from two different weapons. It was the first murder in a series that would baffle the police and the public for years to come.

Böhnhardt and Mundlos documented the pathological sense of pride they derived from their actions, and from the fact that they weren't caught. On March 9, 2001, at approximately 11 p.m., they saved the first version of a video attributed to a group calling itself the "National Socialist Underground" (NSU) onto their computer. The film lasted two minutes and 16 seconds. It related to the Nuremberg murder and to the bombing of an Iranian grocery store in Cologne. The NSU logo, with the three interconnected letters, appeared for the first time in the video. It also featured the song "Kraft für Deutschland," or "Strength for Germany," by the neo-Nazi band Noie Werte, who declare war on the "bourgeoisie and capital" and yell: "We will always hate those who call themselves our enemies, and we will fight them until they leave our country."

Mundlos and Böhnhardt went to great lengths to prepare for their subsequent attacks. They reconnoitered their victims' surroundings, drew sketches and photocopied city maps. They entered their information and observations into tables. In one case, they described the surroundings of a snack bar in Nuremberg as follows: "Problem: gas station next door. Turk at gas station comes over to talk whenever he can." They compiled lists of police radio frequencies and addresses. The investigators later found databases containing up to 5,300 addresses on a USB stick, including the addresses of politicians, Jewish and Turkish cultural facilities, hostels for asylum seekers and military sites.

Between September 2000 and August 2001, the neo-Nazi terrorist cell murdered four immigrants, and the trio produced a second video in the fall of 2001. The song "Am Puls der Zeit" ("On the Pulse of the Times") by Noie Werte, which was used in the video, contains the words: "The resistance is ready." The video related to four murders and an attack. It was more than five minutes long, twice as long as the first video, and it included photos of three victims as they lay dying.

By now Böhnhardt also had a new passport, another duplicated identity. He and Mundlos had convinced Holger G. to grow a moustache, put on glasses and take photos of himself to the passport office.

Good Connections

The trio used the money from the bank robberies to move from the small flat in Chemnitz to a four-room apartment on Heisenbergstrasse in Zwickau. After a few months, they moved again to a 77-square-meter, ground-floor apartment at Polenzstrasse 2, also in Zwickau, which came with a cellar and attic space. The four-story building dated from the late 19th century, and the entrance to the flat was in the rear.

Through their friend André E., the three met Matthias D., a truck driver, and used his name for the lease. D. was already looking for a room in Zwickau where he could rest after working the night shift. From then on, he contributed €50 to €70 ($65 to $91) a month to the rent, with the trio paying the rest, according to what D. later told investigators. He claimed that he was completely unaware of the true identities of the three people with whom he occasionally shared the apartment.

Mundlos obtained a membership at a video and computer-game rental store. He came to the store "once in a while," says the owner, adding: "I believe he called himself Andreas." Zschäpe, using the name "Lisa Mohl," also became a member, and sold the store a copy of the video game "Alfred Hitchcock - The Final Cut" for €5.

The trio made an important connection at the video store: Hermann S., an employee, who helped the terrorists buy additional weapons, or at least that was what they told their confidants. Sources talk of a pump-action shotgun, and say that Mundlos and Böhnhardt were very excited about the weapon. Mundlos apparently bragged that he now knew where to get hold of weapons. Today, the men from the video store deny any involvement.

Böhnhardt and Mundlos also discovered other sources for weapons. On one occasion, Holger G. took a train to Zwickau with a cloth bag in his luggage, as G. would later tell investigators. According to G., he was acting as a courier on Wohlleben's instructions. Zschäpe picked up G. at the train station in Zwickau, and they walked to the apartment on Polenzstrasse together. Once they were inside, Böhnhardt and Mundlos opened the bag and pulled out a weapon, and one of the two proceeded to load it.

G. says today that he never wanted to have anything to do with weapons. He is currently in pretrial detention, and his case, together with 10 others, is being kept separate from the investigations against Zschäpe and André E. The federal prosecutor's office wants to be able to file separate charges against the 13 defendants.

Ideological Message

In 2002, the trio, in their hiding place on Polenzstrasse, continued to work on the theoretical justification of their acts of violence and what they considered to be their own importance. In March, they saved a document with the file name "NSU Brief.cdr" ("NSU letter"). It's the only known document to date in which the neo-Nazi terrorists attempted to create something resembling an ideological message. "The National Socialist Underground embodies the new political strength in the struggle for the freedom of the German nation," the document reads.

According to the document, the NSU's goal is to "energetically fight the enemies of the German people" and to support its comrades in the far-right scene. It notes that there is no turning back for those who live by the motto "victory or death," and that "enough words have been spoken; now they can only be reinforced with actions." But like the two videos produced until then, this document was apparently never published. Instead, the NSU remained a terrorist cell that never claimed responsibility for its actions. It was a strange form of terror -- the silent cell.

Böhnhardt and Mundlos committed robberies, murdered and built bombs without anyone ever suspecting that they were behind the crimes. They were outlaws, and yet no one had any reason to track them down.

In 2005, Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt went to see Holger G., who had lent his identity to Böhnhardt, at his apartment in the northern city of Hanover. G. would later tell investigators that he had told the trio that he was no longer involved in the neo-Nazi community. "They didn't make me feel as if I were a traitor," G. told the authorities. In retrospect, he added, it had seemed to him as if they had wanted to make sure that there were no problems with the identity Böhnhardt had borrowed. On another occasion, they asked him if he could give them his driver's license.

Mundlos and Böhnhardt also paid a visit to Max B., whose identity Mundlos had copied. They asked him whether he needed money, of which they had enough by then. They sat outside with B. for two or three hours and then left.

Living an Inconspicuous Life

Aside from the murders and bank robberies, the trio lived an inconspicuous life. When there was a leak in the ceiling of the Polenzstrasse apartment in the summer of 2006, because of a problem with the bathtub in the apartment above, they bought metal bathroom furniture. A neighbor remembers that Zschäpe's rent was reduced because of the problem.

Zschäpe, who went by the name of "Lisa," was a reliable tenant who cleaned the stairwell when it was her turn. She advertised a reward when her cat disappeared. Böhnhardt and Mundlos spent several hours a day playing violent computer games. The volume was turned up so high that a neighbor in the apartment above them constantly heard what she called "banging" noises, as she would later tell investigators. Instead of turning down the volume, they spent €2,000 on sound insulation. "We didn't hear anything after that," says the neighbor.

But she also became an involuntary witness to a conversation between Böhnhardt and Mundlos as they were taking their bicycles down to the basement. The two men were discussing weapons they wanted to use "to shoot people." This prompted the neighbor to ask Zschäpe whether the men actually kept weapons in the apartment. Zschäpe said that they did, but that they had permits and were members of a gun club.

In the summer of 2006, Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt drove a Skoda station wagon, with two bicycles on the roof, to Grömitz, a beach town on the Baltic Sea. They stored the photos from their vacation on their computer in a file called "Vacation 2006." In one snapshot, Zschäpe is putting a shoe on as she sits on the passenger seat. In another, the three vacationers are strolling through the pedestrian zone in Grömitz, wearing T-shirts and three-quarter pants.

Testimony under a False Name

There was another leak in the ceiling that winter, but this time the circumstances posed a threat to their own safety. It turned out that the apartment above them had been burglarized, and that the intruders had opened faucets to obscure their tracks. The Zwickau police suspected that a young neighbor was involved in the break-in. The case was assigned to an officer in the city's youth crime division.

What Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt couldn't have known was that while the water leakage episode was unfolding, agents with the Saxony State Office for the Protection of the Constitution (the state-level branch of Germany's domestic intelligence service), had André E., a neo-Nazi, under surveillance only 4 kilometers away. The authorities believed that E. and his twin brother Maik held "prominent positions" within the right-wing extremist community.

The authorities had become aware of the men when they were members of a group called the "White Brotherhood of the Erzgebirge" (Ore Mountains). They feared that André E. was planning to establish a new Kameradschaft, a small militant neo-Nazi group. He had a tattoo on his stomach of two World War II German army pistols on both sides of a cracked skull, accompanied by the words, in English: "Die Jew Die." The state intelligence agents did not investigate potential connections between André E. and the trio.

Close to Blowing Her Cover

In early January 2007, an officer with the youth crime division showed up at Polenzstrasse 2 to interview Zschäpe as a witness. She told the police that her name was Susann E., and that she was the wife of André E. She also said that she didn't want to make a statement, and that she hadn't turned up at an earlier questioning session. Instead, she went to police headquarters with André E. on Jan. 11, at 6:30 a.m. There are many indications that the man was the real André E.

Zschäpe, aka Susann E., told the officer who was questioning her that the apartment wasn't hers, but that the lease was in the name of a friend who worked as a long-distance truck driver. She said that she and her husband took care of his cats. Nevertheless, Zschäpe referred to the apartment as "home" and said that "we" had bought bathroom furniture. But the agents didn't notice the contradictions, and the examination ended at 7:15 a.m. Zschäpe left the office with her supposed husband, the same man the authorities had had under surveillance only recently.

Zschäpe couldn't have known that André E. was being watched, but she must have realized that testifying under a false name is risky. She hardly resembles the real Susann E., and investigators later discovered that her signature on the witness report was not the same as that of the real Susann E.

Although Zschäpe had only barely escaped blowing her cover, Mundlos and Böhnhardt robbed a savings bank in Stralsund on the Baltic Sea for the second time a week later. They came away with close to €200,000, which would have been enough to allow them to do nothing for a while -- but things would not turn out the way they had expected. On April 25, 2007, Michèle Kiesewetter, a police officer in the southwestern city of Heilbronn, was murdered with a shot to the head, and her partner was severely wounded.

The Murders Stop

Böhnhardt and Mundlos took the two officers' service weapons and three magazines and, driving a rented camper, managed to slip through the police cordon. At about 2:30 p.m., 30 minutes after the murder, a police patrol wrote down the license plate number of the camper at a checkpoint. But no one followed up on the information.

Something odd happened after the murder of the police officer. The cell suspended its activities and the series of brutal killings stopped. Four-and-a-half years passed until the next bank robbery was committed. What happened during the course of 2007?

Did the members of the NSU have a falling out? Did Zschäpe reproach the two men for having shot and killed a policewoman, someone who not only looked like Zschäpe, but whose social background was also similar? Or were they merely keeping a low profile because of the increased pressure being applied by the authorities?

The only person who could provide an answer to these questions, Beate Zschäpe, is in a prison cell in Cologne -- and is saying nothing.

Vacations on Fehmarn

The authorities now know that Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe spent a vacation on the Baltic Sea in the summer of 2007. The campsite on the island of Fehmarn, where they would spend their vacations for the next few years, is on a bay in the southeastern part of the island. The area features a diving school, a golf course, a surfing school, a children's theater, a cosmetics shop, pizza and T-shirt workshops and a beachfront dance club. In the summer, the population expands to the size of a village. The guests from Zwickau rented a Hobby camper, white on the outside and furnished with brown cabinets on the inside, complete with TV, stove and coffeemaker.

The camper was only a few steps from the beach. They could hear the waves from their beds.

But Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe remained cautious at the campsite, combining lies with half-truths when the neighbors asked them what they did for a living and where they were from. Mundlos said that he worked in a computer shop, and that his father was a professor. Böhnhardt said that he delivered packages for his father's company, and that he only had vacation once a year, which was why they would always travel for several weeks at a time. Böhnhardt seemed introverted, almost secretive. Zschäpe also said little about herself.

She managed the vacation funds, and her wallet was always full. She always paid in cash. Sometimes she played with the children running around the campsite, telling them about Heidi and Lilly, her cats, one with black-and-white spots and the other with gray stripes. She said that a friend was taking care of her cats while she was away.

Always in a Good Mood

Of the three, Mundlos, who went by the name of Max, seemed to be the most likeable, according to the people they met at the campsite. They describe him as approachable and extremely athletic, with a washboard stomach, someone who liked to surf, jog and go on bike rides. Mundlos knew his way around computers and was quick to help neighbors when they had problems with their email accounts. According to one of the campsite neighbors, he seemed childish, intelligent and was always in a good mood.

Their new acquaintances at the beach thought the trio seemed cheerful, although they did notice a few peculiarities. For example, Böhnhardt had brought along night-vision goggles, and he also had a tattoo of a skull wearing a steel helmet. And although the three would invite the neighbors to their tent for afternoon board-game sessions, they forbade the children from going inside the camper.

Back in Zwickau, the three neo-Nazis decided to move to an even bigger apartment, although investigators now assume that they probably didn't live together for the entire time. One of the three, probably Mundlos, may have lived alone for a while. The investigators believe that Zschäpe had alternating romantic relationships with the two Uwes.

The trio found an apartment on Frühlingsstrasse, in a quieter section of Zwickau with many single-family homes. There were two empty apartments on the second floor of the building at Frühlingsstrasse 26.

The trio rented both apartments, with a combined floor space of 120 square meters. Once again, Matthias D. signed the lease as the main tenant. Mundlos and Böhnhardt, who was complaining about back pain, had a wall removed, installed soundproofing, replaced the entry door and had a steel door installed in the basement. After moving into the apartments in the spring of 2008, they gradually expanded the space into a fortress-like environment. They installed motion detectors in front of the entry door and the basement door. They placed a surveillance camera aimed at the front door of the building in a flower pot in front of their kitchen window, and installed two other cameras in the apartment, with which they could record images.

Complaints to the Landlord

The apartment now had an "official" section, where they met with guests, and a "secret" section, the entrance to which was hidden behind a wardrobe. The secret section contained, among other things, an exercise room with a bench and a chin-up bar, as well as a computer workstation. A weapon was kept in a hall closet. The police would later find tools in the basement that could be used to repair weapons, food supplies, expensive Cannondale bikes, ammunition and large amounts of gunpowder. They also found an elongated, homemade wooden box with soundproofing and a space to accommodate a long gun with a shortened stock -- presumably for their 9-mm Rhöner single-shot rifle. An opening in the box made it possible for the marksman to fire the gun even while it was enclosed in the case.

Zschäpe introduced herself to the neighbors on Frühlingsstrasse using another assumed name, and told them that she was living with her boyfriend and his brother. But the three terrorists were never truly content in the apartment. Böhnhardt was constantly complaining to the landlord, on the phone and in writing. He complained about the odors coming from the Greek restaurant on the ground floor, cracks in the grout between tiles and the fact that the water didn't get hot enough. A pipe burst in the winter, and the apartment became clammy and cold, so much so that they had to use a space heater.

By now, Mundlos had been using Max B.'s identity for more than 10 years, and he maintained the connection to the real Max B. On one occasion, he and Böhnhardt visited B. and congratulated him on his two sons, giving him two piggy banks for the children that each contained €100. Another time, they sent the children a stuffed crocodile from a fake address on "Panzergeneral Strasse" in Chemnitz -- an allusion to the computer game they used to play with Max. B.

No Going Back

In May 2011, they went to see Holger G. in the town of Lauenau, west of Hanover, and asked him to get them a second passport for Böhnhardt, because the first one was about to expire.

G. hesitated, but Mundlos and Böhnhardt told him that there was no going back, that it was too late to back down. Böhnhardt gave G. a haircut, and G. had photos taken of himself and applied for a passport. Then the trio left again, returning to their parallel world.

A neighbor would later tell the police that Zschäpe was often alone in the apartment on Frühlingsstrasse. Zschäpe had told her that the two men were involved in transporting cars. The neighbor also said that Zschäpe received regular visits from a female friend and her two children -- presumably the real Susann E.

Shortly after the 2011 summer vacation on Fehmarn, Böhnhardt and Mundlos robbed a savings bank in Arnstadt, not far from Jena. They stole €15,000, which apparently wasn't enough. On Nov. 4, they robbed another savings bank, this time in Eisenach.

It would be their last robbery. The police discovered the camper during the ensuing manhunt. When they went inside, Mundlos had already shot Böhnhardt and himself.

REPORTED BY THOMAS HEISE, MAXIMILIAN POPP, SVEN RÖBEL, CHRISTOPH SCHEUERMANN AND HOLGER STARK

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan