Theater Group Assault Case German Neo-Nazi Confesses to Brutal Attack
Four German neo-Nazis have gone on trial charged with assault for beating up a group of actors in the eastern town of Halberstadt in June. The case has prompted heavy criticism of the police and has once again highlighted the problem of far-right violence in eastern Germany.
Defendant Christian W., whose face has been blurred in this photo under German privacy laws, confessed to the assault.
"I am regarded as a traitor and have had to go through a lot while I've been in jail," the statement said. "I am very sorry, I deeply regret it. I have done a lot of thinking in prison. I want to leave the far-right scene." The three other accused men gave him contemptuous glances as the statement was read out in the court in Magdeburg.
Christian W. has a number of prior convictions for causing bodily harm, robbery and using banned Nazi symbols.
He said he regretted having handed his wife Jessica a note while she visited him in jail in which he instructed her to find 10 or 15 witnesses to claim that the actors had started the fight. Prison officers intercepted the note. Only then did the 22-year-old decide to confess and regret.
The attack on June 9 was widely reported in the German media and, together with an assault in August on eight Indian men in the eastern town of Mügeln, triggered a new debate about far-right violence in the former communist east.
The Halberstadt attack also led to criticism of the police, with victims claiming that officers were slow to respond to the incident. Police failed to arrest one of the attackers even though he returned to the scene while the actors were still being questioned.
The theater group had just finished a performance of the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" in the nearby town of Quedlinburg and one of the actors had a punk hairstyle in keeping with his role. Their apparent "left-wing appearance" appears to have been enough to provoke the neo-Nazis they came across while walking through Halberstadt at around three o'clock in the morning.
Eight men -- most of them in black clothes and with shorn heads -- ambushed them, punching them and kicking them on the ground. They kept on kicking the victims even while they were lying on the ground, bleeding and sobbing. "They kicked their heads as if they were footballs," one witness told SPIEGEL ONLINE.
The state of Saxony-Anhalt, where Halbersstadt is located, has the highest number of far-right assaults in Germany on a per capita basis -- 4.49 per 100,000 inhabitants.
The assault was witnessed by a number of people -- doormen, taxi drivers, passers-by. None of them called the police. The only emergency call on record was made by one of the victims.
With reporting by Julia Jüttner in Magdeburg