Wednesday, May 08, 2013

"Nazi Bride" on Trial in Munich

Beate Zschaepe, 38, is standing on trial in Munich for her alleged role in the murders of nine immigrants and a German policewoman between 2000 - 2007. She is also accused of two bombings and fifteen bank robberies.

The case has spawned some unsavoury nicknames in the German press - "die Nazi Braut" (the Nazi Bride) for the accused, "die Döner Mörder" (the Kebab Killings) for her alleged crimes.

The expression "Nazi bride" was coined because Zschaepe was the only female in the National Socialist Underground cell accused of the killings. Her two closest male accomplices committed suicide in November 2011, having been arrested for a failed bank robbery. After searching their burned-out truck, the police found a Ceska Browning handgun which had been used in all the killings, as well as a video showing the victims' bodies as a Pink Panther figure totted up the numbers.

This uncovered the trail to the murders and to Ms Zchaepe, who tried to burn down the apartment in the block where they had all lived (she is also being charged for attempted murder for that).

The expression "Die Döner Mörder" was coined because seven of the victims were Turkish, and one Greek, and some of them ran Kebab takeaway shops in their adopted country. This coinage has led to anti-racist protests.

More controversy arose when the initial assignment of press seats to the trial didn't allocate a single place to Turkish media. This has since been corrected, but coverage in Turkey, where Chancellor Merkel has already been the butt of Nazi-linked smears, remains highly sensitive to any anti-Turkish aspects of the case.

The big questions are:

 - whether this trial will bring justice to the victims' families


 - whether German justice can correct the impression that the investigation closed its eyes for far too long to the possibility that neo-Nazis were behind it, a blindness compounded by incompetent co-operation between the different police forces involved.

The trial is expected to take up to two years. Alongside Zschaepe, four other accomplices are facing charges.

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