Testimony at the NSU trial, 28 November 2017
Honourable Judges and Members of the Court,
Families of the victims of these neo-Nazi attacks.
My name is Muhammet Ayazgün and for more than 20 years Keupstrasse has played a big part in my life. I used to work there, and today I run my own café there. On 9June 2004 I was standing outside a friend’s hair salon when the nail bomb planted by the neo-Nazis went off. I was one of the lucky ones – a nail flew by me, just missing my head, hitting a drainpipe. The force of the explosion threw me to the ground, bursting my eardrum.
But this attack was just the beginning. At the trial, the other plaintiffs and their counsel referred time and again to the suffering and attacks that they – the survivors, the families left behind – had endured.
How can it be that, over so many years, neo-Nazis have got away with murdering or attempting to murder people they refer to as “foreigners”; how can it be that for years, countless officers of the federal intelligence agency have been operating among the neo-Nazis; how can it be that victims are treated by the German police as perpetrators, criminals, discriminated against, their dignity violated. The counsel for the joint plaintiffs, the victims of the NSU attacks, filed many motions throughout this trial – but most were denied. A few of them – my counsel included– submitted requests to present evidence on the obvious racial character of the Keupstrasse nail bomb attack. These, too, were denied. Why are the authorities not accepting responsibility for this? Why does this remain a taboo? This court must rule that these crimes were racially motivated murders. And this ruling must also consider the conduct of the police and intelligence service.
This includes the condemnation, the abuse that we and the victims of the neo-Nazi attacks suffered at the hands of the law enforcement agencies and, as a result, the media. And I am only talking about the people of Keupstrasse here. At the hearing, we all heard what the injured parties in the Keupstrasse attack went through, how the police pressured them, treating them like the guilty party. In the days after the neo-Nazi attack, I heard first-hand from a number of acquaintances how the police had treated them as if they were suspects rather than victims, how they had been pressured, how no one believed them. The day after the attack, I also remember hearing that the Minister of the Interior had denied that this was a terrorist attack. If the Minister of the Interior does not see an attack on us – people regarded as foreigners –, on Keupstrasse, a centre of Turkish and Kurdish business life, as a terrorist attack, instead pointing to – and I quote – a “criminal milieu”, it was pretty clear what would come next. Later I told myself that the reason he had been so quick to assign blame was that he had been trying to protect Germany. Right-wing extremists or a personal vendetta are two entirely different matters. Had I taken to the streets shouting: “He’s a liar,” people would have said: “Never mind him, he’s lost it! He has no clue. His imagination is running riot.” A man in a position like Schily’s should not have been allowed to make such claims.
The pressure the police put on the people of Keupstrasse went on for years – and as we now know, the police actually sent many an undercover informant to ferret out information to confirm their theories. I have never been interviewed by the police as one of the injured parties. And till this day I still do not understand why – although I didn’t go to the police either, quite simply because I was afraid of them, afraid that they would treat me like a criminal. The mood amongst us, the people of Keupstrasse, was such that despite the injury I had sustained – the burst eardrum – I did not dare go to a doctor for fear that he would report me to the police. It was not until 4 November 2011 that I realised that the police no longer considered us – me – terrorists, and then I went to see an ENT doctor. But it was too late of course. I am telling you this to help you understand what we, the victims, endured after the terrorist attack on us.
I was told what the public prosecution’s case was built upon. They described attacks on the state, claimed the NSU was fighting against the German nation, it was repeatedly said that public authorities had nothing to do with the NSU. What was not and is still not spoken about is what we, the victims – immigrants, regardless of where we come from – in fact even those of us with German citizenship are clearly still being referred to as foreigners by the public prosecutor’s office – suffered at the hands of the state, at the hands of the police after the neo-Nazi attacks. In fact, the only time we are mentioned is when the public prosecutor’s office is throwing insults at the counsel representing the joint plaintiffs.
Racism is a disease. I’m a Turk of Kurdish origin. I know what it feels like to be treated solely on the basis of your ethnicity. I know what it feels like when Kurds are murdered in Iraq or Syria. People should all be treated equally, as individuals with the same basic rights and freedoms, the right to be treated with respect and dignity.
The severity of the sentence that is handed down to Zschäpe and her co-conspirators is not what matters here. What matters is that we look to the truth behind the NSU. Criminal deterrence is not enough. We need to probe deeper and uncover the truth if we are to prevent attacks of this nature from happening again. I believe that those of us present here today hold the cure to this disease. It is down to us to treat this disease to prevent it from spreading further.
I do not feel like a foreigner in Germany. I feel like a German from Turkey. I would like to thank the court for its time.
Justice, Justice, Justice!
Source: Antonia von der Behrens (ed.), Kein Schlussswort. Nazi-Terror. Sicherheitsbehörden. Unterstützernetzwerk, VSA: Verlag, Hamburg 2018
Testimony at the NSU trial, 8 February 2018
I am Yvonne Boulgarides. On 15 June 2005, Theo Boulgarides, my husband and the father of my daughters, Mandy and Michalina, was brutally murdered.
A few years ago, I ended a speech I held in Munich with a quote by Albert Einstein: “The important thing is to never stop questioning.” None of the victims have stopped asking questions. But the “full and complete investigation” that was promised to us in fact left us with many questions unanswered.
Till this day, I still want to know why my family’s reputation was publicly dragged through the mud the way it was. Were we forced into the role of perpetrator to silence us, to stop us asking difficult questions? Or were the authorities really on the wrong track, something I find unfathomable? How was it that during questioning, so many of the witnesses were suddenly struck by epidemic-like memory loss? Why was something not actively done to ensure that the undercover informants and members of the security services were given permission to give full and complete evidence? Why were and are these people, who have quite clearly failed miserably to perform their duties properly, being protected? Why were the victims and their families not afforded this protection? How many people would not have become victims, had the relevant investigating authorities carried out their work with integrity and due diligence? Why were thousands of case documents shredded whilst the investigation was still ongoing? Why have countless undercover informants and alleged NSU supporters not been properly formally interrogated till this day? What about the people whose negligent or wilful actions facilitated these crimes in the first place – what happened to them? Why do they not have to live in fear of the consequences of their actions? Why are people like Lothar Lingen, who deliberately destroyed files, being protected from prosecution?
While the relevant authorities should have been working to establish the truth, they in fact failed miserably, on all accounts. All the attempts at providing clarification and explanations, some of which were ludicrous, left us with even more questions, mistrust and uncertainty.
I am often asked how I feel about this trial. For me, it is like a quick, surface house clean. A deep clean, however, requires you to lift the carpets, under which so much has been swept. I am sure this court has done everything legally possible to uncover the true facts. And when this trial reaches an end, there will still be dirt under the carpet – and this is down to the tradition of a paranoid, inhumane ideology which has persisted throughout history. An ideology that has led to nothing but death and suffering in this country. And by preventing a thorough investigation, those in charge of the investigation have failed to seize the opportunity to break with tradition.
At this point, it is important to me to mention an extraordinary man who, in the past few years, has become not only a good friend, but part of our family. In what for us was a remarkably selfless manner, he never gave up researching and probing, answering the many questions we, his family and client, had, and helping us in both in words and deeds.It is his tireless investigative work that has been instrumental in clarifying many of the inconsistencies.
When I first met our lawyer, Mr Narin, in spring 2011, he told me right away about the obvious connection between what were dubbed the “Döner” (“Kebab”) murders and the nail bomb attack in Cologne. At the time, I could not understand why numerous special commissions, with all the resources they had at their disposal, failed to see this connection.
Everything else he uncovered during his investigations made so much sense to me that I hired him as my lawyer. Looking back, it is no surprise that, immediately after engaging Mr Narin, I received a visit from an investigator from “Soko Theo”, the special commission investigating my husband Theo’s murder. The investigator claimed Mr. Narin was a shady character and advised me to unhire him. This visit had the opposite effect on me.
Over time, everything our lawyer uncovered in his investigations turned out to be true helped get to the truth, not only for us.
Over the years, a number of investigations were started against Yavuz Narin, including for disclosing confidential information. Here, all I can say is that secrets that serve to cover up crimes and appalling misconduct are not worth protecting!
At this point, I would like to remember Angelika Lex, who sadly passed away after a serious illness and was regrettably only able to be with us for part of this journey. To you, Angelika, and your family, we owe a debt of gratitude for everything you did for us.
Finally, I would like to say a few words about one of the accused. We are very aware that the following some of you will not want to hear what we are about to say. But we have chosen to say them anyway. The lawyers working on the case arranged for us to speak to Carsten Schultze in person. This meeting was at once one of the most difficult and one of the most emotional moments in both our lives. When speaking to Mr. Schultze, we saw the human being in him, the person who deeply regretted his involvement and whose conscience was making him pay a higher price than any punishment he would receive. We saw a person who recognises right from wrong, someone who is capable of feeling remorse. Traits that, after all this time, we never saw in the any of the other accused, no matter how hard we looked.
It is our hope that this sentence gives him the opportunity to turn his life around and do something positive.
I am sure my husband would have loved to see his little girls grow up, to become women. I know how much he would have wanted to walk his daughters down the aisle and how proud he would have felt seeing his granddaughter for the first time. I know, too, how many of the other plaintiffs lost their loved ones or had to endure suffering of some other kind. But I also know that we cannot turn back time. What we can do, however, is never stop asking questions.
When this trial is over, we must not stop searching for answers. Perhaps we will never uncover the whole truth but we will continue to gather and put together the many pieces of this puzzle – until we can see the truth in front of us. Then everyone else will have no choice but to face that truth, too. I am often asked how I feel about this trial. For me, it is like a quick, surface house clean. A deep clean, however, requires you to lift the carpets and finally uncover everything that has been swept underneath.
If truth be told, I do not want to keep talking about what happened back then. It hurts too much. For years I tried to come to terms with what happened, to find some kind of closure emotionally. I do not wish to bring all this to the surface again. This is why I do not wish for my full name to be disclosed here. I do not want to be asked about this horrific act. I would like to finally be able to imagine a future, and if I have to re-visit the past every day, I can see no future. What happened to my husband and my family was horrific, inhumane. I lost everything. My husband Habil, my daughter’s father, our breadwinner, my health. But perhaps worst of all, I lost all sense of what I am supposed to do. I no longer know where I belong.
I was born in Ankara. At the age of ten, I came to Germany with my mother, who studied here and went on to work as a chemical engineer at Siemens. I remember feeling as if I had landed on another planet. I have since spent 40 years of my life in Munich. I went to school here and completed an apprenticeship in retail sales. For years, I have worked in a well-known shop for traditional Bavarian attire. I was promoted to manager of my store. This was really something. I was probably the only Turk in Germany selling dirndl dresses and lederhosen.
I like the Bavarians. They may come across as a little tough, but they are also cheery, warm-hearted people. If you were to ask me today what I am, I would say I’m a mixture of Turk, German and Bavarian. I have been a German citizen since 1999. But after everything that has happened I sometimes ask myself what I’m doing in this country. What am I doing in Germany after such terrible things were done to my husband Habil and my family?
I met Habil while on holiday in Turkey. He was charming, good-looking, I liked his friendly manner and how he was towards me. For a long time, all we did was write letters to one another, and even after we were married, we had to wait quite a while before he could come to Germany. I felt at home in Munich, but I don’t think my husband ever truly felt settled here. In Turkey he has his own business – here, he could not even speak the language.
He worked at the wholesale market, although he was capable of so much more. But at least there he had his friends to talk to and have a coffee with in the afternoon. But he often said to me: “We have to go back to Turkey. I am nothing here. Something’s missing. I don’t have a decent job or prospects here.” But I wanted to stay. I did not want to leave this part of my life behind. But he was not willing to leave without my daughter and I. This cost him his life – in the very fruit and veg shop that I had taken over just a few months before in the hope that it would be the best way to be there for my family. Our flat was right above the shop, which meant I could pick my daughter up from afterschool care in the afternoon and cook for her. And when my husband came home from work in the market, he would help in the shop.
On 29 August 2001, the day his murderers came into the shop and created the bloodbath that left him dead, my daughter and I were in Turkey – enjoying a holiday with his family. He had stayed in Munich because he did not want to leave his boss to cope on his own in the big market hall. We were getting ready for a trip to the beach in Bodrum when my brother received a call and turned to me, saying: “Your husband is very ill.” I immediately rang a friend of mine in Munich. “You need to come back to Germany right away,” she shouted down the phone. But she did not say why.
My mother and a friend met me off the plane in Munich. They said: Try to stay calm. Habil is dead.” “What do you mean, dead? There was nothing wrong with him!” And then they told me that he had been shot. I had to go straight from the airport to the police station for questioning. I was offered a coffee and then the questioning began. But there was nothing I could tell them! I had been in Turkey with my daughter.
In the days that followed, the police turned our home upside down. Dishes were broken, the walls were covered with powder to check for fingerprints. Everything was a mess. My mother and I were questioned over and over. My fingerprints were taken and a sign with a number on it was put around my neck and a photo was taken. It reminded me of the images of the Jews in Nazi Germany. They treated me like a murderer. Clearly someone believed that my mother and I had hired someone to shoot my husband.
Later, they said they suspected my husband of being involved in drug dealing.
All I had in my head were these huge question marks. Why him? Why us? What did we do wrong? We had no issues with anyone – not with the Germans, not with the Turks. Or the neighbours. I started to think there must have been some kind of trouble with his friends in the market hall. Or perhaps someone wanted our shop. But I couldn’t answer any of my questions. I did not think for a second that it had anything to do with us being foreigners. Never! I had always worked with Germans. Every boss I had ever had had been German. My work colleagues, too. They were always so nice. There had never been any issues. It wasn’t until after my husband’s death that the problems started.
The first few days and weeks were so hard that I can barely find the words to describe them. I had to wash my husband’s blood from the floor of the shop and the walls. The police had the shop sealed off for a long time. But I still had rent to pay. But after everything that had happened, I could not bring myself to carry on with the shop. I couldn’t even stay in the flat above the shop. I was afraid. Afraid that something might happen to me or my daughter. I felt so scared. Then strange things started to happen. My car was vandalised and the tyres slashed. It was all very frightening, but no one had an answer as to why it was happening. I moved to my mother’s place to begin with, then to an entirely different part of town – all I wanted was to be as far away as possible!
At the time, we were completely abandoned. It was our problem and no one came to help us. Quite the opposite in fact. We were victimised. The head of my daughter’s school called one day to say that she would have to look for another school. “Why?” “Well, we assumed your daughter wouldn’t be coming back from Turkey.” They said it was too dangerous for her and for the school, with my husband’s murderer still at large. It was not until the police told the headmistress that this was nonsense that my daughter was allowed to stay at the school.
At first I was not in any state to work, and when I did finally find a job in a fabric shop, I was bullied by my German colleagues so much that I had to leave. Someone had found out that I was the wife of the murdered man, Habil K.. They would leave newspaper articles on the counter for me. In the end they let me go. Financially, this really finished me. We had put all our savings into my shop. I was even forced to sell the land I owned in Turkey. I ended up on basic unemployment benefit.
After Habil was killed, friends and neighbours distanced themselves from us, because they thought: Something is not right here. If the police thinks it was a family member, there must be something to it. Now that the truth has come out, they are all coming back again. I do not know where I found the strength to get through this. My mother was a huge help, as was my husband’s family. But more than anything, it was God that gave me the strength to continue. I prayed and prayed and prayed.
When everything finally came out in autumn 2011, it was such a huge relief. Thank God. Now we know who our friends and our enemies are. But after all the speculations I am still not entirely convinced. Is this the whole truth? Who is really behind this? I also have my doubts that everything will come to light during the trial in Munich. When I see the accused sitting there laughing and making jokes, I think of the past few years and how I was unable to laugh. And yet I do not feel hatred, not even for Zschäpe. I feel sorry for her – she is no more than a puppet on a string. She was still very young when she was dragged into all this. I believe she was used as a pawn. There are others behind the scenes – but I’ve no idea who they are. So many questions remain unanswered and all I want is to find out the truth.
For me, the most important thing about the trial is that it is being held in the first place. I want people to know how vicious these right-wing extremists are. After everything the Jews suffered in Germany, my hope is that this trial will open people’s eyes to the fact that the threat of right-wing extremism is very much alive. It goes without saying that I want to see these criminals behind bars where they will never be able to commit such terrible acts again.
My future was taken from me. And no amount of sympathy from politicians can change that. I attended the memorial to the victims of the NSU with Chancellor Angela Merkel and she expressed her sympathy in very general terms. But these were just platitudes. Chancellor Merkel did not go through what I have gone through. She has nothing to do with this NSU. She can’t do anything about it. Her words will not bring back my husband. Nothing can bring him back. And yet the question remains: What about us, the victims? If we had had the support we needed back then, it would have made life easier for us. If we had been helped to find a decent job, for example, the damage would not have been so great. Today, I ask myself how everything we have lost can be replaced. What can you give us to help us build a future – regardless of whether that is here or in Turkey?
I personally see no future for myself. But I want a better future for my daughter. She was only ten years old when her father was murdered. This has all been very hard on her. I want to see her happy. I want her to find a good job and marry a decent man. Seeing her happy is what matters most to me.
But every now and then I think: You are 51, you can start over. I start thinking about opening a shop in Turkey, because after everything that has happened, I am not sure whether I want to stay in Germany. On the other hand, I can’t simply up sticks and leave. I’m not on my own. My daughter has to finish school in Munich. And it is not like there aren’t problems in Turkey. I also feel as though I have finished business here.
Sometimes I dream about opening a coffee shop. I love being around people. So, yes, a coffee shop would be really nice. But then again, what is to stop armed men from entering my shop again someday? The thought of this fills me with so much dread and I feel so drained again, so tired.
Source: Barbara John (ed.), Unsere Wunden kann die Zeit nicht heilen. Was der NSU-Terror für die Opfer und Angehörigen bedeutet, HERDER, 2014
Testimony at the NSU trial, 8 February 2018
We are here together as a family to tell you about Michèle Kiesewetter – she was our daughter, sister, granddaughter and cousin. In 2007, Michèle, a police officer, was shot and killed whilst on duty. Going into the police force was something she had always dreamed of. At the age of 11, Michèle announced that she wanted to be a police officer. Her biggest role model was her uncle. Whenever he talked about his job as a police officer, she would hang on his every word. She wanted to be active just like him and experience all the things he did. This might have had something to do with her constant need to be on the move. Michèle was always on the go, never sat still – always full of energy. With Michèle, a stroll or a relaxed walk was virtually out of the question. She was always jumping or running. She loved biking, inline skating, jogging – any type of sport where speed was involved. Movement, power, action!
Michèle was braver than most of her peers. She was not your typical little girl. A lot of her friends were boys. She wasn’t one to make a fuss or cry, and there were many times she grazed her knees or ended up with cuts on her head. Once, at the age of seven, she jumped off the seven-metre diving board at the local pool in Coburg without a trace of fear. Later, she spent about three years competing in biathlons, which really showed what she was made of.
Michèle did everything in her power to become a police officer. When she finished secondary school in 2001 she was only 16, which was too young to start training for the police force. So she did a year at a vocational school where she specialised in social work. In 2002 she applied to join the police in Baden-Württemberg. She was really nervous about the police medical: “What if they don’t take me?” We told her it wasn’t the only job in the world but she didn’t want to hear that. She went on to pass the qualifying exam in Baden-Württemberg with flying colours. In spring 2003 she was accepted into the Baden-Württemberg state police academy. The job was made for her – from both a physical and a psychological perspective.
In September 2005, when she had completed her training in Biberach, she joined the riot police in Böblingen, where she was part of the BFE 523 special unit (for the seizure of evidence and arrest). During her training she frequently returned to her hometown of Oberweißbach at the weekends or when the job permitted it. Even though she worked a long way from her hometown, she still helped organise the local parish fair.
She often talked about her work. With all the acronyms that were typical in the police force, it was sometimes hard to follow what Michèle was actually doing in her job. Why and how suspects are searched, all the things they have to watch out for. Often when she came home for visits, she would hear acquaintances talk about the “fucking cops”. She would hit back, saying: “Not everyone is a good, law-abiding person. Do you think they should get away with things? Just think how much worse crime and violence would get!” They seldom had much to say after this. Quite the contrary actually. When Michèle spoke about the positive experiences she had on the job, people started to understand why she was so passionate not only about what she did but, more importantly, the values it stood for.
She would rave about how great it was working with her fellow officers in Baden-Württemberg and was hoping to get a transfer to Karlsruhe. In December 2006, she started studying for her university entrance qualification, with a view to going on to study and applying for more senior posts in the police force.
Four months later she was shot from behind and killed. On that day, she was supposed to be showing fellow officer, Martin A., the ropes. Martin, who was with her in the car, was lucky to survive the attack. It was actually Michèle’s day off, but she took the shift in Heilbronn at the last minute.
We often think about how Michèle gave her life for her dream of being a police officer. She was still so young and had so many plans. She wanted to settle down and have three or four children. “I’ll be bringing them to see you in Oberweißbach all the time,” she would say, laughing, “You’ll take them sometimes, won’t you, Gran?” She always wanted to learn to drive a motorbike, and was planning to take skiing lessons in winter 2007. A few months before this, she was murdered.
Michèle’s sudden violent death was unfathomable. It’s impossible to understand the reality of the loss you have suffered. The sadness and pain were overwhelming. The memorial services in Böblingen and Oberweißbach and the funeral were very hard to get through and were a real test of our inner strength. We were aware of all the people grieving with us, all the letters of sympathy from Oberweißbach, but it was as though it was happening to someone else – it was surreal. We did not want to accept the reality of it. Many friends and acquaintances came to the funeral, including those from the different clubs and associations Michèle belonged to. This was a great comfort to us. But we found it very hard to speak about what had happened and about our loss. This terrible hand that she had been dealt was still so fresh – and that in itself was hard to bear. At work and on the street, people would talk in whispers: “That’s the sister of the …” or “Look, is that not her mum?” Whenever people spoke to us about what happened, we would be very short with them, hoping that would get us out of the difficult situation. Till this day, Michèle’s good and true friends and acquaintances have been a tremendous support and help, especially when it comes to dealing with such painful situations.
Four years later when it came to light the NSU terrorist cell was clearly responsible for Michèle’s murder, too, we went through a terrible time again. Not only did we have to face the facts and the background of the case in the media day in day out; we also has to deal with inept and ill thought-out remarks by some of the investigating authorities. The then head of the Federal Crime Office, Jörg Ziercke, for instance, said that the attack on Michèle and her fellow officer was a “relationship crime” – without actually explaining what the term “relationship crime” meant in the context of the police investigation. By using this term, he was implying that there was personal connection between Michèle‘s death and the meetings of right-wing extremist groups in our neighbouring town, something that was then proven to be false. But it did not stop the media, local and national, from pouncing on this false piece of information. All of a sudden, the entire place was overrun with journalists and camera teams. There was no length these “media observers” would not go to and what they published was so extreme that we could not leave the house for hours on end.
In the public eye, this meant that Oberweißbach and the surrounding area was depicted as a right-wing extremist stronghold, something that was not the case and, for the majority of people here, was very defamatory. There was complete outrage. In the end, the mayor wrote an open letter rebutting these false claims.
If we were to say what is most important to us today, seven years after Michèle’s death, it would be to finally uncover the right-wing extremist underground networks operating back then and are still in existence today. Be it by one of the many investigation committees or through the work being done in parallel by the police forensics teams. It may be too late now to find out everything. So much time has passed, so many documents have since disappeared. Today, anyone can say today: I can’t remember any more.
We still find it impossible to understand how these three individuals – Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe – could remain hidden underground for so long. How is it that on balance the police investigated pretty much none of the relevant facts properly? Why did the authorities involved – the state crime office, federal crime office, the intelligence service, etc. – not collaborate better? Whether we are talking about the red herring in the hunt for the “Phantom of Heilbronn”, Michèle’s alleged killer, or the different police departments’ failure to piece together the many different pieces of the puzzle. Had they collaborated better, the perpetrators could have been found sooner. Till this day, we are still shocked by how biased the investigations were at the time. The authorities could have prevented these murders if their investigations hadn’t focussed solely on organised crime. Sadly, it would appear that all the authorities had blinkers on when it came to right-wing involvement. The tragedy is that so many people had to die for people to finally see the true extent of right-wing violence in Germany.
What continues to plague us is the question “why?” Why did this murder have to happen? Why Michèle? We need to know why Michèle had to die. What reasons did those who killed her have?
When they were ambushed, Michèle and her fellow officer were on their break, sitting in the police car just outside Theresienwiese in Heilbronn, where the town fair was being held. Sellers from many different cultures sell their goods there. Maybe those who carried out the shooting were specifically targeting people from a different cultural background? Does this mean Michèle and Martin were just in the wrong place at the wrong time? All we can do is speculate. Because the person who might know the answer to this, the accused Beate Zschäpe, remains silent. This is extremely hard for us to bear, not least because this would appear to suggest she has something to hide. We truly hope that the court is vigilant and able to see the truth behind every single detail. Although, even with a conviction, I doubt that any sentence would be just punishment.
To remember Michèle and her brutal murder, a commemorative plaque was put up in Heilbronn. On the anniversary of her death, memorial services attended by members of her family are held at this spot. When details about the NSU crimes came to light, this was replaced by a plaque bearing the names of all the NSU victims. Back at the police barracks in Böblingen, where Michèle served as a police officer, her fellow officers planted a tree in her memory. We are very grateful for this spot where we and her fellow officers can go in times of sadness and grief.
There are no words to describe how much we miss Michèle. To try to would cause too much pain. Sadly, time will not heal all wounds. Not a day goes by where we don’t think of Michèle and miss her.
Source: Barbara John (ed.), Unsere Wunden kann die Zeit nicht heilen. Was der NSU-Terror für die Opfer und Angehörigen bedeutet, HERDER, 2014
Statement at the NSU trial, 21 November 2017
My name is Elif Kubaşık. I am Kurdish, Alevi, a local from Dortmund, and a German citizen. In 1991, my husband Mehmet, our daughter Gamze and I came to Germany as refugees and applied for asylum here.
On 4 April 2006, my husband Mehmet was murdered by the terrorist organisation, the NSU.
Mehmet and I fell in love and got married. He was a very loving man, he took great care of his family, he was crazy about his children, he was very close to his daughter Gamze. Everyone liked him, big and small, young and old.
When I think of Mehmet, I think of all the great things about him, what a good person he was, how wonderful he was, as a person, what an amazing father he was.
When Mehmet was buried, my heart was buried with him.
I believe the strength that I have today comes from the relationship I had with him. He put his faith and trust in me, made me feel safe, and I believe this is what has made me strong.
Coming to this trial has never been easy for me. Seeing these people here today is not easy for me. Getting through this is not easy for me. I was sick after every trip here. I can hardly bear the sight of this woman. Her testimony was disgusting, just disgusting. Everything she said is lies. Even the way she apologised, was hurtful. It was as if she was insulting us. My arm went numb from the strain of trying to hold it together. It was as if she was mocking us.
But the day that the police officers from Dortmund testified was even worse for me. Hearing the lines of inquiry they didn’t pursue, the things they didn’t even look at.
I want the accused to be convicted. I want to see them punished.
But uncovering the whole truth is also very important to me.
This trial did not answer my questions. Why Mehmet? Why a murder in Dortmund? Did they have help in Dortmund? Do I walk past these people every day – there are so many Nazis in Dortmund! And – a question that is especially important to me – what did the authorities know? This trial leaves so many of my questions unanswered. Chancellor Merkel did not keep the promise she made in 2012.
I would like to say one more thing:
The people that did this, that committed these crimes, needn’t think because they extinguished nine lives, we will be leaving Germany. I live in this country and I belong in this country. I gave birth to two children in this country, and my grandson Mehmet was born here.
We are a part of this country and we are here to stay.
from: Antonia von der Behrens (ed.), Kein Schlussswort. Nazi-Terror. Sicherheitsbehörden. Unterstützernetzwerk, VSA: Verlag, Hamburg 2018
Statement on 30 April 2020 on the verdict at Munich Higher Regional Court
I travelled to Munich time and again, I gave witness statements, despite how incredibly hard it was for me. But I owed it to Mehmet. I fought for him, for us, for our children.
I had so many questions: How was an armed group able to commit, for years on end, fascist murders and attacks in Germany? Why did no one stop them? How much did the authorities in fact know? Before Mehmet was murdered, they had already killed seven other people.
I kept asking myself how big this group really was. There must have been more than just these three people. Were Nazis from Dortmund part of the group? Maybe these murderers’ helpers took part in one of the many Nazi demonstrations that went past our house? You don’t have to be a senior police officer to be able to see how dangerous they were, to see the hatred inside them.
I came to court to find answers to these questions.
And to see a just sentence handed down.
But then the day came that the court delivered its verdict.
This day is etched in my memory. I have not been able to forget the ruthlessness with which they tried to silence Ismail Yozgat, who had lost his son, as the verdict was being delivered. But it was his pain and suffering talking.
I have never understood why in their eyes we were not even worth mentioning, why all they mentioned was the number of shots that had killed Mehmet. Did they not ask me when I was in the witness box what type of person he had been, what his murder had done to us?
I have never understood why they failed to mention our questions, even in the verdict. Why these questions had no place in their trial and in their verdict?
I could not bear it. I left the courtroom while the verdict was still being read, cold and unfeeling. They probably didn’t even notice.
It took them a long time to send the written judgment to us. The document is very long. But why did they not include the things they asked us about, the things they heard from all the witnesses, from us and everyone else about how these murders have affected us and our families? Why did it not include the information that came to light about the many helpers this group has, or about all those who knew about this group, about how close the authorities had been to them? Why did it not say that the whole truth cannot come out if files are destroyed – if witnesses lie.
The verdict did not bring the justice that I had hoped for for us. It is as if Mehmet was just a number to them, as if our questions had never been asked.
We weren’t expecting the impossible. We just wanted them to take us seriously – us, the ones that sensed before anyone else that it was Nazis that were responsible for the murders. We wanted them to do their job. To investigate what happened, to write down what people said.
Despite everything and despite them, I still haven’t given up hope that I will find answers. There are too many people that till this day have not given up, that are fighting for the truth for us and for all of society, that want to make sure that Mehmet and all the other victims are not forgotten. To them I am grateful.
Testimony at the NSU trial, 22 November 2017
My name is Gamze Kubaşık. As this trial comes to a close, I would like to add something: More than four years ago when this all began, I had hoped that all those involved in my father’s murder would be convicted and be brought to justice. Today, as the trial is nearing an end, I still don’t know who else was involved other than the people standing here accused. Nor do I know why it was my father who was killed and not someone else. To this day I do not know who in Dortmund helped these murderers or who was spying on our kiosk before the murder was committed. To this day, I do not know why these people were not stopped. Their identities and whereabouts where no secret.
Now the trial is almost over, the only thing I can be certain of is that the five individuals standing trial here are guilty.
Holger Gerlach: I believe he knew what Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe had been doing for 13 years. He isn’t some fool who was simply trying to help out some old friends. I believe he knew exactly what they were planning to do, and it was something he wanted, too. I think it’s good that he said anything at all here today. But believing what he said is an entirely different matter. In my opinion, he was just trying to talk his way out of it. But it didn’t work. By helping them, he also bears responsibility for my father’s death. He could have reported the three of them to the police and then none of these people would have had to die. He has to understand that he is also responsible for me losing my father, and my siblings growing up without a father.
André Eminger: There is no doubt in my mind that he was closely involved. He was so close to these three. He knew what they were doing, that they were murdering people. Seeing him sit here today, I am absolutely certain that his Nazi views have not changed one bit. For me, he is the worst of those who helped the NSU. I also believe that he did more than just support them. He was on a par with them.
Carsten Sch.: He is the only one here I personally believe is sorry about what happened. He was also very young at the time. There was not much he could do here today but he did something at least. He helped uncover the truth. And although I do believe he has not told the full and honest truth here about his earlier Nazi views, I am willing to acknowledge his genuine remorse.
Ralf Wohlleben: He is responsible for the NSU coming into possession of a firearm with a silencer – the very weapon used to murder my father. He was one of the first to help these murderers. All these people who were murdered did nothing to him. Nor did my father. He didn’t even know them. This Nazi ideology makes no sense to me. I just don’t get it. Wohlleben is cunning and dangerous. It was him that helped organise everything. From the way he has acted throughout this trial, it is clear that his attitude hasn’t changed at all.
Beate Zschäpe: She is just as guilty as those who pulled the trigger on the gun that killed my father. She was involved in all the planning. To this day I fail to understand why she refuses to take responsibility for her actions. What a coward! It was her that sent that video. There is no doubt in my mind that she knew what was in it and wanted us, the families, to suffer all over again. If this was her intention, why doesn’t she stand up here and admit it? This would be the very least she could do.
I do not believe a single word of the claims her lawyers have made on her behalf. It makes no sense whatsoever and also came across as cold and impersonal. Hearing that Zschäpe set fire to the house in Zwickau where three people almost lost their lives and all she cared about was saving her cat, tells me the kind of person she is.
And if she is ashamed and truly remorseful of her part in the murders, then why won’t she help us? Why won’t she say how it happened? Why won’t she say who else was involved? Why won’t she say why my father had to die? Why won’t she answer all our questions?
Ms. Zschäpe, if you ever do feel sorry for what happened, then speak up and give us some answers! Even when this trial is over, you can still speak up.
There are still so many questions I don’t have answers to. But the prosecution is just as much to blame for this. Chancellor Merkel gave me her word that everything would be done to uncover the full truth about the murders and to ensure that the murderers are brought to justice.
And maybe you did do a lot to ensure that these five individuals are punished. But what about all the others? I do not believe that they will indict anyone else in this matter. For them, it is over.
But for me and my family, this isn’t over. We still have so many questions and these will remain with us for the rest of our lives. At the start of this trial, I was so full of hope that after so much time we would finally have certainty, some form of closure. I no longer hold on to this hope. We will probably never find peace.
You did not keep your word!
Source: Antonia von der Behrens (ed.), Kein Schlussswort. Nazi-Terror. Sicherheitsbehörden. Unterstützernetzwerk, VSA: Verlag, Hamburg 2018
Testimony at the NSU trial, 21 December 2017
When this crime was committed, my father had been in Germany for 29 years. Because of his good grades in school, as a young man he was awarded a scholarship to study in Germany. In 1972, he began his studies at the University of Erlangen. He was a man who spent his entire youth here in Germany and had many German friends, a man who was fully integrated in German culture and felt at home with German people.
This man, my beloved father, was murdered in a first world country – Germany, a modern, technically advanced country with a highly developed economy – in broad daylight, in cold blood, a brutal murder carried out by professionals. Murderers who take out their own inability to get anything positive out of life on innocent people, murderers who are driven by senseless hatred and inferiority complexes. They chose the path of the weak, and ruined their own lives in the process. My father became a victim of hatred and violence, a victim of a trivialisation of right-wing violence.
I feel contempt, rage and disgust towards the perpetrators. This was no less than an execution. They can keep their hypocrisy and their attempt at an apology, each and every one of them. People are not stupid. Families were ruined, emotionally, financially and in terms of their position in society. Many family members are still struggling to this day with the repercussions of these crimes. What is more, this was not just an attack on the victims, but on everything that 98 percent of people in Germany believe in. These were attacks on democratic values in Germany, attacks on human dignity, on peaceful coexistence, attacks on Germany itself.
They wanted to create a rift in society. But they failed miserably. They tried to bully people like me into leaving this country. But they failed here, too. Today, we – Germans and foreigners who have spent their entire lives in Germany – are more sensitised to these issues than ever. This is my homeland. I am a young German woman with foreign roots. I was born in this country. And we have long since stopped feeling like foreigners here. We are the young generation, the society that chose the path of the strong. We strive to do good for others and for this country, instead of allowing ourselves to be driven by hatred and primitive emotions. Let me be clear – now, more than ever we must ensure that we do not turn a blind eye to the truth. The outcome for the individuals on trial and what we take away from this situation – these should send important messages to our society. As a member of one of the victim’s families, I expect – demand in fact – the maximum sentence for all of the perpetrators. I expect the decision the court reaches to show clear commitment to a society where people live peacefully side by side instead of leading parallel existences.
A dark shadow has been cast across Germany. It is down to the relevant authorities and institutions to chase this shadow away and help the families find peace. Sadly, like many of the other victims’ families, I, too, do not believe enough has been done on this front. A thorough investigation into these murders has not taken place, despite the promises made. This was a vital opportunity to eliminate dangerous cell structures in society remedy the negative impression the public was left with. And here I am not only talking about the trial, but also about all the authorities and institutions involved. They all bear responsibility for this – and this is one that is not to be taken lightly nor ignored.
I believe conscience is a good moral compass. We have seen all too clearly what can happen if we fail to face facts or downplay them. Sooner or later the truth will come out, and this will ultimately damage the authorities and institutions and Germany as a country, because the people of Germany will start to lose trust. And without trust you have no stability. Thank you for listening.
Members of the Senate, my name is Abdul Kerim Şimşek. I am Enver Şimşek’s son. I was 13 when my father was killed.ht wurde.
I remember the day vividly – 9 September 2000. I was at boarding school in Saarbrücken at the time. At 6 a.m. on 10 September 2000, my teacher woke me and said I had to take the train to Nuremberg where relatives would pick me up. I had a bad feeling about it so I called home but couldn’t reach anyone. My uncle met me at the station and said that my father was in hospital.
When I arrived at the hospital a lot of my relatives were there, and my mum, who was crying. As I walked towards her, I saw she was beside herself. My sister stood next to her. I knew instinctively that something terrible had happened. I asked after my father right away. No one told me anything other than he was in intensive care. I wasn’t allowed to see him for hours.
When we – my mother, my sister and I – were finally let in to see him, it was harrowing. The first thing I saw was the terrible mess they had made of his left eye. When I got closer I was able to make out three bloodied holes in his face and more in his chest. I counted them without thinking – at the time I counted six holes. I will never forget this.
It was clear my father would never be the same again and would probably not pull through, no matter how hard we hoped and prayed. My mother held his hand, dropped to her knees sobbing, and broke down. The machines my father was connected to suddenly started beeping. The nurses rushed past us and told us to leave the room. That was the last time I saw my father alive. We stayed at the hospital the entire day. My mother was utterly distraught.
The fact that he had survived the attack made us so scared they would return to finish the job. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to protect my father.
At some point the doctor came up to my sister and I and told us his chances of survival were very slim. My father died the next day.
We took my father’s body to Turkey to lay him to rest. It was my duty as the son to carry my father to his grave. Along with other family members, I had to place him in the grave. In our culture, the deceased is wrapped in a white linen cloth. There is no coffin. As we placed my father into the grave, I noticed a red stain on the linen cloth, at the back of his head where the bullet wound was. Up to this point I hadn’t cried. When I scattered earth on him, I broke down. That was the moment I understood I’d never see my father again. Back in Germany, everything had changed. My mother cried constantly and suffered from what we now know was severe depression. She was incapable of looking after me and my sister. My father was a very sociable person and would do a lot with us in his free time. Our social life ended when he died.
When my father died we had very limited financial resources. I tried not to be a burden on my mother. I never showed my feelings and even now I really struggle to say all of this with my mother here today. But at the time, I was still a child myself.
Before the NSU cell was exposed, I had not told anyone that my father had been murdered.
Although I was confident my father was not a criminal, I still tried to keep his murder a secret. It sounds ludicrous but I was relieved when I heard that my father had been killed by Nazis because it proved his innocence. All the secretiveness could finally end.
Ich bin heute selbst Vater einer zweijährigen Tochter. Und heute ist mir klar, dass er nicht nur mir und meiner Schwester, sondern auch meinem Kind weggenommen wurde. Ihr werde ich, wenn die Zeit kommt, erzählen müssen, dass ihr Opa nur aufgrund seiner Herkunft von Nazis umgebracht wurde.
There have been many moments in my life where I really missed my father, where I needed him. Today, my father would be 56 years old. There is still so much we could share, so much we could do together. This was all taken from us.
I, too, have many questions for the accused. Why my father? How messed up must you be to put eight bullets into another human being just because of the colour of his skin or where he came from? What did my father do to you? Do you have any understanding of what it is like for us to think that he was murdered just because he was Turkish? Do you have any idea of what it is like for us to watch the video where you claim responsibility for these acts, and see our father lying on the floor covered in blood, knowing he lay there helpless for hours?
Wenigstens einer der Angeklagten hat hier umfassende Angaben gemacht At least one of the accused has spoken up here today and provided detailed information, and offered what I believe was a sincere apology. Mr Schultze, we accept your apology.
I would like to begin by saying good morning to everyone in this courtroom, everyone except this murderess and all those supporting and defending her, in other words her lawyers.
We knew that, after the bomb went off that day, the reason why both the police and the emergency services took their time coming was that the majority of people in our street are foreigners. On top of that was the Minister of the Interior’s statement that this was not a terrorist attack. This disappointed all of us, all those on our street who were affected by this attack.
After the bomb went off the mayor didn’t show, nor did any high-ranking police officers or anyone from the social services. We were left to our own devices, the street community and the victims. This clearly shows how strongly racism has taken root in this country.
Keupstrasse is a street in Cologne. It is part of Cologne. A street in this country. This means it is the state’s job to look after us. In a country where the state doesn’t seem to care about us, we have little faith in the legal system, in justice, in equality, in democracy.
When we were being questioned, the plain clothes officers deliberately steered things in a different direction and we became the suspects – unbelievable! The harsh expressions on the officers’ faces, their cruel manner is not befitting of police officers in this country. The one officer kept asking the same questions over and over and I told him that I knew who was to blame. He asked me who it was. When I said it was neo-Nazis who had done it, his expression changed and he said to me: “Shush!” His face changed and he put his finger on his lips and told me to be quiet. And I didn’t say another word.
After that, for four and a half, five months I was constantly followed from my shop to my flat.
The psychological pressure this put me under ruined my life. I couldn’t tell my wife. My son was three years old at the time. I wasn’t able to look after him. I wasn’t able to speak to my wife. I walked around the flat like a zombie. I stopped socialising. There were countless nights where I would wake up screaming. While everyone else slept, I would lie in bed unable to fall sleep, despite the late hour. Sometimes I would even go out and roam the streets for half an hour or an hour. I started having panic attacks, and developed a fear of flying. Everywhere I go, everywhere I walk, everywhere I am, I’m always afraid. For until the real killers are caught and handed over to the police, I will continue to live in fear. As long as the state continues to show tolerance towards them, they will continue to do whatever they please unhindered.
For me, anyone involved in their organisation is guilty and should be punished.
Thank you for your attention.
Source: Barbara John (ed.), Unsere Wunden kann die Zeit nicht heilen. Was der NSU-Terror für die Opfer und Angehörigen bedeutet, HERDER, 2014
A star – that’s what I promised my brother Süleyman. A star just like the one he had seen belonging to Sylvester Stallone on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He looked like Stallone and was very proud of that. I remember messing around with him in the living room one day and he said: “If you die before me, your gravestone will say: “He died an honest man and a wise guy.”” And I replied: “If you die first, you’ll get your star.” Süleyman now has his star. Inlayed in the pavement outside our old greengrocer’s shop where he was murdered. Never in my life could I have imagined I would be living up to my promise under such tragic circumstances.
My brother Süleyman was five years older than me, but I was always his “big sister”. He would always call me when he had problems. One great thing I remember about him is that he was always sending me and my sister Aynur huge parcels filled with sweet treats – marshmallow cakes and other goodies. My whole room was filled with them. Our mum would get flowers from him all the time. My mum was everything to him.
Süleyman moved out when he was still quite young. He started living an independent life really early – without us and our family. It wasn’t always plain sailing with him. He could be very stubborn and was very ambitious – he would do anything to reach his goals. When he had his sights set on something, he could be very pig-headed. It was not until his daughter Aylin was born that he came back to us, moving into a place nearby. Aylin was everything to him. He would take her everywhere. Everyone in Altona knew her. She was always in his arms. He took good care of her, running after her all the time. She was his little princess. Having a daughter really changed his life and his attitudes. He wanted to show everyone that he was up to taking on responsibility.
He intended to come into the family grocery business. A few months before he was murdered I had handed the shop over to him on a trial basis and he had huge plans for it. He wanted to expand, open up a wine shop alongside the grocery shop. He made a deal with the wholesalers to get more produce and arranged for us not to have to pay upfront anymore. He rearranged the shelves, restocked everything. He was truly in his element there – so much so that I thought he was getting a bit overconfident. He sent the rest of us away, even our mother, who used to make the sandwiches at the back of the shop. The only person he accepted help from was my father. He was trying to prove that he could go it alone. His murderers destroyed his plans for the future.
After his death, the police started immediately with their allegations – towards my father in particular. Over and over they asked me: “Had they had some kind of falling out?” All I could think was: Why would they go into business together if there was some kind of conflict between them, my father and my brother. Most of their questions were about debt, drugs or the mafia. But they kept repeating the same question: “Had they had some kind of falling out? Is that your code of honour?” Along the lines of: It’s not unusual for Turks to kill each other. It didn’t matter how often I repeated myself: “This is far from normal for us! This is not something we agree with. My parents, my siblings and I – we are far too multi-cultural for that.”
At some point I realised that all the allegations from the police were rubbing off on me. I started having crazy thoughts myself. Secretly I asked myself: “Oh Süleyman, what on earth did you do for this to happen to you?” I even asked my ex-husband: “Was someone after you and mistook my brother for you?” Looking back, that was the worst part of it for me – the fact that I started to believe all these false allegations myself.
The police never followed up on the tips or information we gave. I told the officers multiple times that shortly before Süleyman’s death, two bald men in suits that looked like plain clothes police officers or bodyguards kept driving back and forth past our shop. In a dark vehicle. At the time I had asked my brother: “Have you been up to something? Are these men plain clothes police officers? Why do they keep driving past?” All he said was: “You’re talking crap, Aysen.” Later, all the investigators did was maintain there had been no plain clothes police officers.
Instead of looking into the information I had given them, the police showed me photos of people from Altona that I knew by sight. They were all foreigners. At the same time, they asked me really personal questions that I will never forget: Why did I still go by my ex-husband’s name? I just stared at the officer: “What on earth does that have to do with my brother’s death? Can you spare the thousand euros I need for my divorce in Turkey?” Then they asked why my ex-husband didn’t know about an old bank account of mine. But I had opened that account before we even met. They kept asking about the “really big money”. What “big money”? I asked the officers. The 400 to 500 euros we made in the shop each day was spent on more produce for the shop or food to eat.
But it wasn’t just the police that had their suspicions. Locals did too. People from Altona that used to sit in our shop every day suddenly started saying terrible things to my parents: Your son was a bad seed anyway. Who knows what he got up to? Maybe he was involved with the mafia or in drugs.” Other acquaintances simply stopped coming to us. My parents didn’t fight against it. They just stood there and took it.
It goes without saying that we wondered who the killers could be. But never came up with anyone. I allowed myself to be swayed by the police questioning. My father used to go to a Turkish café a lot, and it was said that he had had had an argument with some Kurds that were selling a Kurdistan Workers Party magazine there. Allegedly my brother had challenged them and warned them off, telling them to leave my father alone. I don’t know what really happened in the café. All the allegations came from the police anyway – and then, in November 2011, everything took an entirely different turn anyway.
Three years ago, when it came to light who was behind my father’s murder, my parents, like most of the victims’ families, said they felt as though a huge weight had been lifted from their shoulders. I, on the other hand, have the feeling that since then my life has been far more restricted. To find out that the people who killed my brother were right-wing extremists, shocked me to the core. Nothing could have prepared me for that. We are fully integrated here! Before 2011, I had no idea that Nazis were so active behind the scenes. To this day this troubles me.
I simply can’t understand that these Nazis are tolerated, that the state turns a blind eye to this. This really scares me. But to reiterate the words of one of the survivors of the Cologne nail bomb attack: “I’m not going anywhere.”
Of course, I knew that racism exists in Germany. But I myself have never felt threatened. It never made me so angry before. Now I consider any comment against “foreigners” a personal attack. Immediately, the NSU video with the images of my dead brother comes into my head. I’m powerless to stop it.
I act differently towards people on the streets now, too. I have an aversion to certain types of people – those whose physical appearance reminds me of the accused in the NSU trial. If I could, I would ignore these people, but that’s not possible. I inadvertently associate the way they look with these Nazis.
What happened to my brother hurts more now than before 2011. Back then we couldn’t explain Süleyman’s death. Now we know who is responsible. And this has triggered a strong sense of panic and fear in us. Who are we to say that this won’t repeat itself? Since then, all of our family calls each other constantly, checking in with each other, making sure we are ok. It’s awful. Before the NSU trio was caught, I could always reply to questions like “Do they know any more about what happened to your brother?” with a “No.” and walk on. Today, questions about my brother just make me even more angry and I reply: “Do you not read the paper?”
In any event I dealt with what happened better back then than I do today. Today, we constantly have to revisit what happened. Wherever you are, people associate you with the whole NSU thing. This really inhibits your life. You are constantly asking yourself how this could happen. Unlike with someone who lost their life through a terrible illness or an accident, I just can’t let go of my brother. And yet I know how important it is for us to make peace with what happened. To achieve this, however, it is crucial that absolutely everyone who was involved in these murders is held to account: not just those standing trial in Munich. Sometimes it feels like this is just a formality, a show for a willing audience. Perhaps this is simply because I am not familiar with court cases like these. But for me, it does not come across as real. My fear is that nothing much will come of this. In any case, not what we might wish for – for everyone, and I mean everyone that has anything to do with this, to be convicted. I have now reached the point where I am certain that it is not only the people in the dock that are responsible.
Nonetheless, it is important that lots of people watch this trial. I myself would like to be there for the whole thing but Munich is too far from Hamburg. It’s a pity the cases are not being tried where the crimes were committed.
Another thing that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth is the fact that we don’t feel we have had proper support from the government. Chancellor Merkel said she would make sure that they got to the bottom of these crimes, that no question would be left unanswered. But she has not kept her word. For all our questions to be answered, we need all the files to be released. But every request our lawyers have filed for this has been denied. The request for an investigation committee to be set up in Hamburg was turned down, too. And yet, I would be very keen to find out what went wrong with the investigations here in Hamburg. In fact, if you ask me, this should be top priority.
If the government really doesn’t come through for us and help us get to the whole truth behind these killings, I will continue to turn down invitations from the German President and other high-ranking politicians. Chancellor Merkel or Mr Gauck can’t help what happened. But as politicians they do have influence and have the power to set things in motion. But when it comes to getting to the bottom of these killings, they have not done enough. And unless this changes, we don’t have anything to discuss and there’s not much they can do for me. I want answers not sympathy.
I want to keep my brother’s memory alive, because I see what happened gradually fading into the background. In 2011, the media jumped at the chance to report on this. But now I’ve noticed that what the NSU actually did is only ever mentioned in passing. If anything, the press are writing about Beate Zschäpe’s hair or her personality. I would like to see the media engage with this issue – with what actually happened.
Instead of asking victims’ families how we’re feeling, journalists should be asking Germans questions such as: Why do you have such a hard time accepting people with a different nationality or skin colour? Why can’t you be tolerant towards foreigners? Why can’t you change your ways and help people integrate here more easily? Because for foreigners to properly integrate, the other side has to let them in. And why is it so hard to say goodbye to the myth of the “foreigner” and venture to engage with immigrants yourself? Why can’t we learn that each and every one of us is an individual in their own right, regardless of their nationality?
All these questions really upset me. Before 2011, before the NSU was uncovered, I hadn’t thought much about German/immigrant relations. I’ve since become more sensitised to this issue, which doesn’t make life any easier. On the one hand, I don’t want the memory of my brother and the other victims to fade. At the same time, I wish the media would accept that we, the victims’ families, don’t want to be confronted with what happened constantly. We are watching very closely what is happening at the trial in Munich and we follow politics, but we do it in our own way. We are not disinterested. But we don’t want our lives to continually be defined by this. Our wish not to speak publicly should be respected. Our parents in particular are constantly being pressured into something or other. I don’t want there to be constant events and phone calls reminding us of what happened. We should be left alone. It’s as simple as that. If we need or want something, we’ll organise it ourselves.
The murder, the impact of it and the media reports destroyed everyone in our family’s health. I just wish that I could have a normal life again. That I can function in daily life again. Function normally again. But more than anything I want to be able to find joy in my life again. At the moment, though, we don’t have any routine. It’s an emotional rollercoaster. We have become more sensitive, more exhausted and constantly feel vulnerable – my parents especially. In 2014, at the official ceremony, where Kohlentwietestrasse in Hamburg was renamed Tasköprüstrasse in memory of my brother, my parents just couldn’t take it anymore. For me, though, it held no real significance. Renaming a 300-metre section of a street as an act of commemoration? What does that say? The entire Schützenstrasse – where the murder happened – that should have been named after my brother. That’s what I would have liked to see. That’s why Süleyman having his star embedded in the pavement there means so much to me – the star I promised him when he was alive.
For me he’ll always be Memo. Memo – that’s what we called my big brother Mehmet. I was 12 years old when he was murdered in Germany. When I think of him, the same memories always come to mind. The first is Memo and I going into the forest to get firewood. It’s summer and it’s really hot. It’s hard work collecting wood. Mehmet is exhausted but he refuses to let me help him because I’m still so small. Then we realise we’ve forgotten to take water with us. This is my fault and my big brother is pretty annoyed with me.
Luckily there’s a little stream nearby. But we don’t have anything to fetch the water with. Then Mehmet takes off one of his shoes and says: “Off you go! Give it a good rinse, then fill it up with water for us.” We drank the water from the shoe and everything was fine again.
I’m the youngest of five. Mehmet was 14 years older than me. So we didn’t get to spend much time together because he was in Germany a lot of the time. I would often only get to hear his voice over the phone. Germany had this pull for him. He didn’t have a work permit or a residence permit. He would get deported but would go straight back again. And I know it wasn’t always easy for him there but Germany symbolised hope for him.
My father kept urging him: “Don’t go to Germany anymore. What’s in Germany for you? Stay here. Get married here.” There was a girl in our village that he loved. But Mehmet would say: “Papa, what are we expected to live on here? You take care of us but we can’t always live off your wages. I want to be independent. I want to go to Germany.” Our father stopped trying in the end and gave him his blessing. He even borrowed money for a passport and for the journey.
When Mehmet was shot dead in Germany a few months later, my father said: “Nothing we could have done would have stopped him from going. It was fate. He would have moved mountains to get there.”
In February 2004, we got the news he would not be returning from Germany alive. I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was in Year 5 in my school in Elazig, the nearest town to our village where there’s a middle school. At lunch break, my cousin came running towards me screaming. “Mustafa, run home, quickly! Your grandmother has died!” I ran and ran and as I turned into our village, the street outside our house was full of people. I had to push through the crowd but then I saw my grandmother standing in the doorway, very much alive. I called to her: “Grandma, are you dead?” A friend of the family then tried to remove me from the situation. “You’ve just come from school – you must be hungry. You need something to eat.” I couldn’t understand why people were crying so much despite the fact that my grandmother was still alive. Then my sister-in-law sobbed: “It’s Memo. Memo is dead.“ I was then that I understood something terrible had happened.
When I finally did get inside the house, I saw my mother lying on the floor. She had fainted and people were trying to bring her around with cologne. My father just stood there frozen. He didn’t cry. He just said: “Your brother is dead.” It was not till some years later that I understood why he couldn’t cry.
When Mehmet’s body was brought home from Germany, my father wanted to see his son one last time. The coffin was opened, my father kissed Mehmet on the forehead and said: “Now you can bury him.” That was it. My mother had to be physically restrained. But I saw my dead brother. He was as white as the shroud he was wrapped in. It was unreal in a way, but also very beautiful. That’s the last image I have of my brother.
Every day, my mother would walk to the hill where Mehmet’s grave was. Back and forth. Day in, day out. Month after month. My father, on the other hand, was very quiet and calm. He did not talk much. God had blessed him with the capacity to remain very serene in this situation. I didn’t really appreciate how important that was until later.
Because in no time at all the torturous questions and rumours stared. Who had shot Mehmet and why?
Haydar, the owner of the kiosk in Rostock where Mehmet was killed, had travelled from Germany with Mehmet’s body. He is originally from our village and tried to explain what had happened. But there wasn’t anything to explain. He was in despair. He said: “You can shoot me dead, but I don’t know who did this or why.” He had found my brother lying on the ground when he had returned to the kiosk. Mehmet was still alive when he found him and he had asked him: “Mehmet, what happened? Who did this?” But Mehmet was no longer able to speak.
What came next was a nightmare for our family. We were all looking for an explanation and then the rumours started to spread in our village. Some people said to my father: “Your son must have been selling drugs in Germany,” while others said: “It’ll be about some woman.” Still others believed the kiosk owner was to blame: “It was Haydar’s fault,” they would say. They thought he had had my brother killed. Some went as far as to say Haydar had killed Mehmet with his own hands and didn’t report his death until three days later. Others again had a different theory: “It was a mix-up. The murderers were actually trying to kill Haydar and not Mehmet.” Everyone in the village had their own theory. The rumours were so bad. Even to the point of saying to my father: “You were the one that killed your son.” This was like a knife to the heart.
At some point the German police came, but they didn’t come to our village. They didn’t interview my parents. They spoke to people in the neighbouring village, asking questions like: Did the Turguts have any enemies? Is there any reason to suspect this was a vendetta? The German police took my brother Yunus to Ankara for questioning several times and each time they would say: “It must have been one of your own.” No one believed how ludicrous this was. That was the worst part. By asking the locals questions about us, the German police really blackened our family’s name. They added fuel to the fire, making the rumours worse. The suspicions went so far as to almost destroy us.
Our family is not rich. We are farmers. But regardless of where he went, my father was always respected. People would stand up when he entered the room – but money wasn’t important, they did it because they held him in high esteem. They respected who he was as a person. Mehmet’s murder changed everything. Before, my parents could walk down the street with their heads held high. After the death of their son, they would walk with their heads hung low.
Of course my father caught wind of all the rumours. But he never confronted anyone about them. He bided his time, waiting and praying. But it all became too much for him at some point. Coming to terms with the death of his son was hard enough without having to deal with the hostility of neighbours and relatives on top of that. These speculations just wouldn’t stop.
My father ultimately decided to move out of his home village. He bought a piece of land in Elazig and built a house there. Away from any neighbours. He wanted to be away from prying eyes, didn’t want to have to hear what people were saying. He just wanted to be left alone. He hoped that the move would help ease my mother’s suffering, too. For she still went to Mehmet’s grave every day. Day in, day out. It was hard for him to see what she was putting herself through.
But even the move did not bring peace. There were constant calls from Germany. From my cousin who lived there, from the kiosk owner Haydar. My cousin would say: “It was Haydar.” We have to make him pay for this. Everyone was accusing everyone else. All these rumours and accusations turned people in the family against one another.
At the time, the idea that it could have been right-wing extremists that killed Mehmet did cross our minds, of course. We had no enemies in Turkey and Mehmet had done nothing wrong in Germany. My father had also worked in Germany for a time. He had encountered people who hated foreigners. He was convinced: “I’m sure it was skinheads.” But then my cousin in Germany rang him saying: “The police are saying it wasn’t. There is nothing to suggest it was right-wing extremists.” For us, there was no other explanation but no one listened to us. That was the worst part. But my dad held his ground: “Neo-Nazis did this and one day the truth will come out.”
I found it all so difficult to cope with. Even as a child, I wasn’t spared from the gossip and rumours going around. At school, everywhere I went. Every time a call from Germany came, new rumours and theories would buzz around in my head. I couldn’t focus on anything. My grades started to slip. My thoughts were no longer my own. Mehmet’s death was talked about every single day There were no exceptions. For years. And at the same time, it was hard for me to see my parents suffer. It was as if Mehmet’s death had stripped them of their very being. My mother got smaller and thinner every day. It was as if she was disappearing. The whole experience hardened my father. He was a broken man. Memo’s murder robbed my parents not only of their son, but also of their home, their friends and family.
Then, the news came. It was November 2011. I had moved out by that time and was working in a restaurant in Antalya. I remember it very clearly. The phone rang. It was my cousin calling from Germany: “How are you?”, he asked. And then he told us: “We know who killed Mehmet. It was neo-Nazis.” Unlike lots of people in Germany and Turkey, this did not really shock me. After all the years, it was more a relief. All the gossip and rumours would finally stop. A huge weight was lifted from my parents, too. With all the allegations they had heard, they had started to believe they were to blame. This took away the strain of not knowing. It gave them certainty. They started to do better after that.
The fact that my brother was murdered purely because he was Turkish is not something that preoccupies my parents. My father had worked in Germany and knew how things could be there. Once it was uncovered that neo-Nazis had singled out his son and murdered him, he still did not feel hatred towards Germans. He says: It was Mehmet’s fate. He accepts his death. What he struggles with most is that his son died in a foreign land instead of at home in Turkey. This is very painful for him. It’s different for my mother. She can’t read or write. She has never ventured far outside her village. She still feels such anger towards Germans and this is how a lot of people in the village feel, especially the women.
In 2004, when Mehmet was murdered, it also made me think of Germans as murderers. In my imagination they were all monsters. But when I left my village and was working as a waiter in Antalya, I formed an entirely different impression of them. The Germans there on holiday were nice and polite. If I was clearing tables where other guests had been sitting, the tables would be covered in leftover food and rubbish. But the Germans left no mess behind, not even a crumb was to be seen. They were friendly, respectful – and were even capable of having fun!
Sometimes I think maybe I should re-evaluate how I feel about Germans. What kind of country allows neo-Nazis to go around murdering foreigners? But if I really listen to my heart, I feel no hatred. Yes, the neo-Nazis that killed my brother were Germans. But countries are like your hand. Just as your fingers are all different, no two people are the same either. And just as there are bad people in Germany, there are bad people in Turkey, too. Who am I to say that just because neo-Nazis exist, everyone here is a bad person.
In 2013 I moved to Germany myself, to be here for the trial. As one of the joint plaintiffs, I wanted to be here to follow the NSU trial, the trial against Mehmet’s alleged murderers and their accomplices. When I see Beate Zschäpe and the other accused in the dock in front of me, I can’t supress my feelings of hatred and anger. These people destroyed us inside. To see them sitting there – smiling, saying nothing… No! I am not ok when I see them before me. But I can put up with the sight of them because I hold on to the hope that the court will reach the right decision.
So far, I haven’t been happy with the way things are going at the trial. But I have faith in the German legal system. If the outcome of the trial is positive, I am sure it will help my parents and I find peace in our hearts. All we want is the truth and for the murderers to be punished justly. What would be a just punishment? I don’t know really. The thought of Beate Zschäpe not being convicted of murder is not something I want to even consider. That would be unfathomable and how would I explain that to my parents? They’d never be able to accept it.
During the trial I’ve been staying with my brother in Lübeck, which I really like. There’s this great fish bar there. The people are really nice as well. I have never seen anyone look at me in a bad way. But sometimes I do think: This is the country my brother was murdered in. Then I feel sick. It was especially bad when I went to Rostock where Mehmet was killed. I saw the kiosk where he was shot. Till this day, I can’t talk about what I felt at that moment.
But it is not as if I see people walking down the street and think: He might have the same mindset as my brother’s murderers. When I look people in the eye, I am not afraid either. However hard I try, I can’t see any badness in the people I’ve met so far. I still see Germans in a very positive light. I don’t spend every day thinking about the terrible thing that happened here. I actually feel more at home, freer in Germany than I did in Turkey. You can tell it’s a democratic country. You feel less constrained here, especially as young person. I like that. I enjoy this sense of freedom. I started learning German. I’d like to be able to speak German like a native.
For my brother Mehmet, Germany symbolised hope. Sitting here today, I get that. He would come to Germany to work. He was saving up – he wanted to have a family and to be able to help my parents. It was not easy for him and in the end he paid for it with his life. Now, I would like to realise the dream that was once Mehmet’s and support my parents. It’s a legacy of sorts. It has not been easy but I now finally have a work permit for the duration of my stay here in Germany, meaning I don’t have to depend on others anymore. I’m working in a kiosk – just like Memo.
When it came to light that it was neo-Nazis that had killed my brother, people in Germany were very shocked. Politicians, journalists and many others were truly shaken by the news. The sympathy and concern that people felt really helped us. It does not lessen your pain but it gives you comfort. The reaction of the German public was especially important for my parents. Myself and other victims’ families even went to the Chancellor’s office and met Chancellor Merkel in person. This invitation left quite the impression on me. And most of what the Chancellor said was the right thing. But what we still haven’t got to this day is what she had promised before:
She gave us her word that the full truth behind the murders and the whole right-wing milieu would be thoroughly investigated. Till this day, however, this has not happened. Despite the public display of sympathy, I still feel that German government hasn’t provided the support it should. With a few exceptions, no one has really taken any time to speak to us.
In 2011 we knew who had murdered my brother and that knowledge brought us a certain amount of relief. But I was still sick and tired of the relatives who had been gossiping and spreading rumours. This is why I left Turkey. I wanted to go where no one knew me. I feel more at ease among strangers. The relationship with our relatives did improve slightly once we knew who had murdered my brother, but it will never be the same. It’s like a bowl that has fallen to the floor and smashed into pieces. You can glue the pieces back together but the bowl will never be the same again.
I am now 22 years old. Yet I have experienced so much, suffered so much pain that I sometimes feel very old. When I was a child I wanted to be a pilot or a public prosecutor. But with everything that happened after Mehmet’s death, these dreams faded. Now, I am slowly starting to look towards the future again. I would like to study in Germany. I can still see myself becoming a public prosecutor. But if I do, then I would definitely want to be a public prosecutor in Germany. I liked how the public prosecutor and judge engage with people at the trial in Munich. I bump into the judge during the lunch break occasionally. He always says a friendly hello, holds the door open for me, or asks me: “Why are you so thin?” You could never imagine a judge saying something like that in Turkey.
Something terrible happened to us. And the pain is still with us. Every evening, when I lay my head down on my pillow, I pray for Memo. But today, when I think of the future, I believe that I can fulfil my hopes and dreams, in two or three years maybe. So I do see a brighter future ahead of me.
I might have seen the murderer, from my school playground. I might even have heard the shots that killed my father, because his snack kiosk was in a carpark directly opposite my school. I’d go over the street to see him in almost every break, have a chat with him, grab something to eat. But on the day it happened, that day of all days, I wasn’t at school. At the time, I was doing work experience in a company.
I was on my morning break and was coming back from the supermarket opposite. I saw the police car parked in the yard straight away. Two police officers were standing in the car repair shop where I was working. They approached me and asked: “Are you Kerem Yaşar?”. “Yes”, I answered. Then they told me, straight to my face with no warning: “Your father is dead”. The words rang in my ears. “Your father is dead”. I had no idea what had happened. Then the police officers drove me to the station. My mother was already there. We just sat there together and cried and cried. The tears wouldn’t stop.
My parents had already separated by then. I lived with my mother but I saw my father almost every day. I often stayed the night at his place. We were really close. He was more the quiet type, like me. He was really proud of me. There were so many things I liked about him – especially his laugh. But the most important thing was simply that he was there. With everything that has happened over the last few years, the worst part was having to grow up without a father – especially at an age where I needed him most. My father would have helped me find my way in life.
My father was a really friendly person who everybody liked. He didn’t drink. Not ever. He was one of the good ones. In the previous summer, we went to Turkey together, my father, my mother and I. We were close to the family he had there. Then, in one fell swoop, everything changed completely.
And then my father’s family started to suspect my mother. They said it was her that killed my father. After all, there was no evidence that pointed to any other suspects. So, his relatives in Turkey alleged my mother wanted to take revenge on my father because of the separation and because she wanted to get her hands on his inheritance. The accusations were so awful that my mother was even too scared to take us, his own children, on a plane to attend his funeral. So we only accompanied his body as far as Istanbul. We didn’t dare travel to the village where he was from and where he was to be buried, hundreds of kilometres away near the Syrian border. This is why I’ve not visited my father’s grave to this day.
Before he died, everything was fine. Afterwards, the family completely fell apart. For years there was no contact at all. It wasn’t until 2011 when my father’s real killers were tracked down that the accusations towards my mother petered out. But all the terrible, hateful things that were said. It’s not something you can forget. And because of this, I believe the murderers didn’t just take my father from me, but half of my family, too.
It is still incredibly hard to talk about my father. I miss him so much. When I think about him now, my eyes fill with tears again. This is why I would really rather not talk about what happened in the period immediately after his death. I completely withdrew – I didn’t want to see anyone at all, to talk to anyone, even my friends. Even today I avoid talking about it. The pain is unbearable enough as it is. The only reason I have chosen to speak about it today is that I don’t want people to forget what they did to us.
After my father was killed, the interrogations began immediately. The police asked me who had gone into the kebab shop and who had left. They took fingerprints and DNA samples from me, as if I, his 15-year-old son, was the guilty party. They suspected my mother had something to do with the murder too. There were false allegations left, right and centre – anything to get her to talk, to get her to say something. They were proper trick questions. At some point they alleged that my father was using the kebab shop to sell drugs to young people, so they kept it sealed off for months. My mother still needed to pay the rent and by the end she was drowning in debt. The police even examined the kebab skewers for traces of drugs. They never found a thing. But of course word got out about these suspicions. I told them: That’s ludicrous! My father isn’t a drug dealer. He would never do anything like that! But the problem is, with everyone trying to convince you that he was involved in something bad, at some point you start to speculate yourself. Although I never really believed that he could get involved in anything that was against the law.
Thank goodness for my friends. They stood by my side throughout these difficult times. They knew my father and they all said: these rumours, these allegations, I can’t believe it. My schoolteacher was really supportive as well. That’s why I carried on going to my old school even though from there I could see where it had all happened, every single day. In spite of everything, a year later, I managed to pass my school leaving exams and then went on to complete an apprenticeship in vehicle body building.
Of course in all this time you can’t help but speculate. Who could have killed my father? You go through all the people who came and went from his kebab shop. But it never entered my head that it could have been right-wing extremists. Obviously I knew that Nazis existed, skinheads, people who have something against foreigners. But the idea that it could come to something as extreme as this was something I never thought possible. Some of my friends were Germans and some of them weren’t.
I can remember the day I found out it was these right-wing extremists. I was at work when I got a call from a mate: “Kerem, they’ve caught her.” I couldn’t believe it. Even later when I saw the photos on the television. I thought it was just another one of those rumours. With all the speculation you don’t really believe anything anymore. It was only two or three days later that I felt certain.
And then I felt such huge relief. The German police had always suspected it was us. And now as it turns out, it wasn’t one of our own at all. It was one of their people. Yet, on top of this relief, I felt such hatred. When I saw the photos of the people who had done it, I thought about what I would do to them if got hold of them. I doubt anyone would want to hear the thoughts that ran through my mind then. That doesn’t mean that I think badly of the German people as a whole. There is good and bad in every nation. But of course it shocked me that my father had been killed solely because he was from Turkey. Two weeks before he was murdered, the Bild magazine did an interview with him. They wrote that he made good kebabs and that the people from the job centre always bought their lunch from his place too. Maybe that’s what drew him to the attention of the Nazis.
It makes you more sensitive. The way I perceived my environment changed after it came out that right-wing extremists were the ones who had killed my father, that it was Germans. You go to work, you walk down the street, and suddenly you look at people more closely. Without wanting to. It’s like a film playing in your head: Maybe he’s one of them, or him? Or at least he thinks like them? You also ask yourself: Who am I, actually? Although I was born here and grew up here, I was raised Turkish. I have German friends and I get along with everyone, I’ve got a German passport. But if you ask me who I am, today, I am more likely to say: I am a Turk.
Before this happened to my father, I actually never felt like a foreigner. I felt safe and at home here. And then all of sudden, you notice something is wrong. All the suspicions and mistrust have died down now. But one thing remains: I somehow feel as though I have no place I can call home. Germany isn’t my home, but nor is Turkey. When I’m there, I’m a foreigner. And here, too, I am a foreigner. I was born here, I have friends here, but I don’t have a real home anymore. You can feel that people don’t want you here, you, the foreigner – even though we’ve done nothing to them.
Because of this, I sometimes consider moving to Turkey. But emigrating would be such a huge step. Maybe someday I’ll pluck up the courage to do it. On the other hand, I really like it here. I’ve lived in Nuremberg my whole life. I know my way around. There are so many things that keep me in Germany – my mates, my girlfriend, my work. But how can I feel at home in a country that for years didn’t do a thing to find out who murdered my father? It has taken the state authorities till now to find out who the perpetrators were – and even this was by pure chance. It’s scandalous. And you end up believing the police made no effort at all because they thought, well, they are just foreigners. My friends and I often said: if it had been a German who had been killed, they would have got to the truth a lot faster – or there wouldn’t even have been a second, third, a fourth murder. These are the kind of thoughts that run through your head.
This is exactly why I don’t think the police are any help. At the time, they accused us and interrogated us and to this day we haven’t received an apology from any of them. How are you supposed to have any faith or trust in them? So, my attitude is that we can manage without them. Whenever anything has happened, like a fight or something, I’ve never called the police. A lot of police officers are real right-wingers themselves. I’ve had them stopping me at the traffic lights because I was driving a bit too fast. They got out of the car and straight away one of the police officers drew his gun: “Hands on the steering wheel!”. In broad daylight, right in the middle of the main road, he frisked me looking for drugs! The people driving past, people I knew, they must have been thinking: What crime has he committed with them frisking him like that? It was just like it was after my father had been killed. The police treated me really badly during that police check, and of course you think it’s just because you have dark skin. They wouldn’t have treated anyone else like that.
So no, I don’t trust the police anymore, and nor do I have any faith in the government. Maybe I’m wrong but my gut instinct tells me the state is heavily involved in the whole thing. A person can’t run around with a weapon for 11 years, murder 10 people, rob banks and never be caught! If you park your car in front of your house and someone drives into it, it doesn’t take long to find out who did it. And these right-wing extremists just shoot people dead and then get on their bikes and disappear without a trace? It can’t be a coincidence that they managed to commit 10 murders and get away with it.
The fact that the politicians apologised to us is a good thing of course. Their apologies were definitely genuine. After all, they didn’t know anything about all this before. But these well-meant words are just too bloody late. We were accused and treated like we were nothing. That’s something even the most genuine of apologies can’t make up for. What you’ve experienced doesn’t just go away.
That’s why I won’t be going to the trial in Munich. I don’t want to see these people’s faces. I’m not sure what words might come out of my mouth if I encounter them again. The people who did this must be really sick people – they must have no heart, no soul, no brains. Murdering another human being must be really hard. I think in the end it was like a game to them.
That’s not to say that the trial isn’t important to me. But the German legal system is, well, Zschäpe will be released after a few years, she’ll be able to walk down the street again, she’ll have a nice quiet life with her new identity. I don’t think that’s right. She should be brought to justice. Not in the sense that she should die. But she should at least spend her whole life behind bars. That woman lived with those two men. She must have known everything. If she isn’t convicted of murder, I’ll honestly have no faith left in the German state. None whatsoever!
After this happened to my father, no-one cared about us. Then when the truth came out, suddenly everyone was interested in my mother and I, and the other families. Now the state has promised to pay 10,000 euros to the victims’ families. On the one hand, that’s good, because the money will make life a little bit easier. But the idea of a putting a price tag on a human life, for me that’s actually an insult. Maybe they think we will keep our mouths shut if they give us money. But what sort of message does that send out? To pay 10,000 euros for the murder of a human being – human life is priceless.
Despite everything, if someone asks me today how I am, I tell them I’m doing fine. I’m 24 now. I’ve finished my apprenticeship in vehicle body building. And now I’m training to be an auto body painter. I’ll be finished in August 2015. I might even go on to train as a chief mechanic. I really want to go far in this line of work, I want to get myself a permanent position. And once I’ve finished with my training, I’d like to get married, have a family with children, just lead a normal life.
In 2013, I saw my father’s family again for the first time since his death. My grandmother and my uncle came to the trial in Germany and we made our peace. It felt really strange seeing them after everything that had happened. But once we had talked for a while, we all felt at ease with each other again. It was lovely to see my grandmother again. She is very old now and her biggest wish was to see her grandson again. My uncle also phoned my mother to apologise for the family having wronged her. Of course it was awful what the family accused us of. But family is family. It isn’t easy for me to forget everything they have done – but I have forgiven them.
What happened is something I will undoubtedly carry with me for the rest of my life. For the first two or three years without my father I really struggled to cope. But I feel on more solid ground now, especially since we know who was behind these crimes. I’m slowly coming back to life – finally I can start to enjoy it again.
Speech given on 6 April 2016
I would like to begin by asking us to remember all those around the world who have been murdered in an act of terrorism.Friends and guests,
I am so grateful that you have come and have not left us alone on this painful day.
Today, I would like to say a few words on the following topics:
1. Personal words
2. The reason for my life’s wish to change the name of Holländische Strasse to Halit Strasse
3. The court proceedings at Munich Higher Regional Court and the federal intelligence agent Andreas Temme right in the middle of it
As you are aware, at the age of 21 my only son Halit was murdered by brutal and bestial people, killed by multiple shots to the head.
It is because of this that we come together every year on April 6th at 3.30 p.m. to remember Halit.
We would like to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for sparing no effort to come here to be with us today.
I would like to dedicate this part of my speech to those who are not here today:
On 6 April 2006, xenophobes decided to murder a Turkish man in Kassel.
In the name of our exalted God, fate chose my only son Halit, a 21-year-old young man.
There were no scores to be settled between us and these brutal individuals. Nor did we have any kind of connection with them. The only reason they chose my son Halit was because he is a Turk.
If they hadn’t chosen Halit, they might have murdered me, or you, or your children. Because a Turk was going to be killed that day in Kassel – that had already been decided.
This is why all Turks living in Kassel and the surrounding area – myself included – owe their lives to Halit.
We will try to pay back this debt we owe him for our lives by coming together every year at 3.30 p.m. on April 6th, here at Halit Platz, to remember him, because this might have been the FATE of any one of us.
This concerns us all.
The reasons behind my life’s wish to rename Holländische Strasse Halit Strasse
Because of his hatred of the Jews, Hitler used the pretext of creating a pure German race to have millions of people killed. This became a dark stain in Germany’s history. A lot has been done over the years to atone for this and to rid the country of this stain.
The German Constitution even states that nobody should be discriminated against or privileged on the basis of gender, parentage, race, language, homeland and origin, faith or religious or political opinions.
But the fact is, the series of murders committed since 2000 clearly say the opposite. Since 2000, people have been killed because they are foreigners, and this includes my son Halit, who was ruthlessly shot dead by xenophobes while he was doing his homework.
What has been and is being done about this is not enough.
Xenophobia has survived and continues to wreak havoc among us.
I have thought a lot about how I can protect the next generation from far-right ideas and their repercussions. It would have to be something that makes sure we never forget these brutal murders, something that is always present to ensure we remain vigilant.
This is why we have made it our life’s mission to change the name of Holländische Strasse to Halit Strasse.
– Firstly, Halit was born on Holländische Strasse, he lived here and in the end was brutally murdered here.
– Secondly, Holländische Strasse is a long and busy street. It plays an important part in the lives of many people.
I am absolutely sure that if we change the name of the street to Halit Strasse, lots of people will ask how it got its name. This will make sure these brutal murders are never forgotten and will ensure we continue to be more vigilant.
Unfortunately, I am just as certain that Halit Platz and the bus stop are not enough for this to happen.
I appeal today to the citizens of Kassel and to all those in Berlin, Wiesbaden and Kassel with the authority to make this happen – help us fulfil this life’s mission. Let us change the name of Holländische Strasse to Halit Strass and together create a sustainable instrument to ensure we keep that watchful eye over the next generation.
By helping us fulfil our life’s mission, you are also sharing the pain that we continue to feel and you are helping, I hope, to one day ease that pain.
Now I would like to move on to the subject of the trial at the Munich Higher Regional Court and the federal intelligence agent Andreas Temme.
I have a lot of respect for the presiding judge Manfred Götzl, the state security division of the higher regional court, and the German legal system.
The then federal intelligence agent Andreas Temme visited the Internet café at least 50 times before Halit’s death.
And on this harrowing day too, at the time that Halit was shot, Temme was in the very same Internet café.
What a coincidence.
Temme, a government official, whose main job at the time was to foster and maintain contact with neo-Nazis and their leadership, is at the Internet café at precisely the moment when a hate crime, a murder is committed, and he claims he didn’t notice a thing? He didn’t even voluntarily come forward as a witness and it wasn’t until 14 days later that the police tracked him down.
To test their theory, they filmed a reconstruction of the sequence of events. We and all the others present at the court in Munich were shown this film. The film and indeed the sequence of events do not appear remotely credible! Common sense alone shows that the sequence of events that were filmed could not have corresponded with reality.
The Internet café is divided into two separate rooms. In the first room, which is where the entrance is, there are three telephone booths as well as Halit’s desk. In the second room, the backroom, there are computer desks where people can use the Internet. The two rooms are connected by a door.
Now let us talk about the irregularities:
1. Shortly after Halit was shot, intelligence agent Andreas Temme leaves the backroom and goes into the front area to pay his bill. Directly to his left, Halit is lying dead on the floor behind the counter. In the film version, Temme is shown looking demonstratively for Halit in every direction but to his left. If he had looked to his left, he would have seen him immediately. Just as I did.
2. Temme leaves the front area and goes outside to look for Hali. When he returns, he walks through the front area again to return to the backroom. Once again, the film shows him looking in every direction but to the right. Had he looked to his right, he would have seen Halit straight away.
3. Temme returns from the backroom to the front area to pay for the services he has used. Temme, 1.94 metres tall, stands in front of the 73-cm-high desk, which is spattered with blood. Behind the desk, Halit is lying dead on the ground, his body stretched out. About 85 percent of him is visible. Only his feet are under the desk. Temme puts 50 cents down on the counter and claims that, despite his height, he saw neither Halit behind the desk, nor did he notice the blood spatter as he placed the 50 cents onto the counter.
How is it that I, Halit’s father, saw my son lying there as soon as I approached the desk, yet Temme did not, even though he was looking for Halit. Did Temme have both of his eyes closed so he wouldn’t happen to see Halit?
The reconstruction is filmed to the advantage of then intelligence agent Andreas Temme.
This film has nothing to do with the reality.
I personally put in a request to Mr Götzl at Munich Higher Regional Court and to the state security division that they themselves visit the Internet café, where my son Halit was murdered, in person.
They should take a look at the locality and see the specifics for themselves – then they would know that the reconstruction has very little in common with the reality. But that was a year ago, and there has been no such visit to the crime scene.
It is imperative that this be remedied.
Because Temme is lying. Temme either shot my son himself, or he saw the murderer.
Our finally words are addressed to Munich Higher Regional Court, to the presiding judge Mr Götzl and to the state security division. We ask the state security division to pay a visit, accompanied by me, to the Internet café where my son Halit was murdered – to get a picture of the scene, to see the specifics for themselves. Then they will see that the former intelligence agent is lying.
If no such examination of the crime scene takes place and the inconsistencies in the account told by this former employee of the security service in Hessen are not looked into – because they believe Temme –, this would render the verdict spoken at the trial is null and void.
We will not acknowledge the verdict.
I repeat, this government intelligence agent either killed my son, or he saw the murderer.
There is no alternative explanation.
Friends and guests. Thank you so much for coming here today and listening to what we had to say.
Halit’s mother has baked sweet Turkish pastries. I hope you will join us in enjoying them.