The trial of Beate Zschäpe continues today in Munich. A member of the National Socialist Underground (NSU), the Neo-Nazi organisation that operated out of Zwickau, she appeared in court charged with 9 murders between 2000 and 2006, along with the murder of a German policewoman in 2007.
The NSU consisted originally of three members, Beate Zschäpe, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boehnhardt. Following an attempted bank heist in 2011, Mundlos and Boehnhardt shot themselves in an apparent suicide pact. Shortly after, Zschäpe burned the apartment in which the trio were living before she was apprehended by police and charged with the murders. Among the rubble of their burnt out apartment in Zwickau, police found a dvd celebrating the NSU’s multiple killings over the previous years. The dvd included animations of the famous Pink Panther cartoon character superimposed over a map of Germany with the locations of the murders highlighted on it. Nine of the victims (all Greek and Turkish shopkeepers) were murdered execution style, a direct message to other immigrants living in Germany to leave the country. German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the attacks as “a shame for Germany” and vowed ‘to bring justice to the people’.
The German Government has been criticised by opposition leaders and human rights groups as to how a militant right wing extremist group could slip through the cracks in German security for such a long period of time. Currently there are over 100 high profile Neo-Nazi figures wanted on criminal charges relating to hate crimes in Germany and pressure is mounting on the Government to put more resources and focus into stemming the rise of fascist groups that are targeting minority groups within the country.
Neo-Nazi groups have been a major problem in Germany since the 1990’s following the reunification of East and West. They originally targeted immigrants from mainly Slavic countries and the Jewish population but in recent years there has been a paradigm shift with many of these groups focused on stopping what many right wing figures have called ‘the Islamification of Europe’. This refers to the large amount of Muslim immigrants that are settling in mainlaind Europe and the UK. While Neo-Nazi groups were originally adhering to mainly anti-semitic manifestos, they seem to have replaced ‘semitic’ with ‘Islamic,’ and are attacking what they perceive to be their new threat – the rise of radical Islam in Europe.