• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Beate Zschäpe: neo-Nazi of mystery

The Local · 9 May 2013, 11:19

Published: 09 May 2013 11:19 GMT+02:00

Some have argued that the ten people Zschäpe stands accused of helping to murder - eight men of Turkish origin, another with Greek roots, and a German policewoman - were overshadowed during the chaotic start of the judicial process.

Others have gone further and say that although the process will take at least two years and be mind-blowingly detailed, the trial itself is more digestible for a nation hungry for answers about the murders, than the institutional incompetence and racism that was this week described as society's wallpaper.

And so, even as demonstrators outside the Munich court room held up photos of the victims, inside - and around the world - all eyes were inevitably on Zschäpe, or rather on the back she had firmly turned on photographers.

Different attention because of her gender?

And all that attention on Zschäpe has been - perhaps not greater - but skewed, because of her gender.

First, her presence in the fascist terrorist gang brought implications of salaciousness to the gory story and the National Socialist Underground trio. Apparently she had initially been girlfriend to Uwe Mundlos and then left him for Uwe Böhnhardt.

She shared with them the now notorious flat in Zwickau, introducing one to neighbours as her boyfriend, the other as her brother. It seems the men were crucial in her life and she told police her family was dead when she handed herself in shortly after the two Uwes died in a murder-suicide.

Was it this tangled relationship, or simply the fact that she was a woman, that led large parts of the German media to label her the Nazi Braut - Nazi bride or Nazi moll?

There has even been focus on her clothes. Zschäpe, whose dark suit and white shirt that she wore in court on Monday were subject to a detailed examination, is now back to wearing prison issue blue trousers, a checked shirt and white sweatshirt, tabloid paper Bild gleefully reported on Tuesday.

Did her gender make her any less complicit than the male accomplices also standing trial in Munich - for lesser and fewer crimes?

Is there an assumption that she could not have been a driving force behind the campaign of terror that the trio are alleged to have carried out against immigrants over seven years?

What really eludes us all in the Zschäpe enigma is any clue to her motivation. The details of her early life are fairly miserable, supposedly dominated by a dysfunctional relationship with her mother.

Still, it seems the pieces were picked up fairly effectively by her grandmother, and her childhood was no more miserable than many others who did not turn to neo-Nazism.

Reasons remain mysterious

Yet she broke off contact with her grandmother, and she and the two Uwes became heavily involved in the regional fascist scene. They became founder members of the Jena area Kameradschaft group, and had links to the highly unpleasant Thuringia Homeland Protection League (THS).

Why the trio decided to form their little National Socialist Underground cell and jump headlong into direct action allegedly culminating in serial murder, is also a puzzle, not least because Zschäpe has refused to speak during her pre-trial custody.

Yet for Zschäpe, being a neo-Nazi was a full time occupation. While she juggled several identities in order to defraud the social security system the Uwes repeatedly risked discovery and arrest by carrying out multiple bank robberies.

Story continues below…

And all the while the trio were allegedly planning the murders and bombings that the two men travelled the length and breadth of the country to carry out.

Zschäpe has so far refused to make any statements to the police, and her lawyers - with names which are German for Steel, Storm and Army - have said she will not speak in court - all of which only heightens the mystery shrouding the woman at the centre of Germany's neo-Nazi storm.

Hannah Cleaver

hannah.cleaver@thelocal.com

twitter.com/hannahcleaver2

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Green party wants only e-cars on Autobahn by 2030
Photo: DPA.

The environmentalist Green party has an ambitious plan for German cars to be petrol- and diesel-free within the next 15 years.

Commerzbank to make one in five staff redundant by 2020
Photo: DPA

Germany's second largest lender Commerzbank said on Thursday it plans to cut 9,600 jobs by 2020 and withhold dividends to pay for a €1.1 billion restructuring.

Germany's favourite smoker wins battle against eviction
Photo: DPA

How a pensioner with a serious smoking habit won a years-long fight for his right to keep his home - and his favourite pastime.

Thousands evacuated after WWII bomb found in Cologne
File photo of a Second World War bomb: DPA

Several thousands people were being evacuated from a district of Cologne just north of the old town on Thursday morning, after a Second World War bomb was found in a parking lot.

Kidnapped German journalist and her baby freed in Syria
File photo of a Syrian soldier: SANA/DPA.

A German woman who was kidnapped in Syria last year while she was pregnant has been freed along with her baby, the German Foreign Office said on Wednesday.

Air Berlin to cut 1,200 jobs and halve airline fleet
Photo: DPA.

Struggling Air Berlin, Germany's second-largest airline, announced on Wednesday a major restructuring plan that shrinks its fleet and cuts 1,200 jobs.

Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
Photo: Thomas Wolf/Wikimedia Commons.

From stunning chalk-white cliffs to fairy tale castles, Germany has some breathtaking sights to see, perfect for social media.

Train evacuated as passenger flips out during ticket check
Police at the scene in Leipzig. Photo: DPA

A regional train was evacuated in Leipzig on Wednesday after a passenger became aggressive during a ticket inspection.

Man arrested in Wuppertal as part of Spanish Isis raids
Police detain the suspect in Wuppertal. Photo: DPA

Police have arrested five suspected members of an Isis cell in Spain, Belgium and Germany that spread propaganda for the group online, the Spanish interior ministry said Wednesday.

Germans cut home energy usage by six percent in a year
Hamburg at night. Photo: DPA

The Energiewende is the German government's ambitious policy of drastically reducing carbon emissions. New figures show one remarkable success.

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Lifestyle
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
10 German films you have to watch before you die
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Lifestyle
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
National
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
6,545
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd