Revenge or racism? Report raises questions about Munich shooter's motives

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Revenge or racism? Report raises questions about Munich shooter's motives
A memorial set up for the victims of the Munich mass shooting. Photo: DPA

Nearly one year after an 18-year-old shot and killed nine people at a Munich shopping centre, a new report sheds light on his motives. But its interpretation is disputed.


In response to an inquiry by the state Green Party, the Bavarian Interior and Justice Ministries on Thursday disclosed new details about the Munich shooter, David Sonboly.

According to the report, the 18-year-old had a “manifesto” on his computer, discovered by investigators after the shooting, as well as a file titled “I will now kill every German-Turk, regardless of who they are”.

This is the first time that officials have released excerpts from the manifesto, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ). Investigators had previously disclosed that Sonboly had been “obsessed” with mass killers like Norwegian convicted far-right terrorist Anders Breivik, and the attack took place five years to the day after Breivik's own 2011 attacks.

Most of the victims in the Munich shooting had immigrant backgrounds, mostly of Turkish or Albanian heritage.

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But whether the shooter decided to kill out of revenge against perceived bullies, or due to racist, right-wing ideology is disputed.

Sonboly, born in Munich to Iranian immigrants, had saved the manifesto about a year before the shooting, on July 24th 2015. Within it, he writes of seeking “vengeance” against those who wronged him, as well as about “foreign sub-humans” with mostly “Turkish-Balkan roots”.

He described his troubles at school and ponders what he did to make his classmates bully him. The manifesto goes on to describe some people as “cockroaches” as well as those he would like to “execute”.

The second file referencing killing German-Turks was saved on the date of the shooting, July 22nd 2016.

“The bullying will be paid back today,” he wrote. “The suffering that was inflicted on me will be handed back.”

Sonboly had developed a deep dislike of other young people with immigrant backgrounds, according to SZ, repeatedly writing racist statements online. A family member previously gave a witness statement explaining that he was “very proud” of his Persian heritage because he believed that the Aryan race had begun in Persia.

Aside from potentially racist motives for the shooting, the documents on Thursday raise questions about Sonboly’s possible right-wing extremist ideology, SZ reports.

“We have little information,” said local Green party politician Katharina Schulze, who submitted the inquiry.

“We owe it to the families to thoroughly clarify this crime.”

During a psychotherapy session once, he had reportedly given the “Hitler greeting”, scribbled a swastika onto a notepad, and shouted “Sieg Heil” - a common Nazi salute. But when another patient asked if he was a Nazi, he said “no”.

But the Bavarian criminal investigations office and public prosecutors concluded that the attack did not have a political motive.

There was no evidence that Sonboly had been involved in or had contact with known extreme right-wing groups.

Rather, the authorities state that the way Sonboly picked his victims was based on “a generalized concept of the enemy, stemming from his former bullies.”

Officials further state that since “childhood, he suffered from some major mental disorders.” The teasing by his classmates had exacerbated his negative attitude towards life that he already had due to his mental illness.

Sonboly had problems with anxiety, as well as with post-traumatic stress disorder. Investigators argue that his ill state of mind and racist hatred was based less on a political ideology than it was on personal suffering.

But Schulze says that this is only part of the truth, and she is now calling for the interior affairs committee of the state parliament to again consider the radical ideas of the shooter.

Schulze acknowledged that right-wing extremism was not the only motivation behind the attack, but said she believed it played an important role and that it had not yet been sufficiently examined.

“The classification of the crime is missing something,” she said.

Green party spokesman Holger Laschka criticized the lack of details revealed thus far about the case by investigators.

“Only after inquiries were little pieces of information given. With each inquiry a bit more,” he said.

“If we had not probed, we would not know any of this.”



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