Turning to the presiding judge in the mammoth five-year trial in Munich, she said: “Please don't judge me for something that I neither wanted nor did.”
Zschaepe, 43, stands accused of complicity in 10 deadly shootings carried out by the other two members of the National Socialist Underground (NSU), a far-right terror cell.
The two gunmen — Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boehnhardt, both Zschaepe's former lovers — targeted mostly Turkish immigrants in a string of attacks between 2000 and 2007. Both died in 2011 in an apparent murder-suicide.
Prosecutors have accused Zschaepe of being an active NSU member who helped the two men by covering their tracks, handling finances and providing a safe haven in their shared home.
The Munich court will on July 11 hand down its verdict and sentence in the trial of Zschaepe and four alleged NSU supporters.
The NSU case deeply shocked Germany, where security services had associated terrorism with Islamist and far-left militants, believing rightwing extremists were mainly involved in random street violence and arson.
It was only after the murder-suicide of 2011 that Germany realized that the killings — long blamed on migrant crime gangs — were in fact committed byorganised fascists.
A long silence
Also in the dock are four men accused of supplying weapons, identity papers, cash and other material support to the NSU. Zschaepe, who faces a maximum term of life in jail, has claimed she was an unwilling bystander horrified by such crimes, and not the strong-willed, active participant described by prosecutors.
She has admitted only lesser crimes like helping to plot bank robberies and setting fire to their shared home after the two men died.
Zschaepe, who lived in hiding with the pair during the attacks, on Tuesday insisted she did not know why they picked their victims, who also included a Greek-born man and a German police woman.
In her address to the court, she apologized to the victims and denied that her long silence had shown indifference to their suffering.
“The fact that I have not shown the desired response to you all here in the courtroom does not mean that I am not shaken and horrified,” she said.
Zschaepe, who grew up in the extremist skinhead subculture of her post-reunification east German home town of Jena, also reiterated her claim to have distanced herself from the rightwing scene, saying its ideology has “no meaning for me anymore”.