Processing of the NSU terror
On 4 November 2011 flew the NSU – in Zwickau. To this day, the city is struggling to deal with right-wing terrorists.
ZWICKAU taz | The trees are already standing, all ten. Oak, maple, a beech. On Sunday they are to be inaugurated. But already six days before they have the gardeners of the city in the meadow of the Zwickau swan pond parked, raking the earth, laying bast mats around the trunks. Next to him is Martin Böttger, hands in the anorak pockets, and he is pleased. "Really big this time", marvels the Green City Council.
Then Böttger squats to his knee-high chestnut. At the place where once stood a petite oak. And where now only flowers pile up, in between candles, small pieces of paper. "What did the tree do to you?", It says on one. The oak, which did not stand here for a month, was sawed off on 3 October.
It was the memorial tree for Enver Şimşek, the first murder victim of the "National Socialist Underground". A florist, father of two, shot dead in September 2000 in Nuremberg, in broad daylight. Of right-wing terrorists who had their shelter in Zwickau.
"I thought, now Enver Şimşek was killed a second time", remembers Martin Böttger to the moment, when he learned about the sawn tree. The 72-year-old, a former East German civil rights activist, today city council and organist, was stunned. Then he dug the small chestnut out of his garden and planted it next to the sawn off oak. "Now all the more," says Böttger.
A "nefarious act"
Not only he was shocked. The sawn-off memorial tree shocked many in Zwickau and far beyond. Mayor Pia Findeiß spoke of a "nefarious act". Pupils laid flowers, 300 Zwickauers came to a rally, citizens donated 6,000 euros for new trees.
But only one day after the oak was destroyed a commemorative bank for the victims of the NSU. Unknown people had set them up next to the tree. Already three years ago, a group of Zwickauern had set up eleven such memorial benches anonymously on Schumannplatz, ten for the ten NSU murdered and one for possibly unknown victims of the NSU. Only hours later, the benches were smeared with paint, one had entered, two were stolen. What's going on in Zwickau?
"We have to do something more than other cities"
Now at least the commemorative tree will be replanted, along with nine other trees – one for each NSU murder victim. "We will not let us down," says Findeiß. On Sunday, the trees will be inaugurated. One day later even Chancellor Angela Merkel and Saxony's CDU Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer travel to settle flowers at the memorial. On 4 November – the day exactly eight years ago the NSU flew into Zwickau.
At least until then there is a police car next to the trees, even at night. So far everything is quiet, say the two policemen in it. The question is still: how long are the trees this time? But behind that there is an even bigger question: how does the city stand up to the NSU terror?
Martin Böttger has found his answer. Zwickau must confront this topic aggressively. "The trio lived here, we have no choice."
A problem of the whole republic
Mayor Findeiß says the NSU terror is not just a Zwickau problem, but one of the whole republic. "But of course we face history. We stand by our responsibility to the victims. "
But it's not that clear.
It is Beate Zschäpe who blows up a house on Nov. 4, 2011, at Zwickau's Spring Street 26 in Zwickau, a family home area with ten liters of gasoline. For three years she had lived there unnoticed with Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, previously ten years in Zwickau West and in Chemnitz. Now the men had shot themselves after a failed bank robbery.
And Zschäpe destroyed the last refuge, fled – but not without the confessional DVD of the NSU to send. Only now it became known that right-wing extremists terrorized the country for years unrecognized with ten murders, three attacks, 15 robberies.
That's eight years ago. And still, the verdict against Beate Zschäpe is not final, still running an NSU investigation committee – in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where Mehmet Turgut was shot. And it is still wrestling with the memory of the victims of the NSU, this also disgraced. Not only in Zwickau.
Years ago, Thuringia, where the NSU was submerged, decided to set up a reminder – it does not exist until today. Also in Cologne, where the group made two attacks, a monument is argued. In Nuremberg, neo-Nazis urinated on a commemorative plaque for the victims of the NSU and posted a photo of it on the Internet. In Kassel a memorial stone with bitumen was tipped over, in Rostock and Heilbronn it was color.
This text comes from the taz on the weekend. Always from Saturday at the kiosk, in the eKiosk or in the practical weekend subscription. And on Facebook and Twitter, The dossier on "30 years of peaceful revolution" from the issue of 2/3. November is online here.
The news of the sawn-off memorial tree in Zwickau quickly reached Enver Şimşek's family. She has reacted very emotionally, says her lawyer Seda Basay-Yildiz. "It made her very sad. For them, the act is unthinkable. Who does that? "Now the relatives hoped that this time it would be possible to protect the trees.
Yes, who does that? Pia Findeiß answers this question in her office in the town hall, first floor, looking down at the main market. She taps her fingers on her blue scarf. "There are obviously people who do not like the commemoration," says the mayor. Findeiß has an idea. She says that she had a German oak planted. That evil-minded might hesitate. It did not help. "But these people are not in the majority here."
Blind in the right eye?
Findeiß knows her city exactly. The sports scientist was born in Zwickau, became a social affairs officer in 1994. Since 2008 she is mayor. Three years later, the NSU flew up. It was a shock to Findeiß. The Social Democrat needed days until she spoke publicly. Martin Böttger was already standing there with a vigil outside the town hall.
A week later, 3,000 Zwickauers gathered for a rally. And Findeiß came to the microphone. It was "deeply disturbed" that the right-wing terrorists lived in the city. You mourn for the victims. "Were we blind in the right eye?" Asked Findeiß. And no. "Our city is not brown."
It is the motto of the Social Democrat until today. Findeiß reports on the long-standing commitment of the democratic alliance in the city, of creative counter-protest to neo-Nazi marches. And yet: Zwickau has been struggling with the processing of the NSU for years.
Early on, Findeiss forbade to speak of the Zwickau terror cell, in order not to burden the image of the city, had a letter sent to the chancellery. But Findeiss also sent a second letter in which she asked for money for a NSU documentation center in Zwickau – back came a cancellation. Then the city demolished the ruin in the spring road to prevent a right pilgrimage. A green meadow remained. It was quiet.
Too quiet for Chris Schlüter. When the eleven commemorative benches at the NSU were destroyed on November 4, 2016, and the Zwickau barely reacted, the youth social worker did it. He organized a picket, put candles on Schumannplatz. The 32-year-old is almost always there when there are actions in Zwickau against the right, makes in the Democratic Alliance with, currently also in the initiative "For less fear". Again and again he organized small commemorative actions – the response remained manageable.
The Zwickau would have taken a long time to wake up on the subject of NSU, criticized Schlüter, as he runs in the olive green Parka again from one appointment to another through the city, the hood pulled over the head because of the cold. Many feared damage to the image of the city, others were simply "overwhelmed and killed".
When the oak was felled for Enver Şimşek, it was again Schlüter who organized the rally. But this time the reaction is different, he says. For Schlüter, however, it is clear that much earlier there had to be a clear commitment to the processing of the NSU.
Pia Findeiß also realized this at some point. She also criticized after the ruined banks in 2016, a lack of outcry in the city, accused the Zwickauern "ignorance". The benches were later installed by Findeiß at the city's New Year's Reception.
When last summer in Munich the verdict in the NSU trial fell, against Beate Zschäpe and four helpers, invited Findeiß to commemorate the murder victims and left hang in the town hall a board with the ten names. "We are upset and ashamed", says about it. "Never again!" Shortly thereafter, the idea for the commemorative trees was initiated, which Findeiß finally pulled through on its own.
But there is also the other side. In 2016, when a group of artists wanted to hold a Theatertreffen in Zwickau on the subject of NSU, entitled "Undiscovered Neighbors", and asked for funding, the Culture Committee initially rejected. The CDU warned of a "stigma" that would be hardened. Findeiß, on the other hand, promoted the project and in the end the committee approved the funding.
Right-wing splinter party
Even now, after the felled oak, not all seem affected. When the city council drew up a memorandum condemning the crime and criticizing people for their hostility, the AfD did not sign. The right-wing extremist splinter party, the III. Weg, in Zwickau: There is etched open about the "collective whimpering around a tree". One should rather remember victims of "alien force", "instead of planting trees for strangers".
Chris Schlüter is convinced that the precipitation was "an organized Nazi action". The perpetrators arrived with a saw, which speaks against a spontaneous act. "That was a signal: we're there, we're doing something."
In fact, there was a similar incident in 2015 already. The youth migration service in Zwickau had set up a tree as a symbol of diversity. During the planting campaign right-wing extremist identities appeared with a banner. A little later, the field maple was sawed off.
Today it is mainly the III. Weg, which is active in Zwickau, primarily in the development area Neuplanitz. Here the party invited to a summer festival and a football tournament, ran "national stripes". The NSU proceedings in Munich castigated the neo-Nazis as a "show trial". The position is not surprising, the party field also moves a Zwickauer, who was the most faithful helper for the NSU core trio: André Eminger.
Even the 40-year-old, with Nazi tattoos littered, lives in Neuplanitz, in one of the skyscrapers, several neighbors are migrants. Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt already gave Eminger an apartment in 1998, shortly after diving in, and later a health insurance card. He rented mobile homes for them and came regularly for a visit. At the very end, after the explosion in the apartment on 4 November 2011, he helped Beate Zschäpe to escape from Zwickau.
In the NSU trial Eminger still received the mildest sentence of all defendants, also because he was the only one silent until the very end: two and a half years in prison. Even his lawyer described him as a "National Socialist with skin and hair". Right-wing extremists celebrate him as a hero. And Eminger continues to openly appear in the scene, attends right-rock concerts and Nazi contemporary witness lectures. What he says to the sawed off NSU memorial tree, one does not know: When the taz rings at his home, no one opens.
Documentation Center required
The NSU in Zwickau is not a past. He is present.
This Sunday, therefore, others come to Zwickau: activists of the "NSU Tribunal". The NSU network is still working today, criticizing the alliance, which has been calling for more information on the terror series for years. The group calls for a permanent location. At the weekend, she and Zwickauer Engagierten are rebuilding a vacant fashion store in the city center: as an "interim documentation center" with exhibitions and discussions. It's the old Findeiß proposal.
So far, all NSU memorials are sites of silence, says "tribunal" spokesman Danilo Starosta. It lacks a "discursive place", with space for workshops and educational offers. Zwickau would be ideal for that. Even when the NSU investigation committee ended in Saxony, left and Greens demanded such a center.
The idea appeals. Martin Böttger, the Green, and Chris Schlüter are in favor. Similarly, the Zwickau History Workshop, the last student projects organized NSU. There is also a suggestion where the documentation center could move in: in the former Schocken department store in the old town, near the town hall.
Schlüter leads to the building, points to the empty windows, on the ground floor a cheap products shop. "The house will soon be renovated, plus the location, everything fits," says Schlüter. In addition, it would also be a symbol because the former owners were Jews whose property was aryanized.
Pia Findeiß also says that she stands by her suggestion. The Schocken department store would be difficult, that would be in private hands. Above all, it needs the funds from the federal government for a NSU documentation center. Zwickau alone could not do that, and the topic went far beyond the city limits. The federal government is not aware of a new request for such a center. That's why she does not comment.
Whoever saw off the tree for Enver Şimşek, he has achieved one thing: the city is shaken up. At the rally after the act were also CDU city councils. One of them, Christian Siegel, explains that he too is open to a documentation center. "Zwickau can not displace the NSU. We have an obligation here. "And Pia Findeiß also says that the subject of NSU will never be able to set Zwickau apart. "And we also have to do something more than other cities."
"It's not about the image of the city. It's about the victims "
It's not about the image of the city
Martin Böttger says that today he has the feeling that the majority of Zwickauers are behind the NSU commemoration. Chris Schlüter also sees it that way. But it must be clear that this is not about the image of the city. "It's about the victims."
The family of Enver Şimşek is also following the events in Zwickau. On Friday criticized Gamze Kubasik, daughter of the Dortmund NSU victim Mehmet Kubasik, that the families were not asked to the idea of the memorial trees and were not invited to the memorial service in Zwickau. The memory of her father is to be welcomed, of course, but this approach "an impudence," said Kubasik.
Would Merkel press for critical questions about NSU education? The family of Enver Şimşek also confirmed that they had not been invited to Zwickau.
However, she finds the idea of a documentation center "very good," says her lawyer Basay-Yildiz. Because it was the hope of the family that Enver and the other victims would not forget that the NSU terror would still be further enlightened, the policy finally serious against right-wing extremism.
It is this point that the Şimşeks and Mayor Pia Findeiß meet: The responsibility that arises from the NSU terror goes beyond Zwickau. Basay-Yildiz says there is one thing that the family hurts as well: "That after the NSU people were murdered by neo-Nazis." Walter Lübcke in Kassel, the two dead of Halle. Thus, so the lawyer, all remembrance waste remains. "Because that would have prevented exactly that for the family."