On November 11, 2011, the Federal Prosecutor General began investigating the Nazi terror of the NSU. On that day, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution shredded relevant files.
Whether there is also the file confetti of the Constitutional Protection? Picture: dapd
It is an event that will further diminish confidence in the German security authorities. It became known on Thursday that a head of unit at the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Cologne ordered on Nov. 11, 2011, that several files on a large-scale intelligence operation from 1997 to 2003 surrounding neo-Nazi terrorists Uwe Mundlos, Uwe Bohnhardt and Beate Zschape be destroyed.
A year after the operation began, the right-wing extremists had gone underground and started an unprecedented series of murders as the National Socialist Underground (NSU).
The deletion process itself is explosive, but the timing is even more explosive. Not because carnival began in Cologne on 11/11/11. But because on that very day it became known that an NSU existed and was responsible for nine murders of migrants between 20.
On the afternoon of that Friday in November, the Attorney General announced that the murder weapon had been found in the trio’s burned-out apartment in Zwickau and that his agency had taken over the investigation.
Sighted – and destroyed
Nov. 4, 2011: In Eisenach, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Bohnhardt rob a bank. Before they can be arrested afterwards, they shoot themselves.
November 7: The pistol of a policewoman murdered in 2007 is found in the mobile home of the two neo-Nazis.
November 8: Beate Zschape turns herself in. She had blown up the neo-Nazi’s apartment in Zwickau four days earlier.
Nov. 11: The Ceska pistol used to murder nine migrants between 20 is found in the apartment. At 2:38 p.m., the Federal Prosecutor General announces that he will take over the investigation. Shortly afterwards, the first excerpts from a video in which the NSU confesses to the crimes become known.
November 12: At the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, seven files on the Thuringian neo-Nazi scene, from which the trio Mundlos, Bohnhardt, Zschape originated, are shredded. This was ordered by a department head the day before. (taz)
The head of department at the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, who is now at the center of the intelligence scandal, actually had the task of sifting through files for the investigation proceedings against the NSU. He did so – and then, according to reports, had seven files on the large-scale intelligence operation "Operation Rennsteig" shredded.
According to his account, because he had noticed that the deletion periods had already expired – under certain conditions, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution may only store personal data for a maximum of 10 years. But to shred potentially relevant information from the NSU environment in this situation is met with horror in Berlin. "It is completely incomprehensible that someone could put files on this complex of topics into the shredder at this point in time," it is said indignantly in security circles.
Federal Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich (CSU) is also said not to have been amused and demands complete clarification from the head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Heinz Fromm. Disciplinary proceedings have been initiated against the responsible official, especially since he is said to have lied to the top brass and initially claimed that the files had been destroyed months before the NSU came to light.
Suspicion of covered tracks
Members of the Bundestag’s NSU investigation committee, who learned of the file shredding on Wednesday evening, were shocked by the process at the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. "They have been asked to look for files, they have found files and they have destroyed the files," said committee chairman Sebastian Edathy (SPD). The Greens’ chairman on the committee, Wolfgang Wieland, said, "There is a suspicion here that traces were covered."
With "Operation Rennsteig," which was launched in 1997 and lasted until 2003, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution as well as the Thuringian State Office and the German Armed Forces Intelligence Service (MAD) wanted to shed light on the neo-Nazi scene around the "Thuringian Home Guard" – the later NSU members Uwe Mundlos, Uwe Bohnhardt and Beate Zschape also came from this far-right comradeship group.
Paid informants in the "Thuringer Heimatschutz" were also recruited for the secret operation. Six of them worked for the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution alone – but Mundlos, Bohnhardt and Zschape are not supposed to have been among them, the secret service circles continue to claim.
According to reports, the Thuringian Office for the Protection of the Constitution was also able to recruit two more undercover agents, in addition to their top source Tino Brandt, whom the office had already been paying for information since 1994 – he was the head of the "Thuringian Homeland Security". But despite all these undercover agents, the intelligence services do not want to have noticed that a right-wing extremist underground terror cell was forming out of the comradeship squad.
Heinz Fromm, who has been head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution since 2000, will testify before the NSU investigation committee in the Bundestag next Thursday. He will have many questions to answer.
BKA chief regrets failure
Meanwhile, the president of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), Jorg Ziercke, has admitted serious mistakes in the investigation of the Zwickau terror cell case. He regretted that the German security authorities had not fulfilled their mandate to protect, Ziercke said in his testimony before the Bundestag’s investigative committee. He added, "We failed."
However, Ziercke would not admit to specific mistakes. He also defended the decision that the BKA did not take over the investigation of the case or have it transferred from the federal interior minister. This had been discussed several times between 20, but in the end the Bavarian investigators always remained in charge.
The committee wanted to use the questioning to clarify what role Ziercke played in the investigation failures in the case of the National Socialist Underground (NSU). The group lived unmolested underground from 1998 until it was busted in 2011 and murdered ten people. Ziercke has been president of the BKA since 2004.
During his testimony, Ziercke identified failures on the part of the Thuringian authorities, in particular the State Office for the Protection of the Constitution. The NSU trio was active in the right-wing extremist scene there before going underground. "This may have been where the central deficits were," Ziercke said. If one link in the federal security system did not work, the others would not work either, he said. (with dapd)