Mitten in Deutschland — German History X

A huge conglomeration of public and private foundations put together a three-part series on the early 2000s murder spree of the National Socialist Underground called Mitten in Deutschland (In the Middle of Germany) in Germany and German History X when it was released by Netflix with English subtitles.

It's basically a trilogy of feature-length movies. I found it surprisingly good. German television and movies punch below their weight in general, but have shown some intermittent signs of improvement in recent years. Deutschland '83 is much more than watchable, and so is German History X. 

The first movie, about the formation of the 2-man one-woman 'trio' which formed the core of the NSU, shows the protagonists coming together in the 1990s neo-Nazi scene in Jena. The three core performers are stellar. The film also does a fine job of demonstrating how young people in the damaged, demoralized East often sought fellowship and a sense of purpose in violent Nazi groups. The second movie focuses on the victims, and is held together by a strong performance by Almila Bagriacik, who emerges from adolescence under the shadow of the murder of her father. The police immediately seek the killer in the 'milieu' of foreign small businessmen, without considering the possibility of a terrorist motive even after numerous other foreign shopkeepers are killed with the same weapon used to kill the first victim. 

The final movie, which focuses on the investigation, is the slackest of the bunch. This is hard to avoid, since the subject is, by definition, an investigation that went nowhere. The early-2000s murder spree of the three NSU members was discovered only posthumously, when two of them committed suicide after a botched 2011 bank robbery, and the murder weapon was found in their accomplice's apartment. The third movie paints a picture of detectives who develop solid leads, only to be frustrated by the machinations of the Thuringia state Verfassungsschutz. The Verfassungsschutz claimed to have deeply infiltrated the groups supporting the NSU trio, and fought against any arrests, questioning, or surveillance which could theoretically blow their agents' cover. Which meant, in the end, that they provided an enormous amount of cover, and even financing, to out-and-out Nazis who were committing sundry violent crimes. The movies' clear implication is that the Verfassungsschutz was operating at least in part out of sympathy for the right-wingers' goals.

The English translation of Verfassungsschutz in the movies was "secret service", which obviously doesn't do justice to this peculiar organization. English-language viewers certainly missed many of the implications of what was shown in the third film. Basically, the "Agency for the Protection of the Constitution", as the title means in English, is an originally West German domestic spying and intelligence agency. As its name implies, it is theoretically supposed to monitor, document, report on, and suppress any nascent threats to the German constitutional order. This includes right-wing and left-wing extremists, religious organizations, and cults. Each German state has one of these agencies, and there is a federal one as well. To call them controversial is an understatement — they are often accused of putting far more energy into surveillance of left-wing militants than right-wing groups, and are also accused of chilling free speech by singling out politically-charged organizations and publications for scrutiny in their public reports. In fact, the right-wing weekly newspaper Junge Freiheit – successfully sued to prohibit the Verfassungsschutz from mentioning them in its reports.

The agency has also been involved in innumerable scandals involving — at the very minimum — incompetence. The most recent in a very long list is the hiring of Roque M. (g) — a German citizen of Spanish descent who was hired as a Verfassungsschutz spy in the State of Northern Rhine Westphalia despite a history of mental instability and bizarre behavior, such as acting in gay porn films even though he was a married father of 4, running his own gay porn publishing house, running a website selling "German Military Underwear. Strong. Manly. Sexy.", and converting to radical Islam. The Verfassungschutz – apparently unaware of the possibility of running a Google search — only found out about him when he bragged about being a mole in the agency and working on plans to destroy it in an online forum which was being monitored by his co-workers.

In fact, the picture of the German law enforcement authorities in all of the films is devastating. The Keystone Kops of East Germany let the three neo-Nazis go underground even after finding bombs and weapons in one of their hideouts. Cops invent a hare-brained drug-smuggling conspiracy theory to explain the totally unrelated murder of ethnic-minority shopkeepers all over Germany with the exact same weapon. (Although this isn't mentioned in the film, they also chased a phantom serial killer whose existence was based on botched DNA testing). Their attitude toward murder victims' surviving relatives is callous in the extreme; Germany still has only a vestigial state infrastructure for providing counseling and care to surviving family members of murder victims. And in the third movie, the police actively allow and sometimes even assist neo-Nazis to commit violent crimes and spread propaganda, either out of incompetence or covert sympathy for their goals.

The general portrayal of police agencies is counterbalanced by sympathetic portrayals of individual cops, but they are seen as constantly having to fight against institutional blindness, rivalry, and silo-mentality thinking. When they're not fighting against moles in their own and other agencies who actually intentionally assist the neo-Nazis. The picture of police is probably a bit exaggerated, but there is no doubt much of it was justified — there are still dozens of very strange unanswered questions surrounding the fruitless investigation of the NSU murders. And, given the authorities' mania for secrecy and the lack of a culture of vigorous investigative journalism fed by leaks from inside the government, they'll probably remain unanswered forever.

7 thoughts on “Mitten in Deutschland — German History X

  1. A huge conglomeration of public and private foundations put together a three-part series on the early 2000s murder spree of the National Socialist Underground called Mitten in Deutschland

    Huge conglomerations of public and private foundations seem to be the norm nowadays. Yup, Nazi title, too.

    In fact, the picture of the German law enforcement authorities in all of the films is devastating.” I suppose that’s the purpose.

    I said it once, I’ll say it again.

    Number one: The German inland secret service called “Verfassungsschutz“, often perceived as a bunch of bunglers, are not quite as harmless as they (like to) seem, and has a history of false flag operations surrounding left- and right-wing terrorism (which they are supposed to infiltrate and keep under control – plus some counter-esp during the cold war – perhaps turning to Islamic infiltration now), up to the point hat the radical right could not be prosecuted because it is / was predominantly a false flag operation. Some of these operations, which include explosive incidents, have been proven, others remain a rumor (which is no wonder, considering they’re supposed to stay secret).

    Number two: Do the movies mention the two police members shot in their car? For reasons yet unknown? “Reason unknown” runs through this ten-year murder spree til today. “The police immediately seek the killer in the ‘milieu’ of foreign small businessmen, without considering the possibility of a terrorist motive even after numerous other foreign shopkeepers are killed with the same weapon used to kill the first victim. ” And why? Because there is none of the usual terrorist activity. No proclamation, nothing. The proclamation “video” – made by whom? was, along with the murder weapon and other bits of framework, ah, evidence, found in the rubble / sent around after the suicides / fire / explosion that marked the end of the NSU after two-thirds committed suicide; it was the most clandestine terrorism in history. Except for two bombs in Cologne, over 20 injured, and 15 bank robberies. Now, clandestine murder of foreigners with one and the same weapon usually means: foreign secret service, or organized crime.

    Now I don’t even doubt if the final suiciders may have pulled the trigger, and planted the bombs, and even with a xenophobic mindset; but the trial of the sole female survivor is still running, AFAIK, and she remains tight as a clam. Were they lured? ordered? protected? stooged? blackmailed? handymen? – or did they really act simply on their own, never once to be seen or caught, the Verfassungsschutz always near, even when the bombs went off, over a decade, and nobody pulled them out of business? What kind of a state organization is that, if it is not in some way in on the game? On the other hand, potential witnesses are said to have died in droves, and quite mysteriously, too – something I cannot verify, as dead witnesses tend not to show up in court. Others don’t say much. Some say it was an underground war between the German and Turkish right-wing secret service, the Grey Wolves, and the causalities were unwilling recipients of their threat & blackmail, but that’s far off. But who knows. What we do know: the Verfassungsschutz was party.

    I, as a bystander, have two possibilities.

    One, I believe the German police on ground level, esp. after losing two colleagues, did their best, connecting the dots as “murders of foreigners, which had something to do with them being foreign and small business owners” – i.e. organized crime, a protection racket, perhaps even foreign gvt involvement. That’s not unusual. And were thrown off the trail by -coincidentally and conveniently- contaminated DNA samplers. The bungly Verfassungsschutz guy caught and interviewed anyway, on the other hand, was no coincidental bystander of right-wing activity (“I didn’t notice the killing, as I was watching internet porn; no, texting my GF, oh, none of your business”); the state organization was deeply involved, for reasons yet & perhaps for ever unknown. The xenophobic murderers, if it were them, acted as prompted, and kept quiet about it; and their reasons will remain just as unknown for a long time at least, as they were ditched & suicided when it was over, and the leftover one had to blow up the house, leaving fast-fabricated incriminating evidence to be planted, and now remains as quiet as a mouse for fear of her life, lest she contradict herself. Prison cell suicides are not unknown in Germany. And remain suicides, if investigated.

    Or, I believe the easy, soothing, pc explanation: German police on ground level, esp. after losing two colleagues, are complete idiots, did not recognize right-wing terrorism when it stared them in the face, the Verfassungsschutz guy was just a good friend, his organization a friendly neighborhood watch, too stupid, blind or good- natured to notice right-wing terrorism, when he was on the scene of the crime, the state was, for once, not involved, the xenophobic murderers, acting as, really sly, serial killers all over Germany, getting the urge every once in a while, camping out the rest of the year, robbing banks, killing uninvolved police in their squad car just for kicks, were never caught, but just before they were about to gloat about it publicly on video, after a decade or so, they decide to blow each other’s head off with pump guns in a burning van after a final bungled bank job, the most preposterous combined suicide ever, and it says so in a three – part movie, made by a bunch of the usual state-funded suspects, even before the trial of their shared silent gf of various aliases is over. Ok, I buy. Oh, yes, there’s child porn found as well.

    Where does a wise man hide a leaf? In a forest. Where does a wise man hide a corpse? On a battlefield. So says Father Brown. And where does a wise man hide a secret?

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  2. Oh, I forgot: The dumbbells of the German police, while investigating the child porn / abduction & murder / possible trafficking case later hitched to the NSU, AGAIN are foiled by DNA contamination – twice in the same right-wing underground case! And nowhere else, or so is not known. The idiots! Twice! Move along, folks, nothing to be seen here…

    Possible? Yes! Plausible? Strange coincidence? Very.

    How about going for a hat trick?

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  3. Good points all of them, but I disagree as to one: not all terror attacks come with a (credible, reliable) claim of responsibility. Think of the 1981 Oktoberfest bombing, or the 1980 Bologna bomb.

    There was no statement of responsibility because this was part of the strategy of tension. The lack of a definite attribution *enhances* fear and uncertainty and undermines the state even more. Just as it did with the NSU attacks.

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  4. I agree:

    Right-wing terror attacks tend to go for the random “innocent bystander” target: train stations, festivals (oh – doesn’t that just remind me of something?) – as opposed to rather left-winger government targets. However, even in those cases you mentioned there was government / secret service subset involvement dancing around – and I’m not dissing the services for trying to infiltrate. It’s just ever so often they go from infiltration to abuse, and then go far. We have countless unsolved? narrated? terrorist murders in Germany since the sixties, beginning with the so-called third-wave RAF – Herrhausen and the like. Bankers, politicians often, copying the leftist pattern. And not just in Germany; London, Poland, Italy, Switzerland…

    Apart from that: Agreed. If you bomb a random community, and you don’t tell them who you are, you scare the people at random, and they ask for protection by the state. That’s what right-wingers want – the criminal ones included. And these don’t care if they kill their countrymen – in fact, that’s their aim, for to blame someone else, undermine security, call for the strong man, undermine the state, as you say.

    But here, the killing wasn’t at all random – it targeted a specific subset of a minority. Killing random strangers would have been much easier otherwise. Now, either that was extremely clever, for it very successfully threw the police off course – or these targets had another purpose we will never know, as long as the dead silence lasts that surrounds this case ever since. By obviously targeting a subset of foreigners without telling them who you are and what you want – how do you expect them to react? Leave the country? They don’t know who their enemy is – it could be some local or national rival. They simply don’t know; nor does the general public. And so they freeze. And they did. I’ll bet even they thought it was internal, and who knows what ist was.

    The only rational explanation indeed, is a year-long criminal xenophobic serial killer murder spree, plus two police cops, plus serial bank robbery, with the state nearby, foiling the police (at least not tipping them off), not wanting their targets to leave, or the state to act, or to instigate civil war, or whatever. But that’s not really terrorism by definition, and the circumstances do leave wide room for explanation. A very twisted logic would state that the Muslim community tends to regulate crime within itself, so that the bulk of their crimes never shows up in any official statistic, except when they conflict with non-Muslims (when was the last case of one Turk suing another for fraud? Grievous bodily harm? It’s only when there’s a corpse the German law enforcement gets to do its job) – and the NSU wanted to show that up and /or make them fight among themselves. But even they… naw. Too much honor. Didn’t work out that way anyhow.

    What we do know by now is that the Verfassungsschutz was around in both the bombings and in at least one of the shootings, and that’s more than just fishy.

    More is not known, as no one will tell.

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  5. Thanks for the tip! Top class TV. You do not get stuff like this on the BBC anymore despite having to pay £150 p.a. for the privilege.

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