Neo-Nazis May Have Targeted a Berlin Synagogue, German Court Hears

Police officer guarding the Rykestrasse Synagogue in Berlin reported seeing two members of the National Socialist Underground scouting out the location.

Beate Zschaepe testifying in a Munich court last week.
Christof Stache/AFP

A statement in a German court this week indicated that a Berlin synagogue may have been targeted by neo-Nazi radicals in 2000, according to the German website The Local.

The statement was made by a lawyer in the trial of Beate Zschäpe, who is facing 10 murder charges for crimes allegedly committed by her and two National Socialist Underground accomplices, both now dead.  

Prosecutor Yavuz Narin told the court that a police officer saw the members of the neo-Nazi group scouting out Rykestrasse Synagogue in Berlin, Germany’s largest synagogue. He was relying on a report that the officer made to the Berlin Office of Criminal Investigations.

The police officer was guarding the synagogue in 2000 when he saw Zschäpe and Uwe Mundlos, a now-deceased NSU member, at a nearby café. The two were later joined by another man and a woman with two children.

He later saw Zschäpe and Mundlos again in the vicinity of the synagogue.

Narin explained that it appeared Zschäpe and Mundlos had the synagogue under surveillance for a possible attack.

The officer subsequently saw the people he had observed at the synagogue on television, described as NSU members on the run. He gave a statement to the Berlin criminal office and identified Zschäpe and Mundlos in photographs.

Narin has now requested that the officer be brought in as a witness in the case.

The NSU is accused of carrying out a series of 10 murders between 2000 and 2007, mostly against victims with immigrant backgrounds – eight ethnic Turks, one Greek and one German policewoman.

Mundlos and the third member of the cell, Uwe Böhnhardt, are believed to have carried out the murders. They were found dead in an apparent double suicide following a failed bank robbery attempt in 2011. Zschäpe turned herself in days later.

Breaking her three years of silence during the trial, Zschäpe admitted in court last week that she had once identified “completely with aspects of nationalistic thought,” but that was no longer the case.

“Today I do not judge people based on their ethnic background or their political views but on how they act,” she said.