For some time, it has been known that at least 25 secret service undercover operatives were active around the far-right National Socialist Underground (NSU) terrorist group. Now evidence is mounting of direct involvement of the security services in assassinations attributed to the NSU.
Long-suppressed information and investigations suggest a link between two bomb attacks in Cologne attributed to the NSU with the secret service and Cologne’s neo-Nazi scene. This is reported by Stefan Aust and Dirk Laabs, authors of the book “Homeland Security: The State and the NSU murders”, in the Welt am Sonntag. The article is largely based on the records of the victim’s lawyers in the NSU trial, which has been taking place before the Munich Higher Regional Court for over two years.
In January 2001 in a shop in Cologne’s Probsteigasse, the then 19-year-old Mashia Malayeri opened a tin in a Christmas hamper, which someone had left there in December. The tin exploded, severely injuring her. With the help of her father and sister, police developed a photo-fit image of the man who had left the hamper in the shop. Both recalled a young man with long dark blond hair.
In November 2011, when the NSU collapsed, the group had claimed responsibility for the Probsteigasse bombing. However, the photo-fit image bore no resemblance to the two male NSU members, Uwe Böhnhardt or Uwe Mundlos, who had allegedly carried out all ten NSU murders, bombings, and numerous bank robberies. In February 2012, the Federal Criminal Police (BKA) sent the photo-fit image to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV, the Secret Service) and asked for help in identifying the man. The national intelligence service also sent the image to the state secret service agency in North Rhine Westphalia.
The former head of the state secret service in Düsseldorf, 40 kilometres from Cologne, was Mathilde Koller. She wrote several official statements that the authors Aust and Laabs have now examined. In one of the first, she said the photo-fit image showed “similarities” with a well-known Cologne neo-Nazi, Johann Helfer, called “Helle”.
In a note a week later, she wrote: “Johann Detlef Helfer has worked since 1989 as an undercover operative for the North Rhine Westphalia secret service.” According to the note, Helfer was “directed” towards a leading neo-Nazi in Cologne. According to the two authors, this was Axel Reitz, dubbed “the Hitler of Cologne,” by the local press, who was 16 years younger than Helfer.
Reitz and Helfer together led the neo-Nazi scene in Cologne and were in contact the NSU’s immediate periphery. For example, in September 2004, Reitz received a letter from a Swiss Nazi asking about the health of “comrade Eminger”. André Eminger stands before the court in Munich as a supporter of the NSU. His twin brother is also active in the right-wing scene.
The secret service agent who had driven Helfer to the Probsteigasse shop at the time of the attack has since died. According to Koller, Helfer displayed “affinity with weapons and military exercises.” As a young man, he already had far-right sympathies and was a member of a paramilitary group; he trained with the Bundeswehr (Army) as a sniper and was sent into the reservists association by the intelligence services.
BKA investigators showed the victim’s father and sister two photos of Helfer; however, one was blurred and indistinct, the second was an outdated passport photo. From these, the two witnesses did not recognise Helfer as the culprit.
A picture of Helfer found on the Internet, which the victim’s lawyers showed the two witnesses and is very similar to the 2001 photo-fit image, was different. One of the lawyers wrote to the Munich Higher Regional Court: “Both Mr. Djayad Malayeri (the victim’s father) and Mrs Mahshid Malayeri (her sister) spoke of frightening similarity of the photograph in the file, said to show Johann Helfer, with their recollection of the person who left the gift hamper before Christmas 2000.”
The Attorney General and BKA have so far been inactive. Helfer has apparently still not been questioned. Four months after writing the note to the Attorney General, Mathilde Koller retired “for personal reasons”. She will soon have to publicly testify for the first time about the case to the state parliament’s Committee of Inquiry into the NSU in Düsseldorf.
The Welt am Sonntag article also reports that Helfer had contact with Cologne neo-Nazi Paul Breuer, who belonged to Reitz’s group. A few days before the article appeared in Welt am Sonntag, the Saxony Free Press had reported on new evidence implicating the Hesse state secret service operative Andreas Temme. At the time of the murder of the 21-year-old Halit Yozgat on 6 April 2006, Temme was sitting in his Internet cafe in Kassel.
Temme must now testify again at the NSU trial before the Munich Higher Regional Court. He is to be questioned about a plastic bag, with which another witness saw him enter the Internet cafe on the day of the attack. Temme, who led the undercover operatives, had previously said he did not have this plastic bag.
Significantly, according to investigators, the murders attributed to the NSU were carried out with a silenced pistol wrapped in a plastic bag. The perpetrators reportedly tried to collect the cartridge cases this way, so as not to leave them at the crime scene.
Three years ago, gun shot residue (GSR) had been found on a grey pair of leather gloves recovered from Temme’s childhood home in 2006. Police sent the gloves to the BKA with a request for “urgent processing”. The BKA took their time with the investigation, because traces of GSR were nothing extraordinary for a sports shooter, which Temme was, they said. The result which then followed was dismissed with the same argument.
However, this analysis pointed to a peculiarity. Besides traces of GSR for other types of ammunition, the gloves also had traces of ammunition used in the Ceska pistol used to commit the NSU murders.
New and old findings paint the following picture: Andreas Temme, who was known as “Little Adolf” in his native village, controlled an undercover agent in neo-Nazi circles linked to the NSU. He phoned him on the days of the murders in Kassel, Nuremberg and Munich. When the young Halit Yozgat was shot in his Internet cafe, Temme was present. He carried a plastic bag containing a heavy object. And gunshot residue was found on his gloves from ammunition used at the NSU killings.
Weeks before it was publicly known that Yozgat had also been shot with a Ceska, Temme told this to a colleague. His boss, Gerold-Hasso Hess, had discussed his statement to police with Temme. Hess’ first sentence in a recorded telephone conversation with Temme was, “I tell everyone: If they know that somewhere something like this is happening, please do not drop by”.
The then Hesse state interior minister, now state premier Volker Bouffier (CDU) holds his protective hand over Temme. To date, the Attorney General has withheld 37 files on Temme from the prosecution in the Munich NSU trial, claiming they were “irrelevant.”
“It is is of some relevance whether Temme covered up the crime, or was possibly involved in it,” the Yozgat family’s lawyer, Alexander Kienzle, told the Free Press.