With the publication of the NSU files in the program “ZDF Magazin Royale” by Jan Böhmermann, the protection of the constitution in Hesse has once again moved into the limelight. Even more than ten years after the death of two of the three members who called themselves the “National Socialist Underground” (NSU), many questions remain.

According to the Hessian Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the right-wing extremist group, which is now known as the NSU, consisted of the three members Uwe Mundlos, Uwe Böhnhardt and Beate Zschäpe. The trio are responsible for the murders of nine migrants and one police officer between 2000 and 2007. The NSU was blown up in 2011 when Mundlos and Böhnhardt were found dead in a burned-out mobile home. On the same day, a fire destroyed an apartment in Zwickau where the right-wing terrorists were hiding. Zschäpe was later arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment.

The Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Hesse has been criticized in two respects because of the NSU complex. First of all, because of the investigative methods. The authority did not link the ten murders to a right-wing extremist context. Instead, investigations were carried out in the direction of crime by foreigners and clan crime, and attempts were made to find motives in the immediate vicinity of the victims. The series of murders was first known as the “kebab murders”. This is particularly problematic because the Office for the Protection of the Constitution was already paying so-called “informers” in ranks of right-wing extremists in Hesse, Thuringia and Saxony to obtain information. As things stand today, it should have been noticeable that the NSU trio planned at least one attack by illegally purchasing weapons and explosives.

On the other hand, the authority is criticized because the processing of the investigation errors still has a large number of gaps. To this day, it has not been clarified why the NSU trio chose the victims in question, whether there were accomplices, why files on the case were shredded on the day of Mundlos and Böhnhardt’s deaths, and why the Hessian Office for the Protection of the Constitution assumed until the very end that the The NSU trio acted alone, although relevant contacts in the right-wing extremist scene were known.

The files, which Jan Böhmermann published in his program in cooperation with the “Ask the State” initiative last Friday, are an internal report by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution to clarify the investigation failure in the NSU complex from 2014. Boris Rhein had commissioned it , who replaced Volker Bouffier as Hessian Minister of the Interior. Rhein instructed 27 employees of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution to search all files on the subject of right-wing extremism from 1992 to 2012 with regard to the question of whether references to the NSU or right-wing terrorism in general had been overlooked.

Those responsible examined hundreds of thousands of files and evaluated them. The result was a test report – the so-called NSU files. However, this report was not intended for the general public. The Hessian Office for the Protection of the Constitution classified the document as secret – it was to be kept under lock and key for 120 years, i.e. until 2134. Due to public pressure, this period was shortened to 30 years. The “ZDF Magazin Royale” and “Frag den Staat” have now published this data 22 years before the end of the period.

At the request of the stern, the Hessian State Office for the Protection of the Constitution did not want to directly confirm the authenticity of the files. However, the authority already filed criminal charges against unknown persons on Monday for the disclosure of secret documents. This would not happen if the documents were fictitious, the agency said.

At first glance: few. Much of what the Hessian Office for the Protection of the Constitution summarized in its report was suspected in advance or indirectly confirmed. In particular, no new findings are noted on the murder motives of the NSU trio. Katharina König-Preuss agrees. She sits for the left in the Thuringian state parliament and was and is one of the leading investigators in the NSU investigative committee in Thuringia. In an interview with the star, she explains: With regard to the NSU complex, there is no new knowledge.

Nevertheless, the publication is important, according to König-Preuss, especially in relation to the alleged network of the NSU. “What really irritated me was that two Thuringian neo-Nazis play such a leading role in this report.” The report reveals that the Office for the Protection of the Constitution was informed that the NSU trio was in particular in contact with Thomas G., a member of the racist neo-Nazi network “Hammerskins” and Thorsten H., the former state chairman of the NPD in Thuringia. Nevertheless, the authorities basically treated Mundlos, Bönhardt and Zschäpe as an individually acting group. Despite contacts with other neo-Nazis, it was apparently not assumed that they were part of a network.

This is also incomprehensible for König-Preuss: “I can’t explain it. Actually, one should have tried to put this information together and also look at what it means.” But apparently that didn’t happen. Entire lists of meetings that had taken place were drawn up to conclude that the NSU was involved in the right-wing extremist scene, but the Office for the Protection of the Constitution failed to do so.

Likewise, some of the investigators’ analyzes seem incomprehensible. It was repeatedly found that right-wing extremists had gained access to weapons and explosives. Nevertheless, the report says: “Parallel to this, no information was found on the violent behavior of these people.”

Inconceivable for König-Preuss: “Anyone who considers weapons and explosives in the right-wing scene to be non-violent doesn’t even have the basic knowledge of right-wing structures on the screen.”

Since the NSU was blown, the question has been whether the Office for the Protection of the Constitution supported the neo-Nazi trio through incompetence, inaction or even actively. This question is not answered in the report. Nevertheless, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution summarizes: “The file management and the associated documentation of work steps in the LfV Hessen [were] not good, especially in the 1990s.”

König-Preuss finds this description too mild. For them, the indications are that the Office for the Protection of the Constitution not only “deliberately remained inactive, but that behind this deliberate inaction, there may even have been active activity”.

Why the secret service did not want to publish the report is pure speculation. Upon request, the authority said that the report could not be published because it was classified as classified information and contained information that, among other things, endangered the protection of sources.

Critics claim that there are two other options for the procedure: either the Office for the Protection of the Constitution wanted to cover up its own incompetence, or at least individual actors deliberately supported the neo-Nazis. However, König-Preuss points out: “We cannot absolutely determine either of the two, because the published report is not complete either.”

This is precisely what does not allow for a conclusive interpretation of the report. During the evaluation, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution found that 541 files could not be found. A part turned up again, but to this day more than 200 of these files are missing from the report.

Structurally, no consequences are initially to be expected. König-Preuss hopes that public pressure will lead to setting up an archive around the NSU complex. The families of the victims have been asking for this for years. If there were any direct consequences at all, the Thuringian member of the state parliament feared it would be for the whistleblower who passed on the information.

Sources: leaked NSU files, ask the state, Exif research platform,