Police in the eastern German city of Zwickau announced Sunday that a second memorial dedicated to the first victim of the National Socialist Underground (NSU), a German right-wing extremist terror group, had been vandalized. The destruction took place in the night between Saturday and Sunday.
The memorial, a wooden bench, had been set up at the sight of a previous memorial, an oak tree, which had been sawed down earlier this week. The bench had been put there to replace it.
Both memorials were dedicated to Enver Simsek, a flower seller with Turkish roots who was killed in Nuremberg by the NSU in 2000. He was the first of 10 people to be murdered by the NSU in anti-immigrant killings between 2000-2007.
The vandalism is being investigated as a politically motivated act. German politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government spokesman, Steffen Seibert, have condemned the memorials’ destruction as shocking displays of intolerance.
In 2016 a different memorial to the victims of the NSU in Zwickau was also vandalized.
Nine of the 10 victims were of foreign heritage, but they had all made Germany their home when they were killed. The 10th victim was a German police officer. Every one of them was shot in cold blood.
On September 9, 2000, the florist Enver Simsek, pictured with his wife, was shot eight times. The 38-year-old father of two sold flowers near a small parking lot in the southern city of Nuremberg. Simsek, who migrated from Turkey to Germany in 1986, is believed to be the first murder victim in the NSU series of racially motivated killings.
Also in Nuremberg, Turkish-born tailor Abdurrahim Ozudogru was shot on June 13, 2001 in his alteration shop. He was 49 years old with a daughter who was 19 at the time of his murder.
Later that month, on June 27, 2001 Suleyman Taskopru was shot dead in his father’s fruit and vegetable shop in Hamburg. He was 31 years old and had a three-year-old daughter.
On August 29 of the same year, 38-year-old Habil Kilic, who was also a fruit and vegetable grocer, was killed in his shop in Munich. Like Taskopru, he was shot in the head. His wife and his 12-year-old daughter later left Germany.
Mehmet Turgut lived in Hamburg, but was visiting a friend in the eastern German city of Rostock and helping out at a Doner kebab fast food restaurant when he was shot on February 25, 2004. He was killed by three bullets to the head.
Ismail Yasar was shot five times in his doner kebab restaurant in Nuremberg on June 9, 2005. A customer found him behind the counter. The 50-year-old had three children.
Just a few days later, on June 15, 2005, Theodoros Boulgarides was shot dead in Munich in his lock and key service shop. He was the only victim with Greek heritage. The 41-year-old father of two was the NSU’s seventh murder victim.
On a busy street at noon on April 4, 2006 in the western city of Dortmund, Turkish-born Mehmet Kubasik was killed by several shots to the head in his small convenience store. The 39-year-old left behind a wife and three children.
In Kassel on April 6, 2006, Halit Yozgat was also shot in the head. He was killed in the internet cafe he ran with his father. Twenty-one years old, Turkish-born but with a German passport, Yozgat was taking night school classes to graduate from high school.
Michele Kiesewetter, a 22-year-old police officer, was shot dead on April 25, 2007 in the southwestern city of Heilbronn. She was the NSU’s 10th and final murder victim.
Zwickau: The NSU’s hideout
Zwickau, located near the Polish border in the state of Saxony, was where the NSU terror cell lived underground for many years. The state has a history of being home to strong far-right factions.
The NSU, made up of Uwe Mundlos, Uwe Böhnhardt and Beate Zschäpe, was uncovered by chance in 2011 during a botched robbery. Mundlos and Böhnhardt killed themselves in an apparent murder-suicide shortly after being uncovered.
The murders perpetrated by the group and the resulting court case against Zschäpe, the group’s only surviving member, led to accusations that German authorities had repeatedly failed to take the threat of right-wing violence seriously.
The same criticism has been aimed at the government in recent months as Germany has experienced an uptick in violence and threats from far-right extremist groupings and individuals. German politician Walter Lübcke was murdered in June in the central state of Hesse in what is being treated as a politically motivated act. Lübcke had spoken out in support of Merkel’s open refugee policy.
cmb/sms (epd, dpa)