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Beate Zschäpe (German: [beˈʔaːtə ˈtʃɛːpə];[1][2] née Apel;[3] born 2 January 1975) is a German right-wing extremist and was a member of the neo-Nazi terror group National Socialist Underground (NSU).[4] In July 2018, she was sentenced to life in prison for crimes committed in connection with the NSU, including murder and arson.

Beate Zschäpe
Beate Zschäpe.jpg
Beate Zschäpe on trial
Beate Apel

(1975-01-02) January 2, 1975 (age 44)
Criminal charge10 counts of murder, membership of a terrorist organisation and arson
PenaltyLife imprisonment


Background and childhoodEdit

Beate Zschäpe's mother was a citizen of East Germany who studied dentistry at UMF Bucharest. According to her mother, Zschäpe's father was a Romanian fellow dentistry student. Zschäpe never met him, and she denied being his daughter until his death in 2000.[5] Her mother worked in accounts at Zeiss until 1991, when she became (but did not register as) unemployed.[6]

Living in an austere neighbourhood of Jena,[7] Zschäpe's relationship with her mother was at best uneasy[8] and she spent much of her time in the care of her grandmother. Her mother married and divorced twice and each time Zschäpe took on the surname of her mother's new partner.[9] During the first fifteen years of her life, she moved six times within Jena and its surroundings.[10][11]

A school report for her second school year (1982/1983) says, "Beate strives to achieve good learning results, but often lacks the necessary concentration and order, so she does not reach her full capability ... she is actively and joyfully involved in Pioneer Life".[12]

In 1991, after she finished tenth grade (age 15–16), she left her mainstream school, the Johann Wolfgang von Goethe School, in the Winzerla [de] district of Jena and began work under a job creation program as a painter's assistant. She then went on to do an apprenticeship as a gardener, from 1992–96, specializing in vegetable growing.[13]

Political developmentEdit

Around the time of the reunification of Germany in 1990, the politics around Zschäpe were in turmoil and, in contrast to official GDR propaganda, racism was already widespread.[14]

Aged 14, Zschäpe joined a youth gang which called itself Die Zecken ("The Ticks"). Although the group considered itself politically leftist, there were also completely non-politically oriented members. When Die Zecken planned to attack a meeting of young right-extremists and beat a few of them up, she tagged along.[citation needed] Otherwise she is described at the time as just wanting to enjoy life, only seldom expressing herself politically, and as having a liking for the magazine Bravo (illegal in East Germany).[citation needed]

Her involvement with the political right began around 1991.[10] She met Uwe Mundlos, the son of a computer science professor at the Jena University of Applied Sciences who arrived in Winzerla with his family just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. She formed a relationship with him and entered Jena's neo-Nazi underground, coming into contact with the national and international neo-Nazi network. Uwe Böhnhardt, whose parents were a teacher and an engineer, became a close friend of theirs.[15]

A friend at the time later described her as primitive, empty-headed, with a vulgar demeanour and way of expression lacking any concern for manners. Mundlos he describes as clever but lazy.[16] Criminality (including stealing computers from his school) had left Böhnhardt without qualifications.[17] Neither Zschäpe nor Mundlos were without criminal behaviour by this time. A co-accused in the NSU trial describes Zschäpe as an achiever and not one to be subordinated.[18] A letter Zschäpe wrote while in prison is 26 pages long, in legible, clear script without spelling errors. Sketches in it show clear ability at drawing.[19]

Imprisonment and accusationEdit

On 8 November 2011, Zschäpe tried to turn herself in to the police by a phone call, when she introduced herself saying, "Hello, this is Beate Zschäpe". She said that she was the person they had been looking for and that she was the reason why the whole city had been closed off. However, the policeman who had answered the call did not recognize her and said he did not know anything about such a case. A few hours later, Zschäpe herself arrived with her lawyer at the police station in Jena.[20] Since 8 November 2011, she has been held in custody. On 11 November 2011, the Office of the Attorney General of Germany began investigating Zschäpe's [then alleged] membership of a terrorist unit.[21]

On 8 November 2012, one year after the series of murders became known, the Office of the Attorney General pressed charges against Zschäpe and four alleged supporters. "As a founding member of the NSU", she was accused of having taken part in the murders of eight fellow citizens of Turkish origin and one fellow citizen of Greek origin, in the murderous attack on two police officers in Heilbronn, as well as in the attempted murders by bomb attacks of the NSU in the historic district of Cologne and in Cologne-Mülheim.[22]

According to the charges, the NSU was a group of three members with equal rights who committed their crimes after having coordinated their division of labour. In this process, Zschäpe is said to have had the indispensable task of giving the existence of such a terrorist unit the appearance of normality and legality by, among other things, maintaining an inconspicuous façade at their respective places of residence and by securing their joint flat as a safe haven and headquarters for their actions. In addition, she is said to have been "significantly responsible for the logistics of the group".[citation needed]

In a fingerprint analysis, evidence of Zschäpe's DNA is said to have been found on newspaper articles about the bomb attack in Cologne and the murder of Habil Kilic. In addition, Zschäpe is accused of having "set the flat in Zwickau on fire, hereby having rendered herself liable for prosecution for the attempted murder of a neighbour and two craftsmen as well as for particularly serious arson".[23]

The department of public prosecution in Zwickau also investigated her because child pornographic data had been found on her computer. However, this investigation was said to have been closed, since the penalty for this would be of "no significant weight" in comparison to the penalty for the actions of which she had already been accused.[24]

In February 2013, 60-year-old Annerose Zschäpe told Focus that she thought her daughter was being prejudged and that her position was not being considered objectively. She said that part of a statement she had made to police was misrepresented in the press or taken out of context. She said there was a lot she would like to see put straight, but she did not want to say more before the trial commenced.[25]

NSU trialEdit

The trial started on 6 May 2013 before a division of the Higher Regional Court in Munich dealing with state security cases. According to the code of criminal procedure, the trial was required to take place in one of the federal states in which one of the crime scenes of the NSU is located. Five of the nine murders of immigrants took place in Bavaria.[26] Zschäpe was defended by Wolfgang Heer (Cologne), Wolfgang Stahl (Koblenz) and Anja Sturm (Berlin).[27]

Zschäpe had been imprisoned in the prison in Cologne-Ossendorf[28] but has been moved to a prison in Munich.[29] She refused examination by the court-designated psychologist Henning Sass.[30]

Her defence counsel argued that Zschäpe could be accused of complicity in the NSU murders.[31] In January 2013, the Higher Regional Court in Munich proposed to ease the conditions of Zschäpe’s imprisonment because the NSU did not exist anymore and, therefore, support of the group by the imprisoned woman was no longer possible.[31][32]

In December 2015, Zschäpe, the only surviving member, broke her silence after two and a half years and made a statement, denying that she had been a member of the NSU; although she was involved with some of their members, she herself was not a member and disapproved of their actions. She apologised to victims' families, saying that she felt morally guilty that she could not prevent the murders and bomb attacks carried out by Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt. Few took her apology seriously or accepted it. Bild ran a headline "Zschaepe's confession - nothing but excuses!"[33] In September 2017, the prosecutors demanded a life sentence for her.[34]

On 11 July 2018, Zschäpe was found guilty of ten counts of murder, membership in a terror organization, and arson, and sentenced to life imprisonment without ordinary parole.[35][36]


  1. ^ "tagesschau 20:00 Uhr". YouTube (in German). 9 min 0 s: Tagesschau. 7 November 2017. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  2. ^ "tagesschau 20:00 Uhr". YouTube (in German). Tagesschau. 9 December 2015. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  3. ^ "Schon als Kind hatte sie drei Nachnamen, vier Umzüge". (in German). 2012. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  4. ^ "Beate Zschäpe given life in German neo-Nazi murder trial". BBC News. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  5. ^ Beate Zschäpe - die Mutter der Terrorzelle Deutsche Welle, Arne Lichtenberg, 11 April 2013.
  6. ^ Julia Jüttner,"Beate Zschäpes Mutter: "Unser Vertrauen war weg", Spiegel Online Panorama, 16 November 2012.
  7. ^ Terror aus Thüringen (Teil 2): Die Rolle der Beate Zschäpe Thüringer Allgemeine, 1 December 2011.
  8. ^ Wer ist Beate Zschäpe? n-tv, 9 November 2012
  9. ^ Schleifen und ätzen Focus, Göran Schattauer, 23 January 2013.
  10. ^ a b Beate, die braune Witwe Die Zeit, Christian Fuchs and John Goetz, 31 May 2012.
  11. ^ Ralf Isermann, Zschäpes rätselhafte Rolle Frankfurter Rundschau, 2 November 2012.
  12. ^ Die Unfassbare, 13 April 2013.
  13. ^ Die Zelle. Rechter Terror in Deutschland by Christian Fuchs and John Goetz, published by Rowohlt, 2012.
  14. ^ Belinda Cooper, The Fall of the Wall and the East German Police National Justice Reference Service, 1996
  15. ^ "Cats and Camper Vans: The Bizarrely Normal Life of the Neo-Nazi Terror Cell", Spiegel Online International, 23 February 2012.
  16. ^ Julia Jüttner and Sven Röbel,Angeklagte Beate Zschäpe: Ordinär, bieder, bauernschlau Spiegel Online International, 9 November 2012.
  17. ^ Uwe Böhnhardt The NSU Archive
  18. ^ Der komplizierte Schuldnachweis Archived October 29, 2013, at the Wayback Machine Das Parlament, Wiebke Ramm, 9 September 2013
  19. ^ 26 Seiten, perfekte Orthografie, teilweise anzüglich Die Welt, Per Hinrichs, 16 June 2013
  20. ^ Guten Tag, hier ist Beate Zschäpe": Polizist erkennt Rechtsterroristin nicht, Augsburger Allgemeine 23 January 2012
  21. ^ Press release 35/2011, Attorney General of Germany, 11 November 2011.
  22. ^ Press release 32/2012 Attorney General of Germany, 8 November 2012.
  23. ^ Sie hatte die Jungs im Griff, Tagesschau, 8 November 2012.
  24. ^ "Besitz von Kinderpornografie: Staatsanwaltschaft ermittelte gegen Zschäpe", Spiegel Online Panorama, 12 February 2013.
  25. ^ Meine Tochter ist vorverurteilt Focus, 3 February 2013.
  26. ^ Verfahren gegen Zschäpe in München? Bayerischer Rundfunk, 1 June 2012
  27. ^ Zschäpes Verteidiger keilen gegen den GBA SWR, Holger Schmidt, 1 September 2012
  28. ^ "Im Untergrund, aber nicht allein", BpB, Andrea Röpke, 30 April 2012.
  29. ^ NSU: Zschäpe sitzt jetzt in München tz-online, Ann-Kathrin Gerke, 13. March 2013
  30. ^ "Zschäpe lehnt psychiatrisches Gutachten ab", Spiegel Online Panorama, 14 December 2012.
  31. ^ a b Zschäpes Anwälte machen Teil-Rückzieher Tagesschau, 9 January 2013
  32. ^ Gericht gewährt Zschäpe Erleichterungen FAZ, Karin Truscheit, 9 January 2013
  33. ^ "Germany neo-Nazi trial: Zschaepe denies role in attacks". BBC. Retrieved 9 December 2015.
  34. ^ "Neo-Nazi murders: Prosecutors want Zschäpe to serve life". BBC News. 12 September 2017. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  35. ^ "Neo-Nazi NSU member Beate Zschäpe found guilty of murder, sentenced to life in prison", Deutsche Welle, 11 July 2018.
  36. ^ "NSU-Prozess: Lebenslange Haft für Beate Zschäpe". Spiegel Online. Retrieved 13 July 2018.