In two days of testimony this week, suspected terrorist killer Uwe Böhnhardt's mother expressed slight sympathy for the victims of her son's alleged crimes. She also thanked the sole survivor of the neo-Nazi cell on trial for informing the family of his death.
Brigitte Böhnhardt, 65, bore three sons and lost two of them. Peter, the middle child, died in 1988 at the age of 17 for unaccountable reasons. It is alleged he fell after heavy drinking at a party. His mother doesn't know to this day whether he was pushed or fell of his own accord. However it happened, she found him dead on her door step. It's the kind of event which is unlikely to increase a person's confidence in the investigative authorities.
The youngest of her three sons, Uwe, born on Oct. 1 1977, died on Nov. 4, 2011 in a mobile home in Eisenach, Germany. He committed suicide with his friend Uwe Mundlos after a bank robbery in order to avoid capture by police, who were hot on their heels. Authorities now accuse the two men of 10 murders of men of predominantly Turkish origin, 14 armed robberies of banks and the creation of the National Socialist Underground terrorist cell together with Beate Zschäpe, the sole surviving member who is now standing trial in Munich on related charges.
Brigitte Böhnhardt is a woman who has experienced the less happy side of life. Indeed, she grieves for her son just as the families of the NSU's victims do for their lost ones. Some might ever argue that it is worse for her given that when children die having committed murders, it also always sends a message for the parents.
Why Did Our Child Do That?
Böhnhardt's dead son was presumably a murderer and a terrorist whose criminal career began early and was likely unstoppable in spite of his parents' best efforts. Any mother or father in that position would be stricken by guilt and left asking themselves a number of questions. Why did our children end up like that? We loved him, protected and encouraged him as best we could, didn't we? What did we do wrong? Why us? Why our Uwe?
This Tuesday and Wednesday, Böhnhardt testified in the NSU trial in Munich as a witness. The court, led by Judge Manfred Götzl, had reserved two days for her testimony and listened to her extensively with stony-faced expressions. In truth her comments were pretty outrageous and not the kind of thing normally heard in a democratic court, even if one makes allowances for a grieving mother. Böhnhardt made little effort to play down the conspiracy theories which she outlined to the court, ones that right-wing extremists could easily identify with. For an appearance in a legitimate democratic court, she laid it on pretty thick.
She spoke of "her" Uwe, the baby of the family, a sometimes spoiled child who on top of everything else was unlucky enough to have hit puberty during the instable reunification period in his home city of Jena in the former East Germany. At school Uwe was a troubled pupil, despite his mother being a teacher, who began "messing around" as his mother understates it and who resisted everyone and everything. He preferred being with the big boys than with the small in order to be one of the "strong" ones. He was a boy who was sent ahead by the older guys when it came to committing typically juvenile idiocies and crimes because he was under the age of criminal responsibility. All in all, he seemed to be a difficult child.