She also recalled her telephone contact with her son after he had gone into hiding and their first meeting in a parking lot, for which she and her husband had specially rented a car in order to evade police surveillance. She further recalled notes left in her mailbox with which the trio arranged further metings and the money she gave them to allow Uwe and his friends to eat. "All we wanted was for him not to steal again," she told the court.
"How did they collect the money?" the judge asked. "Someone came, said the password which only Uwe and I knew and received the money, 500 deutsche marks back then, about once every three months," she explained. When asked what the password was, she angrily retorted, "I won't say! That'll be all over the Internet, that's awful. I don't want that!" She gave the impression there couldn't be anything worse than the revelation of details of her relationship to her son. For the record, "Little Rib" was the password, the nickname she gave him as a child after he'd broken some ribs.
Of course mothers are willing to do a lot to protect their children from prosecution. But Brigitte Böhnhardt's testimony was illogical, not always credible and at times downright bizarre.
Few Words for the Victims
She told the story of a police investigator who allegedly threatened to shoot her son and his co-fugitives, "if one of them should so much as twitch during their arrest." But she also testified that she sought to persuade the trio over and over again to turn themselves in. If the authorities had only stuck to their offer, she said reproachfully, the three would have gone to the police. The offer had been to reduce Uwe's potential sentence. Had they done so, "these five young people wouldn't be sitting here in the dock," she said, turning to the defendants. It was clear from that statement that her true sympathy lay with the five accused.
On Tuesday, Böhnhardt didn't mention a single word about the victims. She didn't express any pity for the people shot in the head with a Ceska 83 pistol who were left to bleed to death in agony or their surviving relatives.
Instead, she spoke of her suspicion of the police, whom she alleged planted things at the places where they would later confiscate them, officers who tricked people. She said her son had always told her, "Mom, it's all made up anyway!"
As a woman from eastern Germany who had lived through the times of the German Democratic Republic, she said she had been happy the police didn't tell her that her son had been "shot while trying to flee," the term used for people killed while trying to escape East Germany.
She also described to the court her worries about her son's welfare. "Where were they? What money were they living on? Where were they living?" She said the standard reply had been that the trio had friends and were doing fine. She thought, hoped and convinced herself that her son and his two accomplices were living abroad.
"Mr. Mundlos is convinced that his son only became involved in all this because of ours," she continued. For Böhnhardt, Mundlos is just another grieving father. "But all three were adults," she said feistily. "Any one of them could have left! All of them were equally in charge!"
Mother Thanks Zschäpe
On Wednesday, Brigitte Böhnhardt did express gratitude to Zschäpe, whom she thanked for calling her after the death of her son. She described Zschäpe's voice as having been "very thin and shaky". "It must have been very hard for her to inform the parents," she told the court. She then turned to Zschäpe and said, " Thank you for doing it anyway."
And it was only after she was asked that she expressed any compassion for the families of the victims on Wednesday. "I not only feel sorry for them, I feel with them," she told the court. Böhnhardt also said she understood what it meant to live for years in uncertainty. "I am thankful that they haven't taken revenge on us. I have a lot of respect for that."