In November 2011, following a failed bank robbery, two men in eastern Germany killed themselves and set their van on fire. Inside its scorched remains, police found a CZ 83 handgun, later shown to have been used in a series of murders of immigrant shopowners. They also found a DVD in which "the bodies of the murder victims are pictured while a cartoon Pink Panther tots up the number of dead."
The investigation launched by the discovery of the handgun and the DVD, on which a group known as the National Socialist Underground claimed responsibility for the murders, has culminated in the start, today, of the trial of Beate Zschäepe, 38.
Zschäepe, dubbed "the Nazi Bride" by the German press, faces charges of complicity with the murders, which took the lives of eight Turkish and one Greek immigrant, as well as a German policewoman. Four others face similar charges, though Zschäepe, along with the dead bank robbers, made up the core membership of the NSU.
The affair, from investigation to trial, has captivated Germany, and led to the resignation of the chief of its domestic intelligence service over accusations that the government was not sufficiently aware of the threat from—or the size of—the country's right-wing fringe. Immigrant groups and victims' families, many of whom were investigated as suspects in the murders because police didn't think to pursue right-wing terrorism as motive, protested outside the courtroom.
Zschäpe has so far refused to talk, and it's unclear if she'll testify at the trial, which is likely to last until 2014.
[images via AFP/Getty]