Abdulkerim Şimşek’s father was the NSU’s first murder victim twenty years ago. He talks about the suffering of the victims’ families, false suspicions, investigative accidents and unanswered questions.
A small town in Hesse near Frankfurt. Abdulkerim Şimşek received us in 2018 in a practical and sparsely furnished apartment that he had planned for his sister, who now largely lives in Turkey, just like his mother. They are all survivors of Enver Şimşek, who was shot by NSU terrorists on September 9, 2000, the first victim of the series of right-wing extremist murders.
At the end of the NSU trial at the time, Şimşek had caused a sensation with a speech in court in which, after many days of trial, he again focused on the suffering of the victims’ families. We then visited him. He showed old photos of the happy life before the murder.
In his first major interview, he spoke very calmly for three hours about the day his father was shot. In the years that followed, when the family became almost desperate because the police suspected the florist of being part of a mafia clan. And about his attempts to live a normal life again. He now has a family of his own.
Interview with Abdulkerim Şimşek: The “National Socialist Underground” killed his father Enver Şimşek. (Source: Jonas Mueller-Töwe / Chillreport)
Chillreport: Mr. Şimşek, at the closing speeches of the NSU trial, you delivered a sensational speech that began with the words, “I am the son of Enver Şimşek. I was 13 years old when my father was murdered.” After more than 400 days of negotiations and more than 800 testimony from witnesses and experts, you have once again recalled the enormity of the NSU series of murders – and accused the investigators and the state of many negligence.
Abdulkerim Şimşek: I wanted to share my feelings with the court – describe what I went through. The procedure is about files, about papers and always only about Zschäpe. I wanted to remind you: my father died.
They asked, “How sick is it to kill a person with eight shots just because of his origin or the color of his skin?” Did you notice how the defendants responded?
I didn’t look at her. Your attitude has not changed. No regrets. They still stand by their actions – with pride. That’s why I didn’t even look at her.
Abdulkerim Şimşek in the Munich court: visibly moved, he delivered his speech during the plea for additional prosecution. (Source: Peter Kneffel / dpa)
Can you tell us about September 9, 2000 – the day your father was murdered in Nuremberg?
My father was shot exactly a week after we celebrated my 13th birthday. At the time, we lived in Schlüchtern, a small town in Hesse. My father had a flower wholesaler and therefore often drove all over Germany. He delivered flowers and also had a few stalls here and there where the staff sold. One of them, from Nuremberg, had taken a vacation – that’s why my father took over. As a representation.
The extreme right-wing terror group NSU murdered nine people with foreign roots and one police officer between 2000 and 2009. They are also responsible for arson and robberies. The two main perpetrators, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, committed suicide in 2011. Her companion Beate Zschäpe was sentenced to life imprisonment. Is still the judgement but not final. Four supporters were also convicted.
You were then at a boarding school in Saarbrücken.
That Saturday, my teacher woke me up at 5 or 6 in the morning. “Abdulkerim, you must go to Nuremberg,” he said. “Very early by train.” I immediately had a strange feeling – that was not normal. But I didn’t reach anyone by phone. My uncle picked me up from the train station in Nuremberg. My father had a bit of a fight, he said. Nothing bad. Then I came to the hospital.
Enver Şimşek at one of his flower stands: He was murdered in his workplace. (Source: Chillreport)
Where your father was in intensive care.
My mother was devastated, not accessible at all. She didn’t even notice I was there – she was so exhausted. All family members were crying. Nobody wanted to tell me anything. I wanted to see my father and was not allowed. No one was allowed in. It wasn’t until many hours later that my mother, my uncle, my sister, and I could see him.
The first thing that struck me was the eye. My father lay there, connected to machines, covered with a white cloth. The eye was completely torn. I saw holes stained with blood on my face. Little, little holes. I started counting them – and saw more and more the closer I got. The whole body. Then I knew it was over. That was clear to me. My mother held my father’s hand, crying, until the machines stopped beeping. We were pushed out. And that was the last time I saw my father alive.
Until then, were you in touch with a world where violence and shootings took place?
Not at all. My father was a very peaceful person, very devoted. Everyone liked us. We liked everyone. Violence was absolutely unimaginable. My mother was questioned the day we got out of the hospital. It was difficult for her, but she tried to save herself. We still thought we wanted to find the culprits. We didn’t know the police would attack us.
The Şimşek family on a picnic: the murder of their father broke the family’s ideal world. (Source: Chillreport)
Your family is the target of the police.
The police searched our entire house before my eyes. According to the newspapers, my father was a drug dealer. Because he drove his truck to the Netherlands every week – to buy flowers! Blackmail, gambling: the police have accused us. Over and over us. And so it was in the papers.
The fact that the police also conducts an investigation in the vicinity of the victim is part of the investigation. You have complained that it was not normal in your eyes.
At first we had the feeling that the police wanted to catch the perpetrators. We were the first victim family. I can understand that they are researching in all directions. But they have put the families of all victims under as much pressure as we have. The second, the third, the fourth, the fifth and the sixth victim. That’s when my understanding ends. At the latest with the third murder victim with the same weapon, it should be clear: the family is innocent!
The Şimşek family’s album: There is another sticker from the police on it – they confiscated it. (Source: Jonas Mueller-Töwe / Chillreport)
How was your family pressured by the police?
For example, researchers once showed my mother a photo of a woman. That was my father’s mistress, they told her. He even had children with her. It was an invention, a lie. You wanted to seduce my mom to say something.
Did the police ever clear up this lie?
No. We only know that from the files. It also says: My uncle was examined, my relatives. Their cell phones and telephones were bugged. The police did everything they could to portray my father as the culprit. It was only during the trial that a police officer stated that nothing was ever found. That my father is innocent. We always assumed the Nazis or blackmailers killed my father.
How long have you suspected this?
Relatively early. We knew we were innocent. No one knew about blackmail – not even the best of friends. That was not possible with my father, who would have certainly talked about it. So only Nazis remained. But the police didn’t care. “No confession,” they just said. “Then it can’t be political.” If someone was shot again, the investigators came back. Always the same accusations. Headlines over and over: “Kebab murders”. For eleven years. That was hard.
A Ceska gun in front of a photo wall with the portraits of the victims: relatives of the murdered members were subject to the police investigation. (Source: Bernd Thissen / dpa)
You were a teenager then. How did you deal with public accusation by the police?
For years I hid that my father was shot. I was 100 percent sure that my father was not a criminal. But others? I didn’t want people pointing a finger at me, “That’s the drug dealer’s boy.” My sister and the families of many other victims did the same. People tend to believe the police or the media. “I will not be shot,” they say. “They must have done something if they were shot.” Such stupid statements.
Did you have friends with you?
Only very close friends knew. But it was a huge burden.
How was your family doing back then?
Before the murder it was like this: the father earned the bread, the mother was at home. It all collapsed. My mother then went to work in the retirement home. She was not doing well. There were more murders – investigators blamed us. And my mom always thought that other families like us too. She sympathized so much.
My sister and I tried to be as little trouble as possible. We both went to work a lot, very early. My childhood ended the day my father died.
Enver Şimşek with his wife Adile and their child: The family album shows insights into happy moments. (Source: Chillreport)
How did you progress in a country where you had to go through something like this?
I was very angry for years. About everything actually: about the police, about the system, about Germany. The helplessness bothered me. I felt the acts were allowed as we are foreigners. So many people had to die. Usually you will find everyone in Germany who travels too fast on the autobahn. But it kept killing it. It didn’t seem to end. I was disappointed. And then again and again these lies in the media. I had anger inside. Real anger.
What was your image of Germany before the murder?
A very different one. I was a kid. Born and raised here. German-Turk, that was obvious to me. Whether German or Turkish, my father taught us that everyone should be respected for who they are. Never think badly or talk about anyone. Show compassion. We lived after that.
Have you ever considered leaving Germany later on?
Yes of course. As a teenager I wondered what I was doing here in Germany. Over time I realized: this is my country. I was born and raised here. Why should I leave my country just because some people think so sick? We do not let ourselves be afraid. My family sees it that way too.
If I leave Germany one day, it will be for completely different reasons. Today my sister and my mother mainly live in Turkey and commute. My mother takes care of my grandmother, who we were not allowed to bring to Germany after a stroke. My sister met her husband there.
Crime scene memory: Abdulkerim Şimşek with his mother Adile, his sister Semiya and her husband Fatih, who is holding their son in his arms. (Source: Daniel Karmann / dpa)
Her father was the first victim in a series of murders in which nine Turkish and Greek businessmen were killed – all with the same weapon, a Ceska 83. The press spoke of “kebab murders” and the Turkish mafia police. That didn’t change until November 4, 2011. On that day, the neo-Nazis Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt apparently committed suicide after a bank robbery. Do you remember where you were when you found out?
I was in the car. The radio was on. I only heard “Ceska” and “Murder Series” and drove straight home. My sister and I lived together at the time. Turn on the TV, I told her. It ran everywhere. We then called our mother. ‘Did you finally get hold of the Nazis?’ She asked. “How many were there?” She was shocked when she heard how young the perpetrators were. She even empathizes with them – because they got on the wrong track so early.
How did you react?
It was an incredible relief to me. My father’s innocence was proven. That was very important to us. However, the police did not approach us until months later – only after we put pressure on the media. I thought that was annoying. Nothing has been heard of it for years. And when it came through the media that we were innocent, we had to chase information.
Have you hardly heard from the police over the years?
Exactly. We had the feeling: they don’t do anything. They don’t want the perpetrators caught. Later it turned out that the police had many indications of neo-Nazis as perpetrators. They just didn’t follow up on them and focused on the victims. I still find that unimaginable.
How did you explain that?
Racism. My lawyer later found a photo in the files. A car with two blacks was seen on the spot. Below the photo it said “Negro car”. Our lawyer also stated this in the plea. Frustratingly, this officer bias has not resolved the murders. NSU perpetrators are still at large. I can’t quite finish the topic until these people are found.
The NSU trio Zschäpe, Böhnhardt, Mundlos: Many suspect other perpetrators behind the neo-Nazis. (Source: Frank Doebert / dpa)
You suspect other perpetrators and helpers. Why don’t you believe that Beate Zschäpe, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos committed the murders alone?
In any case, there must be someone else in Nuremberg who helped them. Possibly elsewhere. The terrorists did not know their way around the crime scene. They were from Zwickau. Three victims were murdered in Nuremberg. Someone must have given them information there. Notes were discovered that read: “Asylum house cellar always open” or “Snack, but beware, every free minute an employee comes by the gas station”. Whoever has explored these places for an extended period of time is not on the dock. There were certainly helpers.
Don’t you think your father was accidentally victimized?
At first I thought so, but today I don’t believe it anymore. But I don’t know if I’ll ever find out. No employees or employees were killed – always only the self-employed. My father was probably specifically chosen. You will not accidentally come to where my father left his flowers when you come from Zwickau to Nuremberg.
Does the Munich trial live up to your expectations of the promised clarification?
Unfortunately not. Most victims’ families view it the same way. I really want 100 percent clarification. The trial cannot bring me that – even though the judge does its job very well. The defendants just couldn’t. And important files are not released. Many questions remain.
Former Constitutional Guardian Andreas Temme (2nd from right): His role in an NSU murder in Kassel remains vague to this day. (Source: Andreas Arnold / dpa)
Which one, for example?
Who were the helpers and supporters? Why was the constitutional protector Andreas Temme at the scene of the crime in Kassel in 2006 when Halit Yozgat was shot – but he didn’t want to see or hear anything? Shortly before and after the murder of Halit Yozgat, he was in contact with an informant. What was discussed? What role did the state play? Why did the then Hessian Home Secretary Bouffier not allow the undercover officer to testify so that he could be questioned by the police? Who pulled the strings?
Why do you think the series of murders ended in 2006 – until police officer Michèle Kiesewetter was shot in 2007?
In my opinion, constitutional protection supported the trio by making payments to informers. V people around the NSU received 200,000 marks from the protection of the constitution. That has been proven. What for? For ‘our case’, an undercover agent is said to have told the Constitution Protection Bureau. No one would pay that much money for everyday information.
What do you think is behind these payments?
I would like to know. For me, education means answering these questions.
Did the inquiry committees help clarify the situation?
Even they do not get to see the files of the individual constitutional protection authorities. State secret. That and the personal rights of potential supporters are of course worth more than the lives of the victims.
Many files have also been destroyed.
These files were kept for years. Only when the Attorney General wants them are they shredded: the deadline has passed. That can not be a coincidence. But you can’t help it. And that’s the worst. There was probably someone in a higher position who coordinated and planned everything. Possibly some kind of network. That’s my opinion, but just a guess. In any case, the process and the committees do not make this clear.
Who is eligible for an NSU network?
Another five to ten people would be examined in connection with the NSU. But we will not tell you anything. We don’t know any names. We know nothing about the state of the investigation. Are there any costs? Our attorneys believe that when this lawsuit ends, you don’t want another one – and sweep everything under the rug.
Enver Şimşek fishing with his daughter: Simsek was no longer allowed to know his grandchildren. (Source: Chillreport)
You have a little girl, what are you going to tell her in ten years?
The little one is already asking about her grandfather. It is no longer there, I say. At some point I’ll have to tell her that her grandfather was shot by Nazis because of his origins. It happened in 2000. It’s unforgivable. And unfortunately, Germany bears a great deal of the blame here.
Children and young people must be protected and protected to become neo-Nazis. I think Germany should do much more. Especially in East Germany. Human dignity, constitution, equality, respect. That should be taught to children. The right is getting stronger and Germany is doing too little about it. Until the land burns down. That’s how I feel.
Mr. Şimşek, thank you very much for the interview.