BERLIN (Reuters) - The father of a victim of a neo-Nazi gang that waged a killing spree across Germany broke down on Monday as he appealed for the street on which his son was murdered to be named after him.
Revelations in November 2011 that the cell was behind the previously unconnected murders of eight ethnic Turks, a Greek and a policewoman provoked deep soul-searching over how the so-called National Socialist Union (NSU) could have gone undetected in Germany for so long.
Victims’ relatives were meeting German President Joachim Gauck in Berlin when ethnic Turk Ismail Yozgat revealed a photograph around his neck of his son Halit at the age of six and gave an emotional, impromptu speech.
“In 2006 I had to watch my 21-year-old son Halit die in my arms. I had just one son,” Yozgat said, as Gauck put a comforting arm around his shoulder.
He asked for the street in the town of Kassel where his son was born and died to be renamed after him. “Only this will help ease a little our pain,” he added.
An alleged member of the NSU, 38-year-old Beate Zschaepe, will go on trial in Munich in April charged with the murders.
Two other NSU members committed suicide in late 2011 after a botched bank robbery. It was the discovery of their bodies in a caravan that first brought the connection between the murders over a seven-year period to light.
An inquiry into the killings has revealed botched investigations, a lack of communication between Germany’s intelligence services, and a failure to properly monitor members of far-right groups.
Investigators looked for mafia or drug-dealing links within Germany’s large ethnic Turkish community and even raised suspicions over relatives of the victims rather than looking at the far right.
“You needed sympathy and support. Instead you were cast under suspicion, humiliated and abandoned ... You trusted our country and its institutions. This trust was shattered,” Gauck, a former Protestant pastor, told them.
At a memorial ceremony last year Chancellor Angela Merkel begged the families for forgiveness for Germany’s failings and pledged to take action against neo-Nazis.
The murder spree fuelled calls for a renewed effort to ban the far-right National Democratic Party. A previous attempt to ban the party in 2003 collapsed because informants were used as witnesses.
Reporting by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Gareth Jones and Alison Williams