Prosecutors review new investigation into murder of Shlomo Levin and Frida Poeschke, as the secret service may have been aware of plans by the radical right-wing “Wehrsportgruppe Hoffmann” to murder Shlomo Levin and Frida Poeschke 43 years ago. This is indicated by a newly discovered document classified as “secret”.
43 years ago, Rabbi Shlomo Levin and his partner Frida Poeschke were murdered in Erlangen. The perpetrator was identified as the then 29-year-old Uwe Behrendt, a follower of the right-wing radical “Wehrsportgruppe Hoffmann.” Now the investigation could be reopened. According to Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR), the public prosecutor’s office in Nuremberg-Fürth has started respective examinations. Background are newly known files of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Bavaria. According to these, an informant could have made important observations shortly before the double murder.
According to the investigations at the time, the perpetrator had rung the doorbell of the couple’s apartment on December 19, 1980. Levin opened and was then shot from a submachine gun with a homemade silencer. Behrendt then killed Poeschke in the living room with four shots and left the scene.
Next to Levin’s body, the police found a pair of sunglasses whose engraving pointed to an optician near Erlangen. For years, Karl-Heinz Hoffmann, the leader of the “Wehrsportgruppe” of the same name, lived in a house next door. In the 1970s and 1980s, this group, with up to 600 members, was one of the most important structures of militant right-wing radicalism in the German Federal Republic. In addition to so-called Wehrsport exercises, in which weapons and explosives were handled in the forest in a military style, the “Wehrsportgruppe” also organized a congress of Holocaust deniers.
Behrendt was Hoffmann’s roommate for a time and was considered his “right-hand man,” as journalist Ronen Steinke describes. Like former BR journalist Ulrich Chaussy, he is one of the acknowledged experts on the case, which could now keep investigators busy again.
The apparently anti-Semitic double murder took place only a few weeks after the attack at the Munich Oktoberfest. Gundolf Köhler, who had planted the bomb there, also took part in exercises of the “Wehrsportgruppe Hoffmann”. Nevertheless, for months the “Erlangen” special commission of the Bavarian State Criminal Police Office did not investigate the right-wing extremist milieu. Instead, it pursued leads suggesting that Israel’s foreign intelligence service Mossad had been involved in the murder. A news agency suggested that Levin might have been a Mossad agent.
Now there is suspicion that the German secret service may have played a larger role. Martina Renner, a member of the Left Party in the Bundestag, and Sebastian Wehrhahn, the parliamentary group’s anti-fascism adviser, reported in August in “Die Zeit” about a previously unknown and classified document from the Bavarian Office for the Protection of the Constitution. This proved that the service had an informant in the environment of the perpetrator. Renner and Wehrhahn conclude that this informant had “probably been informed about the preparations for the murder”.
According to the secret document, the informant was a member of the “Wehrsportgruppe” and had visited its leader in his castle near Erlangen six days before the murder. While there, he had observed Hoffmann and Behrendt making silencers. It is therefore possible that the Office for the Protection of the Constitution knew about the plans for the double murder, but did not prevent it.
Informants are not employees of secret services, but provide them with information. In return, they can receive remuneration or gain advantages over the judiciary if they themselves are being investigated for criminal offenses. Renner recalls in “Die Zeit” that there are said to have been more than 300 reports of informants with reference to the “Wehrsportgruppe”. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution had to admit this after a ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court in 2017. Among them were reports from its own undercover agents as well as from other state offices.
Renner and Wehrhahn refer to one of these secret source reports in their article in “Die Zeit”. It is part of a letter from the Bavarian State Office for the Protection of the Constitution to the Federal Office on the occasion of the discovery of a pipe bomb in Bonn in February 1981. In it, they ask for pictures of the bomb in order to be able to present them to their informants for comparison.
No one was convicted for the double murder of Levin and Poeschke. It was not until eight months after the crime that the Erlangen District Court issued a warrant for Behrendt’s arrest. By then, Behrendt had long since been taken to a Palestinian training camp in Lebanon at the expense of the “Wehrsportgruppe”. There he is said to have committed suicide.
A 1984 trial against Hoffmann as the possible instigator of the murders came to nothing, as he was able to portray Behrendt as a “lone perpetrator”. With the new findings from the secret files, this thesis now receives new cracks.
Published in German in „nd“.