An access tunnel at the Wehrhahn S-Bahn station: the perpetrator (s) of the 2000 bombing are still at large.

Photo: dpa // Marcel Kusch

Düsseldorf in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The state capital of North Rhine-Westphalia has a busy neo-Nazi scene. There are attacks and marches. A central figure is Sven Skoda. He is active in the “Kameradschaft Düsseldorf”, initially operates the “National Rhineland Information Telephone” from his children’s room, an answering machine, where neo-Nazis can find out about upcoming marches and the like.

Ralf S., who runs a shop for military clothes and the appropriate equipment, also belongs to the camaraderie. You can also buy right-wing rock CDs and the corresponding booklets from him. Ralf S. is also known as the self-proclaimed “sheriff” of the Flingern district. He roams the neighborhood with his dog, of course dressed in military clothing. There is a language school opposite his shop. Many people from the former Soviet Union visit them – quota refugees who belong to the Jewish community and hope for a better life in Germany. Ralf S. and his customers are considered aggressive. Mobbing is the order of the day. The language students are said to have been victims of verbal attacks.

On July 27, 2000 at 3:03 p.m., an explosive device detonated at Wehrhahn S-Bahn station. The station has access via a bridge. A plastic bag hangs there. It is filled with a pipe bomb. When the students are on the bridge, she detonates. Ten people are sometimes seriously injured. A woman who is five months pregnant loses her child. After the stop is determined in all directions. A relationship act is suspected, the Russian mafia is suspected, after all people come from the former Soviet Union. Even an Islamist act is not excluded. Dusseldorf anti-groups point to the active neo-Nazi scene the day after the attack. The realization that it was most likely a right-hand attack prevails. A week after the fact, 2,000 people take part in a demonstration that anti-groups, migrant organizations and the Jewish community have called for.

Investigators have hundreds of tracks to spot. You also quickly notice Ralf S. A first house search by him will later be criticized by the head of the investigative commission, Dietmar Wixfort, in the NSU investigation committee of the state parliament as a “superficial room passage”. The search had been carried out by the state police. Another thorough search a little later is practically without results.

The investigation will continue in the following years. Without any noteworthy results – until 2014. Ralf S. is in custody for failing to pay a fine. A prisoner, ex-soldier like S., reports to the management of the institution. The cell neighbor stood opposite the Wehrhahn attack. The police begin to investigate again. Ex-girlfriends incriminate S .. On February 1, 2017, the police arrest him. The public prosecutor believes there is enough evidence against Ralf S. A year later, 18 years after the fact, the trial of the right-wing radical begins before the Düsseldorf regional court. He is accused of attempting murder twelve times.

In the trial, companions from the neo-Nazi scene are heard as well as former companions and fellow prisoners of S. The accused denies the crime and at the same time shows himself as an self-portrayal, misogynist and nationalist. S. claims to have been trained in house-to-house fighting and to have learned how to deal with explosives. A Bundeswehr officer denies this. After a few months, the court acquitted S. Central to this decision: a phone call that S. is said to have made from his apartment a few minutes after the fact. He could not have covered the way from the S-Bahn station, where the bomb was detonated, to the apartment that quickly.

The court also doubts about his technical skills. Process observers like the NSU-Watch NRW group see it differently. They accuse the investigative authorities that the late trial and superficial investigations have made the investigation more difficult.

The legal work could continue if the Federal Court of Justice permits a revision requested by the public prosecutor within a few weeks. But regardless of this, a lot remains unclear in the context of the Wehrhahn attack. A V-officer from the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, who worked for S. as a security guard, could possibly have provided important information. In 2004 he is said to have said that “rights from the east” had committed the attack and had been covered by Düsseldorf neo-Nazis. The police found out about this statement many years later.

The attack and its reappraisal have many features that also apply to current events: an ex-soldier as the main suspect, an opaque constitutional protection agency and sloppy investigations.

There should be a committee of inquiry for more information. Wehrhahn was almost not mentioned at all in the NSU investigation committee in North Rhine-Westphalia. In 2017, the members were delighted with the arrest of Ralf S. and that they had not endangered the process by speaking silently with the police and public prosecutors. There will initially be no new committee of inquiry. Only the Greens campaign for this in the state parliament. Wehrhahn’s perpetrator (s) is still at large 20 years after the attack.