Why do KKK members hate locals too?
Life after the Ku Klux Klan
If Achim Schmid's life were packed in shoe boxes, it would be a long series of them. His largest shoebox, about the size of a third of his life so far, would be dusty in a dark corner. Schmid makes no secret of the fact that he is there. It's just that he doesn't like to see him.
15 years have passed since it was locked. In all honesty, you would have to think he was mad if you knew what was inside - you would have to think: This man invented his life in order to write his memoirs.
Today Achim Schmid lives in Memphis, Tennessee. He is a believer.
It was the summer of 2012, a mixed summer that ended in a heat wave when his box suddenly fell off the shelf and burst open. Inside: the photos of his childhood, a frozen smile; the reason his sister stopped talking to him; the computer under the stairs. His mother's house. The chat message. The white hoods, of course.
Achim Schmid was the head of the German Ku Klux Klan.
Today the 41-year-old works in a company for sound, video and special effects and in marketing. He volunteers to help migrants and minorities lead a good life - a better one than his own - and has thus become the opposite of what he once was: a man full of hatred and sheer racism.
The Ku Klux Klan persecutes dissidents, beats them up, hangs them up
The Klan: a racist and violent secret society founded on December 24, 1865 to suppress blacks. These had been given new rights after the Civil War, but some people in the southern United States wanted them to remain inferior slaves. There were honorable men there: officers and other people of prestige and influence. They banded together and rode through the cities, hidden under white robes to show the cleanliness of the white race or the spirits of honorable southern soldiers, lighting wooden crosses on the hills at night. The fire showed far: we are here. We are the clan. We are white Christians and “real” patriots. And some have the attitude that you can only be a patriot if you let yourself be killed for something if necessary. Anyone who thought or looked differently was beaten, persecuted and hung from trees.
Contrary to what many people think, the Ku Klux Klan is no longer as powerful as films and literature have made it appear. But pop culture nurtured and kept its myth great. And Achim Schmid from Schwäbisch Hall will also fall for the Klan because he has this picture of him.
Achim is six in 1981 and lives in Kälbertshausen, Neckar-Odenwald-Kreis
Achim is six, dinner is just being cleared when his oldest sister comes in and stands in front of him. Old farmhouse, empty corridors, large, dark rooms. Wood. First memories in the soup of oblivion.
“Achim”, she says, “no matter what you do in life: Please never become a Nazi. Do you promise me? "
Achim doesn't really know what it is, a Nazi, but if his sister stands up in front of him, do you contradict? He promises. Better safe than sorry.
Today his sister no longer speaks to him, not for a long time. Maybe never again. That also has to do with this promise.
Achim was born in Mosbach in 1975. A delightful little town full of old buildings, and when the baby was brought from the hospital to Kälbertshausen, it would have been in shock if it had already been able to see: 500 residents. A church. The town hall: a yellow concrete candy lost next to the footpath.
The parents divorce, his father dies, his siblings leave
Achim is nine when his father dies. The parents separated early. War of the Roses. A war that only knows civilian victims: the children. And after that the world was no longer the same - Achim visited his father regularly on the weekends. But the parents no longer spoke to each other.
Achim wonders: at some point his adult father will move back in with his own mother, then suddenly there were no more visits, and then: dead. Lung cancer. From then on the smile disappeared from his child's face, the pictures are rigid, gray and as if drawn on stone. His mother tells him: Your father came from Bergen. Achim looks into the atlas. That's in Norway.
At Christmas the family - Achim, his mother and his second oldest sister - go to church regularly. The boy feels they are dark and authoritarian. And it smells weird and the pastors are so stiff. Then there is food and gifts. Usually a bell rings and then the Christ Child was there. Achim never saw it. He envies the other children who have a father who goes to church and sits at the dining table; his memory of him fades from year to year.
His older brother has since moved out - shipping school. His oldest sister, the one with the promise, no longer lives in the house either. Achim feels alone and too quickly as a man in the house.
Even in the village near Heilbronn, the family does not find a connection, that was the case during the father's lifetime. His mother is from Cologne, and his father also spoke differently from the locals. It's not Norwegian. They are avoided because they come from abroad, but the family cannot do much with the village either.
Achim's music is new, German, hard and conveys anger
Achim is getting bigger. The little son misses his father more and more painfully, someone to lean on when the wind is strong. A strong hand and orientation in life. He may give good advice. Is there on the weekends. Herbert Grönemeyer sings on the radio for the first time in 1984: When is a man a man? Achim in the village wonders that too.
Achim Schmid is 13 when the class hands over the tapes under the desks: Störkraft and Böhse Onkelz. Everyone loves it - that's why, Schmid believes today, the doctors said: Between Störkraft and the Onkelz there is a cuddly rock LP.
The music is cool. She is different. New. Hard. German texts. But what he likes even better: this anger. The anger of not belonging; the anger that only the lonely feels. Achim knows this anger well. Later, when the music becomes more radical, the other students turn away; Achim not. He remains alone again.
With the music in his ear, one day he hears of older boys who also listen to this music, and still do, and who meet in an old playground. Achim gathers his courage and goes there. He finally finds her at a fair, a small folk festival. They have short-rasped hair, the largest of them can be called “bald head” by the others. Combat boots. Olive green bomber jackets. They take the boy in like a family.
Schmid keeps the skinheads “bald head” from killing a boy
The year 1994. The skinhead scene is becoming more and more political under the influence of the NPD. Achim Schmid now and then goes to NPD events, for him olle tie wearers. He himself now wears combat boots with white laces, and on the weekends he goes to village festivals with the boys for a drink. Sometimes there are 20 people. His new family loves to party and drink tons of beer.
The bald head thinks the rest of the group is weak, so that he wants to set an example from time to time when no one can look straight.
There is this young guy in the phone booth. The boss demonstratively stands in the door.
The boy looks up.
"Look in the phone book," says the bald boss.
The boy is frantically leafing through the phone book with the receiver to his ear. The skins grin at each other.
“What should I look for?” He asks.
"Look at S," says the bald head.
"And what name should I look for?"
“Quarrel,” says the bald head. "You're looking for a fight, aren't you?"
Schmid just holds the leader back when he tries to destroy the boy. A thin boy like this, he knows, can take a punch with his bare fist. Not more.
Schmid enjoys the protection and strength of the group, but actions like these are increasingly targeting his boss: The leader mocks, Schmid does not fight; Schmid doesn't fuck women. Could he be gay - or a coward? At some point he doesn't ask any more. The boss beats up the younger skin drunk. Schmid feels marginalized and humiliated by the “men's club”.
Schmid spends the afternoons with a few friends in the rehearsal room - there are also left-wing punks and skins. Politics remains at the door. You found the band "Geisterfahrer" and get along well. Although he never sets them to music, Achim Schmid is already writing the first right-wing extremist texts. He gains prestige and influence. He becomes the lead singer and notices: Others like my music. When I do something with my head, with my mind, it affects the other. I want to be known for something; i want people to listen to me. His plans do not go any further.
Turks chase the skins across the fields, shots are fired, Schmid is hit
Two years later, Schmid is lying in a field and staring at the sky. Blood runs from the side of his body like water from a tap. It's night and outside the field the headlights of cars are looking for him.
They had been to the disco, he and the other neo-Nazis. It was still light. You see a young Turk pulling up a Golf. He's way too young to get a driver's license, that annoys the skins. When he goes to the disco, they go to the car. Completed. Without further ado, four of them each grab a fender and carry the car into a nearby field. It has to be a bit of fun. But someone must have noticed, because shortly afterwards a mob of young Turks chased the skins across the fields. Shots are fired. One hits Achim as a graze in the hip. He remains bleeding in the field. He doesn't ask himself: why are my friends running away and leaving me here alone? He thinks: one day we will destroy this pack.
Achim Schmid collects two sentences: one for assault, the charges are dropped. And a conviction for sedition. He's not just a follower. On the contrary.
At a gig in the east, the wall is gone, Schmid is impressed by the boundless radicalism of the “new” neo-Nazis from the east - and their violent music. These young neo-Nazis, socialized in the power vacuum of the former GDR, will later become known as the "Generation Hoyerswerda". Beate Zschäpe, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt are part of this generation. You're about his age. And Schmid thinks it is likely that they all attended these concerts together. But he didn't know her personally.
The new political radicalism that came into the country with the Ostskins made it at some point impossible to entertain a band like the “ghost drivers” - with two skins and one punk.
The Office for the Protection of the Constitution is trying to recruit Schmid
After a concert, Schmid is just 18 or 19, a man rings the doorbell at his parents' house. He introduces himself as an employee of the State Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Baden-Württemberg. Schmid thinks he can remember that he introduced himself with "Jürgen". However, none of these people would give his real name. They usually give each other first and last name alliterations to protect their identity. Jürgen and Schmid are sitting at the family's dining table. He asks if Schmid doesn't want to earn some extra money. All he needs to do is answer a few questions now and then: Who is coming, where the concerts are taking place, who is organizing them.
A year later, Schmid is just walking home, a car pulls up next to him: It's Jürgen. He just wants to talk, he says. Achim gets in and drives with him to a pub. A second attempt at recruiting. This time the other bids money. Schmid agrees. Over a longer period of time, conversations would have taken place again and again - against payment - he says today. But he was never in the authority, the meetings took place privately or outdoors. He doesn't remember the size of the amounts, says Schmid. It couldn't have been much. But he never got any concrete orders.
Nonetheless, Schmid feels important, in demand and has an influential network. And he thinks he's in control. A mistake with serious consequences.
The clan asks and Schmid immediately agrees
In 1998, Achim Schmid, meanwhile one of the most famous right-wing songwriters in Germany, was approached by the Ku Klux Klan. A barbecue near Stuttgart. Holger “Tweety” Wied is among the guests, a former guitarist of the right-wing extremist skin band “Triebäter” and a well-known member of the Ku Klux Klan. Schmid knows him, they had had a loose friendship for some time. Schmid has just finished his performance when Wied brings him over for a beer and asks in broad Swabian: "Wouldn't you like to join de Zipfelmitze?"
Schmid feels very flattered. His skinhead friends talk: don't you normally have to send an Aryan certificate to the USA in order to become a member? But Schmid was simply “asked”. He immediately agrees: The Klan, he thinks, is elitist, mysterious, intellectual. Like a Rotary club for right-wing extremists.
Meanwhile, the politicization of the scene through the 1990s continues. One could see the eve of the new millennium as a high point. Schmid also notices this in music: It is becoming more and more difficult to write “good” lyrics: If you want to be known, you have to write so radically that your music is immediately banned.
Schmid himself has joined paganism and is very familiar with ancient Germanic deities. The clan, however, kindles its interest in something new that is also something old: Christianity.
The concerts are now organized by the "Blood and Honor" movement, which was founded in the 1980s. It advertises young right-wing extremists with music and events. In Great Britain, the homeland of "Blood and Honor" - a slogan that was on the belts of the Hitler Youth ("Blood and Honor") - their militant arm was created: "Combat 18". An armed group of neo-Nazis, made unrecognizable with balaclavas, committed to the ideas of leaderless resistance. In the course of the 1990s, it is precisely these ideas that are said to have significantly inspired Beate Zschäpe, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt for their project.
On Saturday, January 26, 1998, the police searched seven apartments and garages of suspected right-wing extremists in Jena; including number 5 and number 6 in the garage association at the sewage treatment plant e. V. in the Lobeda district: Uwe Mundlos escapes during the manhunt. The police found utensils with which Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe were supposed to have been about to build a bomb. She also finds a phone list. Shortly afterwards, the trio went underground and from then on called themselves “National Socialist Underground”.
In the clan, the “magician” is the chief, the “dragons” are its governors
During his neo-Nazi time, Achim Schmid became increasingly paranoid. He spends his nights at the computer. If he turns it off, he pulls the cables, goes out and places it under the stairs at his mother's house. After all, better safe than sorry.
The first meetings at the Ku Klux Klan - the "International Knights" - are disappointing. Schmid is euphoric at first, then disillusioned and finally disappointed. The clan doesn't have a Bible. No ceremonies are held. Hardly anyone wears white robes. It's again: mindless men who drink.
Schmid had suspected a secret in the secret society that made it elitist. Lost knowledge. He finds none of this. He tells himself: One will probably only be initiated into the secrets if one has attained a higher rank. At some point the leader says to him, because he realizes his ambitions: Achim, there are so many secrets. But Schmid realizes: The real secret is - there is no secret.
Schmid now downright despises the troops, but he has a plan how he can change that. He gets a Bible and reads it carefully.
She inspires him. He absorbs everything. The old stories. The strange sentences. The messages whose effects sometimes stay with him for weeks.
At the same time he is researching American “Klansmen”: Why is the Klan Christian? How can Christianity and racism be combined when they are stories of Jews and Israelites? The answers he finds are not enough for him. He reads and studies until he comes across passages that, taken out of context, work wonderfully as a basis for his racism. His diligence and zeal met with goodwill among the American clan chiefs.You invite him; he should found his own clan for Germany - for this they would name him the "Grand Dragon". The leader of the clan is the "Imperial Wizard". Its governors in the states, which have their own offshoots, are the "Grand Dragons".
Schmid likes the idea of his own, German, traditional clan. He quickly comes up with a name: "European Knights of the Ku Klux Klan". This time with frocks, with crosses and with a Kloran. This is the secret manual of the Ku Klux Klan Knights. Schmidt translates it into German. The German foreword now says:
“This book is a classified document and must always be guarded with the greatest possible security. It is to be stored in a safe place where neither a human nor an alien can keep an eye on it. "
Then he books the flights to America in order to be consecrated as the "Grand Dragon".
The US clan knight Schmid - the greatest day of his life for him
Schmid stands in front of a burning cross. He looks into the fire through the slits of his white, pointed hood. Someone calls out his name, then the men circle around the cross, torches in their hands. The “Imperial Wizard”, Jimie Maxey, leader of the “South Mississippi Knights” clan, knights Schmid. Schmid finally feels at home, at home, at his destination. It's the greatest day of his life.
The crosses are either lit with candles inside a house for ceremonial purposes - or lit outside. They stand for the enlightenment and light of Christ. But the clan also puts burning crosses in the garden for opponents: as a warning.
The NSU trio will also take part in the cross-burning of a clan near Jena during their time.
As the “Grand Dragon”, Schmidt now heads the “European Knights”. He wants to strengthen his clan and lead him with all his might into the middle of society - to where the clan in the USA has already been.
And the clan bosses and members would love and adore him for it.
In Germany, Schmid takes on the right-wing extremist "Corelli"
When Achim Schmid comes back to Germany, two things happen: The conversations he is having with the State Office for the Protection of the Constitution are suspended. Schmid had kept quiet about his visit to the USA and its destination. It is said that he is "dishonest to the news". It is then "switched off".
The second thing: He's taking a candidate with him from the old clan, Thomas Richter. His code name at the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution: "Corelli".
Richter is a right-wing extremist jack-of-all-trades who, as Schmid notices, lisps and spits strangely when he's excited. Richter actually doesn't find the clan's pseudo-religious nonsense particularly attractive - but he follows Schmid, and there is a reason for that. Richter is the top source of domestic intelligence on the right-wing scene. To this day, the accusation is in the room that "Corelli" used a large part of the money he is said to have received from the Office for the Protection of the Constitution to build right-wing infrastructure in the first place. Is the Klan just a honey pot used by the authorities to attract right-wing extremists? An unbelievable accusation.
Schmid disagrees. But NSU Investigative Committee I in Baden-Württemberg also investigated this thesis, which the press brought into play - but found no evidence that the constitution protection itself had the Ku Klux Klan founded by V men.
In 2014, "Corelli" was found dead in his apartment. After Zschäpe, Böhnhardt and Mundlos went into hiding, he briefly gave the trio shelter in his apartment. The autopsy report states that he died of undetected and untreated diabetes. At 40. Later, the expert will say: It could also have been rat poison. The exact circumstances have not yet been conclusively clarified.
There are also police officers in the German Ku Klux Klan
The year 2002. It is shortly after dinner. According to his own statements, Achim Schmid had not spoken to an official for a long time. He's still at the computer. He doesn't turn it off either - he feels safe. Which is strange.
The doorbell rang a few days earlier. An employee of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution stood in the door frame. At the same time, officials from the constitutional protection agencies of the federal states ring the doorbells for all of his Klan members. This is called: "addressing the threats". The officials want to show their presence. Above all: causing unrest.
In addition to his racist pamphlets, Schmid had boasted on the Internet that he “had police officers in the Ku Klux Klan”. Schmid forbids his members to have any contact with the right-wing scene. He doesn't want his old neo-Nazi friends to stop judges and prosecutors from joining his clan. The scene has become too dirty for him. The middle is more important than the extreme.
The right-wing extremist members of Schmid's Klan disagree, they find it increasingly softened. Suddenly old people from Christian communities are sitting with them. The members wonder whether this will now become a church district. After all, you didn't want to enter a church. You think: Schmid is crazy. His clan, just a Christian sect.
A year before: In a sports bar, the "Spacs", Schwäbisch-Haller-Vorort, Achim Schmid enters the bar with an open clan badge. He has an appointment with two police officers. They want to join the clan and are "very interested". Police officers. Schmid senses his chance to make the Klan known and important and influential in the "normal" population.
Schmid was not afraid of the "threat speech". But soon afterwards he received a message via the messenger at his email address: An anonymous user asked him for a Yahoo chat. Schmid follows the stranger into the chat room. To this day it is only known internally which employee of the constitution protection (supposedly: Thuringia) warned Schmid that night: You have a spy, he says to the clan chief - in your own ranks. His English is good, but not very good. Schmid thinks he was trying to hide his origins.
The protection of the constitution, Schmid, offers protection for information from the inner workings of the clan. Schmid thinks feverishly: Who could be the informant?
Schmid writes to the man: I don't believe you.
The man asks back: But then how do I know that you canceled a Klan meeting with members a few days ago because you had diarrhea. But in reality you wanted to ride a bike with your son because you promised to?
At this moment Schmid realizes that his life will always go on like this; that he never left the neo-Nazi scene. The clan is actually the same: a Nazi clique for academics.
In addition, Schmid was more and more immersed in Christian currents and came across so-called British Israelism - an interpretation that says that the Europeans are the ten peoples of Israel. The "German National" was gone. Schmid first “softened” the clan - and then himself.
Schmid gets scared. He throws down the leadership of the clan, which is now completely at odds because of the "soft line" of Schmid's Christian astray. Schmid no longer answers the phone. The clan will disband a little later.
Schmid, on the other hand, is building a new life for himself. He stows his old one in a shoebox. He wants to suppress it and not talk about it anymore.
Schmid is considered a traitor by his friends
After the “dangerous talk”, Schmid also has a private showdown. The pressure to leave the Klan and now be a traitor in the right-wing scene keeps shooting in his head. Schmid is not a role model. In an argument, he beats his wife, and she leaves him for it.
And his wife uses other means: Immediately afterwards, she speaks to the police and unpacks everything about her husband's life - his contacts and the clan. With someone like that, she says, the children couldn't possibly stay!
During this time Schmid had a Turkish neighbor. He believes that magical things happen in his computer that no one can explain, which is why he is constantly broken. Schmid helps him and sits with him over tea for afternoons. He was now ashamed of the texts he wrote back then. Because this man really has nothing in common with the Turks who chased him through the cornfield.
The Schmids are together again, continue to argue, his wife is still looking for proximity to the right-wing scene, Schmid leaves her. Then there is silence. Schmid is finally moving out. Parents' quarrels always hit the children first. They stay with their mother - Schmid believes that she is telling them horror stories about him.
Schmid is now considered a traitor by his old friends. For the first time in a very long time he is lonely and weak again. He had completely forgotten what it felt like.
At night, in his new apartment in Northern Germany, Achim Schmid gets restless. A meeting point for the neo-Nazis is not far away. Sometimes he thinks he hears them making a noise. He knows they drink. And Schmid knows only too well how the night trips work. He thinks the neo-Nazis are too lazy to hunt him down, but maybe they'll come to him after a party, when the water level is still good, and break the windows for him. Or his face. A strong man only needs two or three blows.
Schmid still reads the Bible regularly and realizes that he wanted to misunderstand a large part of it. One boring afternoon, Schmid is rolling an atlas: he is looking for Bergen, his father's city. It's not Norway. He finds a former German city in the Czech Republic, which is now called Perná. His father was a Sudeten German. Displaced with his family after the war. How similar some lives are.
The NSU camper is on fire and a committee marathon begins
The day in summer 2012, the day when Schmid's box falls off the shelf again, actually starts earlier - in November 2011. A white mobile home is on fire on a street in a residential area in Eisenach. Flames hit the ceiling.
It is the temporary end of the street terror of the NSU - the "National Socialist Underground". Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos die in the wreck; they are said to have chosen death themselves. What remains is Beate Zschäpe - and numerous nameless companions. They are all of the same age, a year, a class reunion. You could have led Schmid's life or he could have led yours.
“I would never have killed anyone,” says Schmid.
On November 21, 2011, Wolfgang Bosbach (CDU) convened the Interior Committee in a closed session. It has been almost two weeks since the mobile home fire. The Bundestag would like answers from the authorities and secret services: What is the status of the investigation - and how did that happen? The press gets a gasp at the many headlines and details. It's the start of a committee marathon. Committees of inquiry are set up everywhere, at the federal and state levels. The names of two police officers from Baden-Württemberg appear in the documents. One of the two was the then train driver of Michele Kiesewetter, the police officer who is said to have murdered the NSU in Heilbronn. And a lead from these police officers leads directly to Achim Schmid. Both police officers were members of his clan.
On that day in summer 2012, Schmid has just come home from work. His job is going badly. His company is threatened with bankruptcy. He has not had any contact with his children for six years. His old life is stowed away and forgotten in the shoe box and dreams of old times.
A reporter is waiting for him.
"Are you the former head of the Ku Klux Klan in Germany," the reporter wants to know.
“Yes,” says Schmid.
"Did you know that police officers from Baden-Württemberg were members of your clan?"
"How many were there?"
"Two or three. We had even more inquiries, we could have opened an entire department. "
"Did you know that one of the officers was a platoon leader from Michele Kiesewetter - the policewoman who was probably shot in the head in Heilbronn by the NSU?"
“I was out of there a long time. The murder was five years later, ”says Schmid.
“Did you know?” Asks the reporter.
"Chief of the Hoods" moves to Memphis, Tennessee
The headlines a week later will tear the family apart, shake the region; his older sister breaks off contact immediately. Baden-Württemberg has a scandal: Policemen in the Ku Klux Klan! Schmid is everywhere now: Schmid, the undercover agent? “Head of the Hoods.” What contacts did Achim Schmid have with the Office for the Protection of the Constitution?
What else do you have? A friend asks at some point. Nobody here wants you. You lost everything. Schmid packs his things and books tickets: Memphis, Tennessee. It is waiting: a new life. A better one, maybe.
"If I could, I would turn everything back again," says Schmid today. He lives in the area of America called the "Bible Belt". He believes in God. "Little by American standards, but probably quite a lot for Germans," he says.
His children got in touch again. Today they are in daily contact.
Once he wrote a letter to his ex-wife apologizing and asking for contact with the children. A former neighbor of his wife later told Schmid that she had allegedly read the letter out loud to “her Nazi friends” and then everyone laughed a lot at Schmid's wimp.
“Of course I also had to explain a lot to my son,” says Schmid. "So I took it aside and put everything on the table - the whole box."
The son said: Thank you, papa. It was nothing more. And then it was good. Schmid is grateful to him for opening the door for him again.
Schmid has to return to Germany soon. His statements will probably be the subject of the NSU Investigation Committee II in Baden-Württemberg. Also his musician past.
Experts do not consider Schmid guilty
Experts believe that Schmid had no contact with the NSU and was not guilty. The policemen were never punished, and this is what some call the real scandal. Just moved. They later stated in interviews that they only joined the clan to “get to know women”. The clan's application form, which each member had to fill out, contains treatises on "races" and the question of whether one can credibly assure that they have no non-white or Jewish ancestors.
To this day, his sister does not speak to him.
"Of course my mother, at 72, would like to have another Christmas party together," says Schmid.
Will she be able to forgive one day?
“I don't know,” Schmid says quietly. "But who am I to ask for that?"
By the way: Achim Schmid is now part of the Exit program.
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