Accused Lina E. (in September 2021): She is said to have attacked right-wing extremists with cronies
Photo: JENS SCHLUETER / AFP
One day the Office for the Protection of the Constitution stood in front of the kindergarten.
Johannes D. had moved from Berlin to Warsaw to start a new life there.
But his old life caught up with the radical left-wing educator in Poland.
In March 2022, he says, employees of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution approached him just as he was leaving the kindergarten in Warsaw, where he worked as an educator.
You would like to have a chat with him.
He initially waved it off, but then went for a walk.
After two days of reflection, he then decided to work with the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and investigative authorities.
Now Johannes D., 30 years old, is the key witness in the trial against Lina E. and three co-defendants before the State Protection Senate of the Dresden Higher Regional Court.
The 27-year-old is said to have led an association with her fiancé in hiding, Johann G., that brutally beat neo-Nazis in Leipzig, Wurzen and Eisenach between 2018 and 2020.
They are accused, among other things, of forming a left-wing extremist criminal organization.
The process began in September 2021, and in June 2022 it became known that Johannes D. was unpacking about the militant Antifa scene.
The Office for the Protection of the Constitution succeeded in turning the suspected left-wing extremist into a witness who betrayed his friends.
This step was not easy for him, Johannes D. said in court on Thursday: "For me there was really a very big inhibition threshold."
Fallen out of favor in the radical left scene
The Office for the Protection of the Constitution knows this phenomenon as the »traitor complex«.
An official of the Thuringian intelligence agency once reported in the NSU trial in Munich that left-wing extremists in particular suffered from it: "They first have to get used to the fact that they work with the state they are actually fighting." Johannes D. So what caused him to become a traitor?
Johannes D. had fallen out of favor in the radical left scene.
His ex-girlfriend publicly accused him of rape in October 2021.
The scene rejected him - and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution recognized his chance.
"Of course they noticed," says Johannes D.
The secret service did not try to recruit him as an informant.
"That's never what it was about." Rather, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution hoped for information on the whereabouts of Johann G., Lina E.'s fiancé who went into hiding. Alongside Lina E., the authorities regard him as the mastermind behind the attacks on neo-Nazis.
But Johannes D. says he doesn't know where he's hiding.
There have been several talks with the Office for the Protection of the Constitution.
"In Poland," says the judge.
It sounds more like a statement than a question.
The judge seems to ignore Johannes D's answer – »among other things«.
He doesn't ask that.
The Office for the Protection of the Constitution then put him in touch with the State Criminal Police Office in Saxony in order to testify as a witness in these proceedings, says Johannes D.
“My point was never revenge.” He is vague as to what his point was instead.
The presiding judge asks again and again what he promised himself from cooperation with the authorities or – vice versa – what he was promised.
It is about the motivation of the key witness and thus about the credibility of his statements.
He wanted to break with his past, "just wanted to draw a line," says Johannes D. That's not enough for the judge.
He wants to hear more specifics.
When the judge doesn't get an answer, he proposes answers himself.
Financial help for a new life?
Support in looking for a job or an apartment?
Johannes D. does not want to talk about such things.
He admits that he is – obviously – in the witness protection program.
Eight specially trained police officers guard him in the hall.
»No collusion, no deals«
But the judge doesn't give up and continues to ask about any promises that were made to him.
Finally the witness says: »There is no agreement, no deals.« Also no financial incentives.
Today he gets as much money as he previously earned as a teacher in Warsaw, 1,500 euros net.
No promises were made to him regarding criminal proceedings that are still ongoing against him.
The fact that the investigation into the allegation of rape was dropped in early March has nothing to do with his cooperation with the authorities.
For the past six days he has been speaking in court about the internals of the left-wing extremist scene.
Johannes D. says this Thursday that they called the attacks on neo-Nazis "projects".
There was a "pool of people" from which accomplices were recruited.
Johann G. and Lina E. were the ones "who kept coming up with ideas or goals."
It's Johannes D's complicated way of speaking.
Johannes D. tends to say little with a lot of words - and only speak plainly when asked clearly.
Maybe because the traitor complex is still there.
According to him, Lina E. and Johann G. were the ones who "had their hats on".
He saw them as an equal couple.
Johann G. is an impulsive type, also a bit clumsy, while Lina E., on the other hand, is “calm personified”.
The presiding judge confronts him with his statement to the police: “I couldn't say which of the two radicalized whom.” Johannes D. confirmed his earlier statement.
He would say the same thing today.
In the inner circle – he calls it “Circle 1” – around Lina E. and Johann G., he counts, albeit hesitantly, the co-defendants Lennart A. and Jannis R. He himself and the third man in the dock, Philipp M. , he belongs to »Circle 2«.
They all considered themselves "something better than special" within the scene.
"You're one of the bad guys now," Philipp M. once put it.
At some point that day, he can no longer contain himself.
"You're talking rubbish like that," Philipp M. snaps at the key witness from the dock.
His defense attorneys tell him to stay calm.
Then Johannes D. tells that Johann G., Lina E.'s fiancé, has had a »129« tattooed on his arm.
The number is a reference to Section 129 of the Criminal Code, which deals with criminal organizations.