“We are aghast and ashamed about the fact that for years these horrendous acts went unrecognized for what they were: inhuman murders. What we are saying is ‘Never again.’” This is written on the plaque commemorating Theodoros Boulgarides and Habil Kilic, who were killed by neo-Nazis in Munich.
The move is aimed at restoring the memory of Boulgarides, whose name was tainted until it was proved that his assassination was prompted by racist motives.
In a recent ceremony attended by Munich Mayor Christian Ude, government officials and minority representatives in the state of Bavaria, authorities unveiled the memorial at the site where the two migrants were killed outside their shops. The two men, Kilic, who was then 37, and Boulgarides, 41, were both executed by members of the National Socialist Underground (NSU), an extreme-right German terrorist group, in 2001 and 2005 respectively.
The investigations lasted many years and took a hefty psychological toll on the families of the victims. Together with a German business partner, Boulgarides had just opened a locksmith shop in western Munich, the place where he grew up. Authorities originally linked his sudden and violent murder to organized crime. “For many years, there was widespread suspicion that the assassination of Boulgarides – who was a highly regarded member of the Greek community until his murder – was a settling of scores,” said Apostolos Malamoussis, a local priest, who held a memorial service for the victim at the time. The image of the assassinated man, his face distorted by bullets, still haunts the cleric.
Put off by endless police inquests and growing speculation, the victim’s brother and his family decided to move to Thessaloniki in northern Greece. “I was very relieved to call Theodoros’s brother in 2011 after the authorities had caught the perpetrators, who were all found to be members of the NSU. His murder was gradually linked to the killings of more migrants across Germany,” Malamoussis said.
City authorities and Malamoussis personally made sure that the Boulgarides family were welcomed back to the Bavarian city in a bid to heal the wounds, as many critics have held the German justice system accountable for inexcusable tardiness. “Now we are taking steps to support the Turkish family too,” Malamoussis said.
Between 2000 and 2006, 10 people – eights Turks, one Greek and one German policewoman – were killed in seven cities by the NSU in what came to be known as the Bosphorus serial murders. There is some speculation today that the killers may have actually shot Boulgarides because they thought he was a Turk. The two alleged killers committed suicide after their arrest so the trial – the first involving a Nazi in the post-1945 era – is now centered around a third member of the group and other NSU members.
“Munich bends its head in mourning,” Ude, the mayor, said at the ceremony.