Forget "House of Cards" the best show now available on Netflix is the three-part series NSU German History X, the German network ARD production Mitten in Deutschland. Most Americans have likely never heard about the the NSU - National Socialist Underground - a terror group that went on a ten year rampage killing Turkish and Greek immigrants, as well as a police woman and carrying out bombings. The series is comprised of three feature-length episodes. The first deals with the formation of the terror cell; the second with the aftermath of the first murder for the victim's family, and the third with the botched investigation.
The screenwriters were smart in just focusing on one murder - the first murder of the ethnic Turk and florist Enver Simsek in 2000 - which serves to represent the rest. The murder frames the first episode, but what comes between is fascinating and frightening. The central figure is Beate Zschäpe - we follow her development from typical confused teenage girl to a full-fledged Nazi-Braut who encourages the boys to commit ever more gruesome acts of violence. I think Americans will be shocked to see scenes of young people giving the Nazi salute to images of Adolf Hitler and singing about gassing Jews - this is a reality in certain parts of Germany. The adults in the first episode - which takes place in the eastern state of Saxony - are powerless to influence - much less control - their children. Their sons and daughters see their elders as losers - or worse, former Stasi informants. Unfortunately they find meaning and direction in a retrograde Nazi ideology, the cornerstone of which is hatred of foreigners. The charismatic ring-leader Uwe Mundlos talks incessantly about Der Tag X - the day when all foreigners are expelled (or killed) and the German Volk will have its Fatherland restored. Interestingly, his inspiration is not Mein Kampf, but rather the right-wing American manifesto The Turner Diaries - which also inspired Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber.
The second episode - which follows Enver Şimşek's family after his murder - is just heartbreaking. The family dynamics are the polar opposite from what we experience in Saxony. Here the family is close-knit, and every family member is focused on playing their part and working towards a common goal. Enver was an entrepreneur who was building a brighter future for his children. His daughter Semiya was even attending a boarding school and planning on a university study. Enver's murder throws everything into turmoil, and the law enforcement officials make everything worse. Rather than searching for Enver's murderer, they accuse the family of dealing drugs, or assume that the murder was the result of some clan-related revenge. The racism of the police is palpable. Semiya keeps the family together- we follow her from a 14-year-old teenager at the time of her father's murder to a confident young woman who never gives up finding the real murderers. The two female leads in "NSU Germany History X" - Almila Bagriacik who plays Semiya and Anna Maria Mühe who plays Beate Zschäpe - deliver outstanding performances.
The third episode, which follows the 10-year botched investigation, may be too much "inside baseball" for Americans. A couple of detectives began to connect the seemingly random murders of ethnic Turks (and one Greek) but are stymied at every juncture by the Verfassungsschutz (domestic intelligence - equivalent of our FBI).
What is frightening is that NSU German History X is not just history; it has relevance for current events in Germany. We now see the leader of Germany's third most powerful party - AfD - Alternative for Germany - seeking to rehabilitate the Nazi concept of "völkisch" - meaning ethnically pure. Are we getting closer to Uwe Mundlos' "Der Tag X"?