Disclaimer: in the police files and accordingly in the TU study, people are described several times as skinheads or assigned to this subculture. The lack of political classification of these people as well as the questionable categorization of the (entire) skinhead movement in the extreme right spectrum make it difficult to classify this case. Regardless of this, we consider this commemoration important, because we clearly see the fascist ideology of the perpetrators in the motives of this murder. Unfortunately, their names are anonymized so for now.
Unfortunately, we know very little about Klaus-Dieter Reichert. He was born in 1966 in a small town in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and at the time of the crime he was still registered there (with his parents). However, he has apparently been living in Berlin for some time, staying with changing acquaintances.
Klaus-Dieter Reichert regularly frequents the Lichtenberg train station scene. He has good contacts to the skinheads and counts himself (at least temporarily) among them: a tattoo on his back shows a skinhead with raised fist and the writing “SKINHEADS”. However, he is not bald at the time of the crime. Two witnesses rather assign him to the “homeless and alcoholic scene”.
The course of events
Klaus-Dieter Reichert is said to have owed money to a group of check fraudsters, with whom he is also said to have been active for several months. According to their testimony, he cashed checks stolen by the group and kept the money for himself.
As a result, André Bichler and Michael Halsmann were put in charge of collecting the debts. They get support from Werner Münder, to whom Reichert is also said to have owed money.
When the four meet for the first time, Reichert claims to have deposited the money in a friend’s apartment on the 10th floor of a Lichtenberg prefab building. When the group arrives at the apartment, the debt collectors are waiting downstairs. They leave after Reichert does not come out for 90 minutes.
That same evening, Bichler and Halsmann meet again in an “apartment mainly used by members of the skinhead scene” (indictment). After a short time, Reichert also appears.
This time an argument breaks out. Jochen Riether, who is also in the apartment, overhears the argument and beats up Reichert. Bichler and Halsmann offer a reward to whoever can get the money from Reichert.
The following evening, Riether, Carl Knopper and Helmut Kornmann meet Reichert by chance at the Lichtenberg train station. Again the money is demanded. Riether beats Reichert again, this time even threatening him with a gun. The latter again refers to the friend’s apartment, whereupon another person named “Edde” joins the group and together they are driven to the aforementioned apartment in a cab. Once there, Kornmann, Knopper and “Edde” put on mummery. The doorbell is rung and knocked. When the couple in the apartment does not open the door, Riether kicks it in. In the apartment, Reichert is threatened with a baseball bat and demanded to hand over the money. The latter admits to not having any money, whereupon he is hit on the head with the bat by Knopper and subsequently punched by Riether and forced to wipe up his own blood from the floor. All of the perpetrators continue to beat Reichert. Kornmann then goes into the kitchen alone with Reichert to continue beating him. Reichert explains that he can get the money from an acquaintance who lives nearby. But Kornmann continues to beat him.
Riether opens a window and, addressing Reichert, tells him to get some fresh air. Reichert, standing in front of the open window, apparently felt so cornered that he let himself fall backwards out of it.
The perpetrators immediately leave the apartment, find Reichert lying seriously injured in front of the house and flee. The couple from the apartment calls the police.
State investigations / legal proceedings
Jochen Riether is arrested on 16.12.90, Carl Knopper on 03.01.91 and Helmut Kornmann on 04.02.91. The fourth perpetrator named “Edde” could not be identified. In a Tagesspiegel article of 02.10.1991 it is said that there were prison sentences of 4 years each for Riether and Kornmann, Knopper got a youth sentence of 3 years.”The criminal chamber found the men guilty of joint assault resulting in death as well as coercion.”
The police has possible political aspects of the crime in mind during the investigation. However, the scene connection of the perpetrators and many witnesses can hardly be overlooked and is also openly addressed by the interrogated persons. In a “summarizing report” on the homicide of 22.03.1991, however, the political connections are not discussed; the focus is on the demand for money. In this regard, it states, among other things: “In the corresponding scene, even a ‘bounty’ in the amount of DM 1,000,- is said to have been offered for the procurement of the money,” whereby through this formulation it is not clearly recognizable which scene is meant. The check fraudsters could be meant, however, the reward was offered by them in an apartment, which is also known in the documents of the police as a skinhead meeting place. As a result, the police and the public prosecutor’s office assess the case as non-political, but extreme right-wing references are mentioned in the indictment. The starting point for the prosecution is the sum of money that Reichert had withheld.
Jochen Riether was born in Frankfurt (Oder) in 1968; he was 22 years old at the time of the crime. He grew up in the Oderbruch region and had several criminal convictions. In the months before the killing, he is unemployed and lives in Lichtenberg with “comrades” from the skinhead milieu. He finances his living from gambling winnings and “indulges in alcohol and tablet consumption in the circle of right-wing radical youths” (indictment).
Carl Knopper was born in Potsdam in 1971; at the time of the crime he was 19 years old. In 1988, after re-offending, he came to the Halle youth center. Here he comes into contact with the skinhead scene for the first time. After his release in July 1990, he is unemployed and spends most of his time in the “radical right-wing scene in Berlin” (indictment). Knopper temporarily lives in the house occupied by neo-Nazis at Weitlingstraße 122. At the end of 1990, according to the testimony of a witness, he participates in a trip to the military cemetery in Halbe, in which about fifteen “like-minded people” took part. His previous criminal charges were not investigated by the public prosecutor’s office (at least until the indictment was drawn up).
Helmut Kornmann was born in 1963 in Berlin (West); on the day of the crime he was 27 years old. He has many previous convictions; several cases of damage to property and (in some cases dangerous) bodily harm testify to his violent tendencies. From 1986 to 1989, he is convicted by the Tiergarten District Court in a total of four cases of using symbols of unconstitutional organizations (in one case also for incitement of the people).
The fourth perpetrator cannot be identified by the police. He is known to the other perpetrators only by the name “Edde”.
Michael Halsmann and André Bichler belong to the group of check fraudsters and are supposed to collect the money which Reichert took.
Werner Münder is an unemployed glass and building cleaner who works part-time as an insurance agent. Reichert is said to owe him money.
There were serious differences between the legal and journalistic evaluation of the case. The former focused on the “mental impoverishment and brutalization” of the perpetrators caused by “gambling” and “alcohol abuse” (verdict quoted in the Tagesspiegel: October 2, 1992), which allowed the case to be evaluated as non-political. This is also supported by the motive of collecting money, which at first does not indicate the political convictions of the perpetrators. Journalistically, the case is perceived by the majority as a political act. The case finds its way into various lists of victims of right-wing violence. The perpetrators are named as “right-wing radical skinheads” (taz: 02.10.1991). The victims’ fund CURA describes the case as exemplary for a deficit of the PMK registration system, as it is blind to cases in which both perpetrators and victims come from the extreme right-wing milieu. The victims thus fell through the cracks of the defined victim categories. “Internal disputes or crimes disguised as robberies are often definitely based on a political motive.” According to CURA, the perpetrators’ disdain and the associated lowered threshold for excessive violence cannot be explained solely by material incentives or the perpetrators’ environment, but rather as an expression of their extreme right-wing ideology.
The commemoration of Klaus-Dieter Reichert is not an easy task due to the very thin information available on this case. For example, the crime scene has not yet been clarified and thus there is no place where Klaus-Dieter Reichert can be commemorated. Nevertheless, since 2019, sporadic actions have been taking place to commemorate the right-wing murder of 1990. Thus, in 2019, during an action at an ice hockey game of the Eisbären women’s team, a banner was displayed in memory of Klaus-Dieter Reichert.
In 2020, again banners hung in Lichtenberg on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of his death. In order to establish a worthy commemoration beyond that, we are happy about any information about Klaus-Dieter Reichert as well as contact to friends and relatives!