Tribunal Unraveling the NSU Complex
Those responsible: Mareike Bernien, Madeleine Bernstorff, Sebastian Bodirsky, Alex Gerbaulet, Betti Hohorst
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Audiovisual Micro-Interventions for TRIBUNAL Unraveling the NSU Complex and beyond
How can we change the field of the visible so that racist structures can be called out? How can (post)migrant realities and perspectives become visible and audible loudly and clearly?
From May 17 to 21, 2017 the TRIBUNAL Unraveling the NSU Complex will take place in Cologne-Mülheim. The Tribunal is dedicated to the many open questions surrounding the NSU Complex, aiming at indicting institutional and everyday racism in Germany. Its prime focus is the situated knowledge gained from immigrant people targeted by Nazi terror. This knowledge must become visible and audible clearly and loudly.
The term ‘NSU Complex’ seeks to describe the interdependence of Nazi terror, racism, and state involvement. Between 1999 and 2007 nine immigrants, all of them small businessmen, and one police officer were murdered in Germany. In three bomb attacks—including one at a shopping street in Cologne marked as an immigrant space—numerous people were seriously wounded. The facts of these cases remained unexplained until the so-called National Socialist Underground (NSU) exposed itself in 2011 and admitted to the crimes. To this day the series of murders and attacks has not been completely clarified. There are still open questions related to, for instance, the right-wing radical environment around the NSU, as well as to the role of the German domestic secret service (the ‘Verfassungsschutz’), which had numerous informants in the perpetrators’ world.
What has become clear, however, is how deeply racism is entrenched in German society. We see this very strongly in the willful ignorance of the police and security organs. For many years they have consistently investigated in wrong directions, allegedly failing to recognize racism as a motivation for the crimes. And they are still downplaying its centrality even now.
SPOTS are short audiovisual interventions into various facets of the NSU Complex. Some of them are meant to mobilize for the Tribunal. All of them address the blind spots in the process of working through the NSU Complex. They throw spotlights on the racist circumstances that make right-wing networks and their crimes possible in the first place. SPOTS regard aesthetics as political action. These aesthetics counter the dominant visual politics and their visual fixation on the perpetrators, and the media’s disinformation about the NSU complex. They reverse visibilities, represent gestures of resistance, formulate questions and accusations. And in doing so they look to initiate a wider debate in society.
SPOTS will be shown individually, in groups, and in complex series at various sites in Germany and beyond starting in spring 2017. They will be smuggled into commercial breaks, will run as full-evening programs in cinemas, will be disseminated on the internet, will join together as installations in exhibition spaces, or will contribute to the content of various events.
The Tribunal Unraveling the NSU Complex is scheduled for May 17.-21.2017 in Cologne in the former Carlswerke plant. The factory itself is a site of multiple histories of migration and labour. It is located around the corner from Keupstrasse, a flourishing shopping street, and center of Turkish-Kurdish social life, targeted by the NSU in 2004 in a nail bomb attack.
The Tribunal embarks from the society of the many, demanding the unraveling of structural and institutional racisms. It joins the families and friends of the victims of NSU terror in their accusation of State organs and institutions complicit in the NSU Complex, and speaks out against the silencing of those who have been targeted and affected by it. The Tribunal will build on their knowledge and hear their claims. Together, it puts forward the demand to unravel the conditions and structures that made the NSU possible.
The Tribunal also aims to establish an international discourse around the NSU Complex and to contextualize it within wider histories of institutional racism and ‘deep state’ structures.
During the four days of the Tribunal there will be hearings, testimonies, and presentations, along with various workshops, group meetings, exhibits and discussions. Accusations of specific aspects of the NSU Complex including groups and people who should be held responsible will be advanced and announced publicly over the course of the four days.
The Tribunal is initiated and organised by a large coalition of anti-racist and migrant rights networks, groups and individuals in Germany and globally. It is an unprecedented effort in the recent struggle against racism and the rising Nazi activities in Germany.
From 1998 to 2011 the neo-Nazi terrorist organisation ‘National Socialist Underground’ (NSU) committed ten murders, three bomb attacks and 15 robberies. The murdered victims are Enver Şimşek, Abdurrahim Özüdoğru, Süleyman Taşköprü, Habil Kılıç, Mehmet Turgut, İsmail Yaşar, Theodoros Boulgarides, Mehmet Kubaşık, Halit Yozgat and Michèle Kiesewetter. Except for Kiesewetter they were all small-scale entrepreneurs of Turkish, Kurdish and Greek ancestry living in different smaller and bigger cities in Germany.
Prior to the NSU claiming responsibility in 2011, police, politicians and media all categorically dismissed a racist motive behind the murders. In their fabricated allegations, repeated interrogations and secret investigations prosecutors and police officers focused almost solely on the victims’ families. The crimes were referred to as ‘The Doner Kebab Murders’ or the ‘Bosphorus Murders’, perpetuating racist stereotypes, and serving to situate the crimes semantically as Middle Eastern, and therefore distinctly foreign.
The term ‘NSU Complex’ was put in use to describe this composite of neo-Nazi terror connected with institutional and structural racism. It denounces the practice of victim-perpetrator role reversal in the often markedly racist reporting in Germany’s media, the collaboration between Germany’s secret services and the neo-Nazi underground, the attempted cover-ups, the deliberate disappearance of evidence, the unexplainable deaths of witnesses and the persistent obstruction of attempts to clarify the background and details of the crimes. Eleven parliamentary enquiries, some of which are still underway, have yet to fully explain the specifics of the NSU Complex.
In 2013, court proceedings against known NSU members and accomplices were launched at Munich’s Higher Regional Court. From the very first day of court proceedings the civil plaintiffs of the victims and victim’s families have repeatedly criticized the narrow focus of the charges in relation to the NSU’s support network. Every attempt to demonstrate the state authorities’ entanglement with the NSU and their structurally racist actions is actively torpedoed by the federal prosecutor and ignored by the court. Those targeted and affected by the crimes and those involved in the accessory civil prosecution have been repeatedly denied the right to talk or are interrupted as they speak.
The fact that the crimes perpetrated by the NSU were only possible because of a racism deeply rooted in German society is largely dismissed. And yet, this is exactly what a large number of survivors of the NSU’s murderous and terrorizing attacks have been loudly proclaiming for years.
TRIBUNAL Unraveling the NSU-Complex
Cologne May 17.- 21.2017