„If the true connections are not named and laid open the events can repeat themselves.“
Kutlu Yurtseven, musician and co-founder of the initiative „Keupstraße is everyhwere“ Cologne
Who we are
The Tribunal was initiated and will be carried out by the nationwide activist alliance “Unraveling the NSU Complex”, as well as by a number of individual anti-racist activists. Those targeted by the NSU will take center-stage during the proceedings; their viewpoints carry special weight. Anyone who identifies with our goals can take part. All persons, groups, associations and institutions that want to support the Tribunal are cordially invited to contact us and get involved.
A Tribunal of this magnitude requires numerous resources and broad support. The Tribunal plenum therefore cooperates with artists, academics, migrant organizations, human rights activists, democratic groups, various cultural institutions, potential sponsors, and other forces that want to support and defend the idea of a Tribunal. If we have not yet contacted you, it is simply because we haven’t yet managed to do so. Please do get in touch!
In cooperation with Schauspiel Köln, the Maxim Gorki Theater, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, the Akademie der Künste der Welt in Cologne, the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, HAU Hebbel am Ufer and the Munich Kammerspiele; funded by the Senatsverwaltung des Landes Berlin für Kultur und Europa, the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, AWO Mittelrhein, the network “ADBs für NRW!” and by a large number of donations. With support from FLMH, Residenztheater in Munich and the Forensic Architecture Institute in London.
Are those targeted part of the planning process for the Tribunal?
The Tribunal is being planned and implemented by individuals and initiatives that have been working on explaining and addressing the series of murders and attacks perpetrated by the so-called NSU for many years. In many cities, the organisers act in close cooperation with those targeted by NSU terror; in other places, there has so far been little collaboration. Nonetheless, the initiatives and the individuals involved have developed a strong basis of trust with those affected and the targeted families. The event Tag X, which took place in Munich in January 2015 and was co-organized by the Cologne initiative “Keupstraße ist überall”( in collaboration with other groups), was widely attended by those targeted and their families. Through the solidarity experienced there, they were able to gather strength to share their perspectives. This constituted a foundational moment in the formation of the Tribunal initiative: the idea of providing a platform for those targeted to express their points of view and experiences resonated positively with many of those who had been wronged by the NSU. Some of the families of the murder victims were also informed; in fact, it is the explicit goal of the Tribunal to provide a safe space for those targeted to finally have their voices heard. Whenever possible and appropriate, every step in the preparation of the Tribunal was communicated with the victims’ families. Throughout this process, the initiators could draw from their relationships of trust and close collaboration with those targeted. Whilst the Tribunal did not ask for commitment to the often tedious organizational work, it sees its role as offering a supportive platform for those targeted.
What do you mean by “situated migrant knowledge”?
Situated migrant knowledge means that those affected by racism–from recently arrived refugees, migrants from the xth generation to German people of color– have a privileged access to the realities of structural racism because they can draw from lived experiences: they know best what racism means, how it manifests itself in institutions and social practices, what its underlying mechanisms are and, most importantly, how everyday racisms can be challenged and undermined. Migrants, refugees and people of color are thus not merely passive witnesses to a societal injustice that occasionally sparks popular outrage, but rather, strategists of anti-racist survival; their insights must necessarily guide any anti-racist politics. Nevertheless, their knowledge, analyses and struggles are often marginalized – white non-migrant Germans tend to refuse giving up their power of interpretation. The Tribunal firmly opposes these attempts at marginalizing and silencing migrant, refugee and people of color perspectives, instead placing them at the centre – as a critical point of departure in the struggle against racism.
What does “NSU Complex” mean?
The NSU attacks are not merely the story of three murderous Nazis. They may be the protagonists, but they did not act in isolation: we also need to account for their many co-conspirators and supporters from the right-wing scene and the German secret service, police departments that investigate based on racist motives, inflammatory media, and a justice department unwilling to carry out a full investigation. And even the sum of all of these factors is only part of the answer, for racism permeates the entire society; it is a system that everyone regularly and repeatedly participates in. The murders of nine migrants and the NSU bomb attacks were ultimately made possible by this social structure. The NSU is not a singular phenomenon; it is part of a continuous history of racism in Germany, which has seen many more victims over the last decades and continues to this day: from violent attacks on refugee housing, everyday racisms to the structural exclusion of people of color, migrants, refugees and Roma – all this is part of the same story.
What does “structural racism” mean?
Acknowledging the structural dimension of racism means acknowledging that it is not simply the result of individual perpetrators’ ‘extreme’ views or ‘lack of education’, which can easily be rectified by the educational and criminal justice system; rather, racism is a constitutive part of society. It classifies and categorises people into a dense and complex system of power relations, in order to maintain an unjust economic and political order that benefits the dominant. Racism is not the failure of an otherwise well-functioning system – it is a fundamental part of the system itself, structuring and organizing state institutions such as the school or police, as well as the mentalities of individual people. During the Tribunal, we want to learn to understand the dynamics of structural racism, in order to formulate effective strategies of challenging it.
The investigating committees, the work of the civil suit representatives at the trial, and journalistic research have already exposed a great deal of material. Don’t we already know enough?
The copious amounts of files on the NSU Complex are completely inaccessible, and one often has the impression that most of the debates and investigations take place behind closed doors – between ‘experts’. Acting against this, numerous publications, reports, and even theatre plays have attempted to draw attention to the NSU. Nonetheless, the public remains largely unaware of its structure and composition. Existing accounts tend to focus on specific aspects, such as the role of the secret service, Nazi scenes, media coverage, etc., at the expense of accounting for the bigger picture. What is lacking above all in the public debate about the NSU Complex is the perspective of those targeted by them. Whenever they have raised their voices, they have quickly been silenced, as the recent Munich OLG trial testifies. The Tribunal wants to effect a fundamental shift in perspective, showing how racism, the NSU Complex, and the lived experiences of those targeted are deeply interwoven. Rather than making well-meaning recommendations or even providing political advocacy, all those known so far to be responsible will be called out, and publicly held accountable for their crimes. In this way, the Tribunal will attempt to fill a gap in the current public debate on the NSU Complex.
Isn’t the anti-racist and leftist scene in Germany too weak to make happen a Tribunal of this magnitude?
Yes, it is. At the same time, we can also draw on the successful work that has already been done on the NSU Complex over the last few years. The silencing of those targeted has slowly transformed into a scream, which is being heard in ever more parts of the public. Once the trial in Munich has come to its – predictably unsatisfying – end, we can expect even more public attention and interest. People all over Europe relentlessly struggle against racism, and it is about time that we in Germany learn to believe in change and overcome the cynical and complacent state of entrapment in our own weaknesses.
How do you respond to the right-wing conspiracy theorists that want to represent the NSU as an organized farce?
Our knowledge about and insights into the NSU Complex is the outcome of a collective process and collaboration between many groups and individuals. In the coming year and a half, there will be workshops and smaller conferences which will determine what can be considered certain and what is mere speculation. The Tribunal will deal very diligently with investigations and accusations, clearly distinguishing itself from conspiracy theories. Still, we will not limit ourselves to the official records, since these are above all state files, but we will draw heavily on the situated knowledge and lived experiences of those targeted – those who had to see victims deliberately being turned into perpetrators, whilst the actual perpetrators continue to enjoy protection.
Why are there no judges, and why will there be no verdict?
The participants in the Tribunal do not have the power to bring those responsible to justice; we do not seek to acquire this power, and neither do we wish to enact it. Rather, we want to a provoke a wide-ranging public debate on the injustice that has taken place. Others can then choose to pass their own judgments, for instance by making redundant racist employees, dismissing politicians, filing suits against Nazi terrorists, and dismantling the secret service. Or they can take up the insights of the Tribunal, by setting up initiatives and support mechanisms against racist police attacks, by taking seriously migrant perspectives, and openly confronting Nazis, etc. The Tribunal can only be one step in the right direction–others will have to see it through. All of us will have to see it through.
Why is the German state itself not directly held accountable?
Bringing to trial the state was the main rationale of the Russell Tribunals in the 1960s and 1970s. In contrast, we conceptualise the state as the collective product of social forces and power relations, and not as an independent agent. The secret service was able to foster the right-wing scene so consistently because, in our society, tolerance for violence is heavily skewed in favor of right-wing groups. Similarly, it was mainly sympathetic media coverage that enabled the investigative authorities to harass the families of the murder victims for years, conjuring the image of the dangerous migrant criminal at the expense of those who had been attacked. Many civil initiatives are state-funded, and yet they do good work; at the same time, many non-stage agents need to be held responsible for directly and indirectly furthering the goals of the NSU.
What does “staged” mean–is this all just a theatrical performance?
The Tribunal is not a theater, but a collective initiative based on a broad anti-racist alliance. It is not meant to re-enact an actual legal trial, for this would serve to reproduce the types of power relations that this initiative emphatically opposes. But the Tribunal is also not intended to take the form of a conference with hours and hours of lectures that exhaust more than they illuminate. We aspire to create a space in which complex issues can be rendered accessible for a broader public. To achieve this, we need thoughtful simplification, effective translation, artistic visualization and creative association.
How can I get involved?