Reestablishing Facts in the Post-Truth era
This conversation between Egal Weizman and Anh-Linh Ego was updated for the f/stop 2018 catalogue in April/May 2018 and enlarged with a few questions by Anne König.
Founded in the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmith’s, University of London in 2010, Forensic Architecture is an independent research group that does investigative work against state violence and human rights violations by architectural, journalistic, and legal means. Forensic Architecture has developed into an evidentiary agency for civil society in the judicial and political realms and attorneyship. Among the 15 to 20 staff members in the group today, half of them are architects, the other half filmmakers, investigative journalists, and scientists. Eyal Weizman has led Forensic Architecture since its founding.
Anh-Linh Ngo: You have mentioned the importance of social media and Google Earth for your work. Would you say that representation is the basis of your practice?
Eyal Weizman: It is only one among several important aspects. While forensics is a method of obtaining evidence by which police undertake an investigation of individuals on behalf of the state, the approach usually taken in the human rights field goes under the heading of what we call “counter-forensics.” Counter-forensics is a civil practice that seeks to invert the institutionalized forensic gaze, with individuals and organizations taking over the means of evidence production, and turning the state’s means against the violence it commits. Civil society groups use a variety of scientific and aesthetic means to produce and present evidence in the pursuit of public accountability. Counter-forensics therefore has to contend with a starting point of optical and epistemological inferiority. Evidence of state violence is regularly withheld, obscured or degraded and access to established forums for the presentation of evidence is often denied to those contesting state crimes. To invert these principles, counter forensics must first break through the police cordon: use leaks or open source, citizen-produced media. Such evidence is often produced by those experiencing violence, reflecting their situated knowledge, a perspective that is often unavailable to the perpetrators. Another important characteristic of counter-forensics is that sometimes, especially when we go to court, the aim is not to convict but actually to problematize a particular situation, to call for an independent investigation.
ALN: The fact that you have to “counteract,” as it were, to find evidence, and that you have to rely on leaks, seems to have its own implications and problematics. It certainly had implications for your project on the National Socialist Underground (NSU), which I’d like to discuss now—it had implications in the sense that, in the end, you weren’t able to present your results before a court. We’ll return to that later. How did you wind up investigating the murder of Halit Yozgat, the ninth victim of the NSU, a far-right German terrorist group?
EW: The investigation was commissioned by the People’s Tribunal “Unravelling the NSU Complex”—we knew the artist Natascha Sadr Haghighian and later met Ayşe Güleç and Fritz Laszlo Weber who were driving this process. They are part of a Germany-wide alliance of anti-racist activists. When we first met in Berlin, they presented the evidentiary problem to us in its full complexity—ten murders committed by the NSU between 2000 and 2007: The potentially racist police force instinctively presumed the violence was between migrant communities and organized crime; despite ongoing insistence from the community that they were racially targeted, the authorities disregarded the victims’ families when they were most needed. Even the court testimonies in Munich were felt by the witnesses to have been insufficiently heard, due to the basic mistrust towards the authorities. A suspicion persists around the role of the Verfassungsschutz (internal security service), which is known to use active Neonazis as informants; also the interests of the juridical system, which reduced the process to its narrowest frame, and the influence of the political and media’s reaction remain open questions. This massive level of distrust led a group of community members and activists to establish alternative forums and even their own tribunal, which would allow an alternative presentation of testimony and fact, and which would enable a discussion of the matter using a different protocol from the very institutional format of the criminal trial, which only concerns itself with determining the guilt of Beate Zschäpe.
ALN: The NSU-trial is very complex; how did you determine your case?
EW: We realized that, both due to resources and from a tactical perspective, it would be best to focus on a small aspect of the controversy, put all our resources and attention into it and try to open up the controversy from this point outwards. Together with our partners from the tribunal we decided to investigate the killing of Halit Yozgat in the internet café of his father on April 6, 2006 in Kassel. His was the ninth of ten NSU murders committed in Germany between 2000 and 2007. We engaged with this murder because in this particular case—within a space of 77square meters and the span of 9 minutes and 26 seconds—three people interacted and consequently instigated this political controversy. At the time of the killing, Andreas Temme, an agent of the Landesamt für Verfassungsschutz (State Office for the Protection of the Constitution) was present in the café. Temme claimed not to have witnessed the murder. The court in Munich accepted his testimony and didn’t enquire further, and the Verfassungsschutz has put a 120-year ban on the file that could clarify why Temme was there in the first place. Until 2134—about 5 generations will pass before we could know this, while military and even nuclear secrets are sooner declassified. And this, given the level of mistrust of those involved, was unacceptable.
At this time and place, three convened in the café—a member of a migrant community, an agent of the state, and the murderer—whose relation to each other is yet to be made clear, but the implications of which bear great political significance. This unit of space and time stands as a microcosm of the social and political controversy known as the ‘NSU Complex.’
For us, the architectural space-time composition of the incident was not about answering the question of who killed Halit Yozgat—that would be the question for the police forensic investigation. The counter-forensic question is: “Is the state telling the truth? Is the state protecting Andreas Temme?” If his testimony—his claim that he did not witness the murder—is not truthful, and if he is being protected, much broader questions could be asked. Then, from the scale of the shop, the 77 square meters, we can follow leads and cracks that could effectively extend across Germany. This is often our strategy at Forensic Architecture, we intensify our work, concentrating on a strategic point or moment, and hope that from there the ripple effect might spread outward. After showing that Temme’s testimony was untruthful, we can continue to ask: Why is the police accepting the testimony? Why is the court not calling up the Verfassungsschutz informants employed by or in contact with Andreas Temme? Why did they slap a 120-year ban on the file? Why is the judge accepting Temme’s evidently dishonest testimony? Why is the media allowing this to pass? Why is there hardly any protest in the political realm? Effectively, you conduct a sort of biopsy, whose implications are not technical but political. That is how counterforensics tends to operate.
ALN: You once called it “the investigation of the investigation,” which aims at a political, i.e., systemic level.
EW: Yes, counter-forensics aims at deconstructing and disproving state investigation or undermining the state’s process when it seems unjust. A complementary move to that is to reconstruct the truth of events as a common ground on which we can stand. In a way it’s about reestablishing facts in the era of post-truth politics. It’s a new era—state denial and disruption of evidence are rather common practices. Much is made of the popular right “insurgency” against truth. In Poland. Hungary. In the US and in Britain. This kind of action is not only directed against this or that statement, but against the very possibility of speaking truthfully and the very means of verification. Propaganda spreading through digital platforms is not about establishing this side or another, but about the destruction of the very possibility of the public believing in anything, it destroys people’s conception of reality. This is why we find ourselves in such a counterintuitive position. As somebody coming from left wing politics, our common conviction is one to protest against preexisting authorities and truths. Its critical-thinking 101, you can read it in any book by Foucault, Deleuze, or Derrida, yet all of the sudden it is we who find ourselves having to insist on truth, expertise, authority, even law and normative frameworks such as human rights. Though, I also have to say that this reality of so-called “post truth”— of state organizations calling their critics “fake news” etc.—has been around for a long time in the context of war and occupation; a context in which I have grown up as an Israeli. State violence is directed at people and things as well as at the truth or evidence that anything happened at all. It is a violence that seeks to destroy all instruments of measure.
ALN: How did you approach the case?
EW: We were looking at the entire sequence of the event itself. At the 9minutes and 26seconds in which all the witnesses were gathered in the space, the murder took place, and Andreas Temme left the shop. We then looked extremely carefully at the durations of each action within that span by analyzing police files and other testimonies.
ALN: Where did you get this information? Was it made accessible to you by the court?
EW: Not at all. We undertook open-source investigations, meaning we investigated open sources in the public domain, mainly online. In 2015, a radical group called NSU Leak had made the Kassel police investigation files public; they must have had contacts inside the Hesse police force or perhaps in other locations. Of course, the aim of this leak was to support the NSU and other neo-nazi groups by arguing that the murder was the state’s responsibility, deflecting guilt from the actual perpetrators. But, all of a sudden, a lot of data and files started circulating through the public domain. The info dump included all police interrogations of the witnesses as well as the login and logout data of every person in the shop. All witnesses were either online or using the phone booths provided by the shop. There were photographs of the crime scene and, most importantly, there was a video of Andreas Temme performing a reenactment of the incident—of the way he walked through the shop and exited it—presumably trying to show how it was possible for him not to have see the body of Halit Yozgat. Such reenactments are often ritualistic events forming part of an admission or confession, representing justice fullfilled. But this reenactment was not only the representation of an event, but a unique event in itself. And because we were suspecting that Temme was lying, it could potentially have been a crime—of perjury and false testimony. So we were looking at this police reenactment video as if it were the video of a crime, in a similar way as we consider a video of a bombing in Palestine or Syria. We studied this video carefully and mapped Temme’s movement in space. Finally we understood that we needed to undertake a full scale reenactment of his movement. That is, a reenactment of the reenactment.
We looked into this story with other methodologies too, similar to those we used in other places where we’ve researched human rights violations such as Syria, Mexico, or Guatemala. In fact, the team that undertook this investigation is the same team that had only a few weeks earlier worked on a US bombing in Syria, where we showed that, contrary to Pentagon statements, the building bombed was not a headquarter of al-Qaeda but a civilian mosque and that most casualties were civilians. The team included a Syrian architect, two Greek architects, myself an Israeli-British architect, a German and a Canadian architect, and a Syrian filmmaker. The very composition of the team itself testifies for the turning of the forensic gaze, in the sense that, seen from the European perspective, human rights violations are understood as things that need to be monitored elsewhere, in other places. Now you have this team using what they have learned elsewhere and returning the gaze back to Europe.
AK: What was unique about the evidentiary problem?
EW: This case presented a very unique forensic situation: the fact that the murder happened at an internet shop meant, that the whole scene of the crime was networked, and that each witness was connected to a time-logged device. Some witnesses were sitting at computers and the leaked police files included their exact login and logout times—so we knew when they arrived, when they logged in, where they sat, and what direction they were facing. Then there were witnesses on the phone, of which we have the beginnings and ends of their phone calls marked to the minute, not the second. The two witnesses who were in the phone booths each made two calls that afternoon. With this information we were able to create a time-space matrix within which the analysis could take place. While witnesses usually remember the sequence of events very well, the order of things as they happen, remembering precise durations is a much more complicated thing, and time becomes elastic—was it 3,5, or 10 minutes?—you find huge variabilities. And this is amplified in situations of violence, because trauma and fear affect perception of time. The login-logout times helped create a time space matrix into which we could locate the movements and other events. Everything the witnesses remember, and everything they have told us, could now fit within this time-space grid defined by the login-logouts.
AK: Were you able to work with the internet café and get some help with the reconstruction?
EW: Reconstructing the space was challenging too. The internet café no longer exists. The place is now a shop for local honey cultivators. Working off photographs from the crime scene as well as floor plans and some information we gathered on our visit to the honey shop, we created exact digital models of the space. We were modelling it in great precision including all the different materials that existed in the room. Realizing that some of the experiments needed to be undertaken in physical space, we also constructed a life-size model of the internet shop at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) in Berlin. We modelled some elements in great detail—the counter where Halit was sitting and where he died, the phone booth and internet stations where the witnesses were located—down to the objects: cups of tea, computers, and papers in the space. Some other elements—the large glass windows, the wood-panel walls—we modelled with the help of our acoustic engineers. Our reconstruction together with the login-logouts creates a precise space- and timeframe. Whereas witnesses usually remember the sequence of events very well, durations get mixed up, especially in situations of violence, because trauma and fear affect durational perception. But thanks to the login-logout times, we were able to locate the stories told by witnesses within those exact time-space boxes.
ALN: How did you proceed, once you faithfully reconstructed the setting? What did you find out?
EW: Our question to begin with was: Where is Andreas Temme as the shots are being fired? The internet shop is divided into a front and a back room; the telephone booths are located in the front room and the computers in the back room. Halit Yozgat was sitting at the counter in the front room when he was shot twice in the head. Going through the logins and the testimonies, we determined that there are three spaces where Andreas Temme could have been located when the shots were fired. Temme testified that he came in and went to a computer in the back room, where he logged into a dating site. He said he stayed in the back room for a while, then moved into the front room, looked around the space for Halit Yozgat, put a coin on the counter to pay for his time, and then went outside, entered his car, and drove off without having noticed anything of the murder. This scenario places him in the back room of the shop at the time of the murder. This is the version the police and the court in Munich accepted. For us it was important to test the possibility that he could have been in the front room, where Halit Yozgat was shot. If he was there at the time of the killing it would make him either a direct witness or even an accomplice to the murder. It is also possible he could have already left the café before the killing. In order to understand the probability and possibility of all these scenarios, we undertook a series of precisely measured reenactments with actors to check the feasibility of each one of these three possibilities. So it was like a choreography sequenced by the login-logout time marks. We were trying to determine the possibility of each one of the scenarios that could have existed between them. For each scenario, we checked whether the series of events described in the testimonies could have indeed happened within the given timeframes.
The first possibility we checked was the scenario suggested by some of the German media and political sphere—that Andreas Temme is completely innocent, that he had left the shop before the murder took place. One of the witnesses, Faiz H. S. (the full name is here withheld by request), who was sitting in a phone booth in the front of the shop, claimed to have heard the shots and briefly seen the killer, and that this happened between two calls, which matches both his testimony and the time log. We know that the moment he logged out of his last phone call and left the booth is the definitive end of the event—the killing could only have happened before this moment.
There are 39 seconds between this definitive end, when Faiz exits his booth, and the moment Andreas Temme enters his car and drives off, according to his own reenactment of the events. In order for Temme to have been out of the shop at the time of the killing, and thus for this scenario to be possible, several things must have happened within these 39 seconds: Temme needed to enter his car and drive off; in that time, Halit Yozgat—who would have needed to be outside the shop, because according to Andreas Temme, he looked for but could not find him—would have needed to return to the shop, move behind the counter and sit down. At that moment the killer would have needed to enter the shop, shoot twice, look over the counter—this is something we know happened from Faiz’s testimony—and then leave the shop. Then Faiz would have needed to finish his call and enter into the space. After having repeatedly timed the series of events, the sum duration of all of these actions adds up to 35 seconds. However, in order for the witnesses to miss each other, there would need to have been time gaps between these actions. According to our measurements, there was a time gap of 4 seconds in total, which makes it extremely unlikely, in an uncoordinated event, for this sequence to have unfolded smoothly. In our work we define the probabilities of a scenario and then reduce it to its steps. We determined that this scenario is extremely unlikely. What reduces the probability even further is the fact that Halit Yozgat needed to have been held up outside the shop while Temme left. But there was no apparent reason for him to be outside of the shop, no one saw him there, and if he went out, he left no traces of doing so. That reduces the probability even further. If you have two unlikely interdependent scenarios, the possibility decreases exponentially. What renders it impossible are the time logs of the phones. Faiz heard the shots at the end of his first call. He saw the killer when he was starting his second call.
This allows us to shorten the possible timeframe of the murder. At the latest, the killing could have happened at 17:02:00, which is when Faiz’s second call came through according to the telephone data. Andreas Temme in turn logged out from his computer at 17:01:40. This leaves only 20 seconds between his logout and the latest possible time of the killing. We therefore consider it impossible that he had already left the shop.
ALN: What were the other scenarios?
EW: Our findings still leave open the possibility that Temme was in the front part of the shop during the killing. The evidence of the logout data does not exclude this scenario, placing Andreas Temme in the front room with the killer. This scenario would implicate him in aiding the murderer, or worse, of being the murderer.
However, it is most likely that he still was in the back room at the time of the killing. The phone logs of the two witnesses tell us that the killing took place between 17:01:00 and 17:02:00. So, there are 40 seconds in which it was possible Temme was still in the back room. However, and this was the heart of our investigation, he testified that he did not hear the shots, and he did not see the body, and he did not smell the gunpowder on his way out. We turned to the reenactment video to examine the plausibility of this statement. A reenactment of this sort is effectively a testimony of the body in space—he is demonstrating the way he claims to have moved around, what he did, where he looked, what he saw in every location. It can obviously be false, but this is precisely what we wanted to check. We assume he was reenacting it in the way that was most helpful for him to support his story. It was on this basis that we undertook the reenactment of his reenactment.
The question was that of the senses, or more precisely, the threshold of sensorial perception. What is the lowest possible sound of shots that it is plausible not to have heard from across the room, and likewise what is the threshold of smell and vision. We have constructed the room as a sensorium to study these sensorial thresholds. Most of our analysis was concerned with undertaking these sensorial tests. Some aspects of the analysis were undertaken on physical models, some on digital models. In these tests, the physical and the digital experiments are not separate, but intertwined. Each one supports the other, each one is directed at what it is best at perceiving. But we also needed to build the physical model of the space in order to establish something that is referred to in science as “ground truth.”
In order to establish ground truth, the mathematical or digital evidence needs to be calibrated in real space. When you calibrate a digital find to physical reality on several strategic sites, you can also assume with higher probability that the digital simulation is precise in other aspects. For the sound tests, we took the same make of gun, a Cˇ eská CˇZ 83, and the same ammunition used in the killing, and had it fired somewhere in Arizona by a reputed weapons expert with long experience in court work.
There were a few acts of translation or transference that were necessary. The expert shot several other guns to verify that the sound of the shot is similar in all of them, he then threaded the other guns with a silencer to see that all of them produce a similar sound level when suppressed. We played the recorded gunshots in the physical model as well as in the digital simulation. When we measured the decibel level at Temme’s possible location at the back of the shop, again—both digitally and in an analogue fashion—we saw that the gun shots would have been clearly audible. According to World Health Organization data, they would have awoken a sleeping man. In fact, they were far beyond the threshold of what he could have heard. For the olfactory—sense of smell—simulations, we worked with a fluid dynamics specialist. A gunshot, especially in a closed space, leaves a very sharp smell. We estimated the amount of volatile odorous compounds in the ammunition and simulated their movement in space. Thus, we could show that the concentration of particles in the air would have been strong enough to be noticeable to anyone in the first 20 seconds after the shots, let alone to someone who, like Temme, is trained to handle guns, or who knows the smell of gunpowder. However, we qualified the smell finds, because of several indeterminacies in the room. We didn’t know to what extent the door would have been open and to what extent the windows were. There was also no data on the temperature in the room, and each of these parameters could have altered the computer model. For the vision tests, we motion-tracked Temme’s eyes in the police reenactment video. Then we placed a moving camera in the model, whose movement recreated his field of vision. We repeated this process with cameras strapped to the head of an actor when we undertook the reenactment within the life-size model. This showed that while placing the coin on the reception table, the body would have been clearly within his field of vision no matter how it fell. Slightly behind and under this counter, Halit Yozgat was lying dying or dead on the ground when Temme passed through.
ALN: You have looked at the plausibility of different scenarios and pinned down or eliminated the different possibilities. Is it possible, based on your research, to make an assumption about which is the most likely event?
EW: Our intention is not so much to say what has happened as to disprove the likelihood of the judicial conclusion. In counter-forensics, we are not here to say what has taken place. Our commission was, and our energies were directed to determine, whether Andreas Temme is telling the truth. We determined that he is lying. The evidence tells us that there are two options: the murder could have happened within the 40 seconds that he was still on the computer. If this was the case, he would have witnessed it, and simply did not report it. This is a very serious crime. Because this would mean he protected the killer—and you can then start asking questions about why somebody would protect a killer. Or, the second option, he could have been in the front part of the shop. The possibility that he could actually have been involved in the killing is not excluded. But the evidence we have does not provide us with enough information to make a determination about which of the two scenarios is more likely. What it does offer is what’s called “negative evidence.” We are able to rule out the scenario, disrupt existing evidence, which has now been accepted by the Munich court, which is effectively what the judge Manfred Götzl has determined, that Andreas Temme was in the back part of the shop and that it is plausible that he did not hear or smell or see anything.
ALN: You were invited to present evidence before the court. But in the end, it did not work out. What happened?
EW: We did not perform our work for the court— we were commissioned by the People’s Tribunal, pretty much as a more open ended alternative to the court process. When the evidence began being made public, it gained a lot of attention and interest from various parties. The lawyers for the Yozgat family—who came to see a live presentation of the evidence in the real scale model at the HKW in Berlin (we did one closed demonstration for lawyers, journalists and politicians)—wanted to present it before the court and got a date for the hearing. Our plan was to install speakers and make the judges hear the loudness of the shots from Temme’s position. If they had heard it, they could no longer say it was impossible that he didn’t hear them. But already at this starting point, there was a legal difficulty with presenting evidence. In the German legal system, there are three parties involved in a trial: the prosecution, which is the state—and it had been decided to keep the Verfassungsschutz out of it; the defense—who had no interest one way or another; and the accessory prosecution, the lawyers for the victims and their families—who wanted to clarify the situation. It was not at all clear that the judge would allow us to present our evidence at the request of the victims’ families, given that it was not clear whether the accessory prosecution was juridically allowed to summon expert testimony, and it was at the discretion of the judge. And, of course, there were motives for the objection of admitting our evidence, because if our evidence had been admitted, it would have complicated things quite a bit in the trial, which would have been compelled to insist that the Verfassungsschutz, or the minister in charge of it, return to testify and allow the banned files, and the internal investigation to be made public. Then something else happened. We were sent material from another legal team, representing another victim family, and some parties in the court claimed that we should not have been sent this, and that this was material we were not allowed to look at. Once again, the rules of evidence are debatable. We were considered experts by the Yozgat team, so we were allowed to be exposed to their evidence, but while this was their evidence, it was sent by others. This was not material that we ourselves asked for, or acquired in any shady way. The material was sent to us a week or two before we were supposed to testify, when all the experiments— conducted on the basis of the open-sources were long complete anyway—and all the results were already in. We didn’t even look at the material sent. Some lawyers think it was completely within the rights of the legal team to have sent the material to us. So it was a highly technical issue that had the effect of conveniently silencing the presentation of this material in court, a presentation that would have complicated things quite a bit.
ALN: What was the court’s position on this matter?
EW: The court had decided not to make any determination, neither for nor against our testimony.
ALN: Aren’t they interested in what you found out?
EW: No. On the contrary, in fact. It would potentially present a problem for the court, because presenting our results, I believe, would question the court’s position of having accepted Temme’s testimony as reasonable. The court is not digging further, or not far enough, into the connections of the Verfassungsschutz with its informants, it considers this outside the scope of the trial. However, the Yozgat murder is the only one that is not resolved. Until we understand the motivations of all actors potentially involved, the murder is not solved or resolved forensically. And we made it clear we believe that a verdict in the Munich trial cannot be given over an unresolved case. All we have done, we have done in order to support and to confirm what İsmail Yozgat, the father of Halit, said all along. He begged the court to come visit the shop and see for themselves—he said, all along, that Temme was either a witness or the killer. But in this case the families of the victim were never listened to. This is why institutions like the People’s Tribunal are so important. They made the shots heard, the same shots that were denied a hearing in court, were heard in the tribunal publicly and loudly.
ALN: You presented your results at the People’s Tribunal in Cologne. What will be the next steps?
EW: The Tribunal was also represented at documenta in Kassel. Evidence has to be made public. Especially evidence of such political significance needs to be seen and heard and not only be held prisoner of a judicial bureaucracy. Before we open the exhibit at documenta, we also presented this report in a community center at FC Bosporus in Kassel Nord-Holland, to many of the Turkish-German community of Kassel, especially people living in the neighborhood where the killing took place. Counter-forensics cannot be limited to the technical juridical court. Because the results are political and belong to the public, they need different forums—the media, exhibitions, tribunals. It is up to the German, perhaps the European public, to see and decide how we are to live here together.
AK: There were very strong reactions from the hessian CDU against your work. What were the reasons for them to deny your investigations?
EW: There is only one reason really and that is that the hessian CDU was, for more than a decade, running the government of Hessen and was in charge of the ministry of interior. The ministry of interior has always been in charge of the local Verfassungsschutz, which is Temme’s employer. So all of these questions need to be posed to the CDU ministry of interior, which at the time was run by Volker Bouffier who is now the Ministerpräsident of Hessen (hessian prime minister). He is a very powerful figure within the CDU. Ultimately, all of these questions land in the lap of the CDU, which is essentially responsible for these things. It has also been made known by several journalists and also by the inquiries that the CDU and Bouffier had a very particularly close relationship with the Verfassungsschutz. There is also a reported party in which Bouffier and Temme were both present. And this obviously raises a lot of concern about the political motivation behind this blatant misuse of justice. It’s no surprise that the Verfassungsschutz tried to hide their files and methods instead of bringing them up for discussion. But the controversy becomes much more political and disturbing when a major political party in Germany, the ruling party not only in Hessen, but in the whole of Germany carries out an investigation and makes sure the records having to do directly with the case and Temme’s involvement are kept classified. They are classified till 2134.
We are dealing with a political obstruction of our attempt to establish clarity and justice, to an extent that goes beyond even the expected reaction of secret service. And it is even more important because Merkel herself has promised full disclosure. She gave her word to the parents, to the grieving parents, to the community to do that. But her own party stands in her way and that makes the situation that much more complicated. The three remaining major parties in the board of enquiry, Die Grünen, Die Linke, and the SPD were very interested in our evidence and wanted it to be presented and open for discussion. Indeed the parliamentary inquiry in Wiesbaden was the most important one in that case because it has a direct relation to the ministry of interior in Wiesbaden, where the headquarters are. So this is extremely important. Of course, the other parties sent delegates to documenta to see our installation.
They all spoke with Ayse Gülec and were convinced that the ministry of interior’s activities, having suppressed evidence and withheld the relevant case report supposedly in the interest of security, merit serious doubt. Even if there was any concern about security at the time, we are now twelve years after the fact and those concerns shouldn’t play any role.
So this is the reason that they could not have tolerated the presentation of our work. It is shocking that instead of acting like a reasonable party, pursuing clarity in the name of the citizens of Hesse, they engaged in a kind of ridiculous mud wrestling in which they tried to sully our reputation by claiming that our very reasonable and not in the least aggressive method of deduction based on scientific facts is manipulative. They called us fake news, they said we are artists who should not be trust, they called us left populists. They did everything they could to interrupt rather than to clarify. This man called Holger Bellino, the head of the hessian CDU fraction in the parliamentary inquiry, seemed to have nearly lost his mind, publishing obvious lies in the newspapers and also in his blog. He was using very misleading and insulting language, but wasn’t successful. In the end, the work was presented at the parliamentary inquiry.
AK: What was so disturbing about this CDU report? EW In this 50 page report by the CDU, it was what we call the meta data of the report. The meta data should include the day it was produced, the people working on it and their qualifications. This most basic part of forensic work—which is obviously presented in our report—in this report is unsigned. We don’t know who made it. It uses police jargon, and we do not have the basis to validate this, but individuals in the parliamentary inquiry and others are sure it was prepared by the Verfassungsschutz. I do not know whether it is or not. We’ve asked Bellino himself to let us know who made it and what their qualifications are.
Bellino orally said that the people that made it are his parliamentary assistants. I would like to ask, what are the qualifications of a parliamentary assistant in Hesse/Wiesbaden to contest a scientific report? Maybe Bellino has parliamentary assistants that are engaged in ballistics, that are engaged in sound analysis and in spatial investigation. I doubt it very much, but if so we need to know who they are. If it is the Verfassungsschutz who prepared the report, we are in very deep water, because then what has been proven by the very existence of this report is exactly the point we were trying to make: there seems to be direct collusion between a major party—since Bellino is not acting as a private party, but as the representative of the CDU—and the Verfassungsschutz. The collusion should worry, I think, every representative in Germany. You saw that in the GDR, and earlier still: when a political party has control of the police force it is a major violation of people’s freedom. And if that party and the secret service are also even suspected of having secret ties to a radical group that targets German citizens, we are in a completely different time and space. This does not resemble democracy, it doesn’t resemble what people need. It is very very dark.
So here is my first point about this report: either it is made by parliamentary assistants, which I do not believe, but if so, I need to see their credentials; or if it is made by the Verfassungsschutz, we are in deep dark water.
Anyway, we’ve taken their harshest critique, made it public, and answered them to the best of our ability. But if read very closely, it seems like an attempt to undermine our work. We do not believe it is accurate. We are convinced that it has actually affirmed us. Temme was in the space and this report confirms that he could have heard the shots and seen the body. They say this is trivial. Thus acknowledging the fact. So if this is trivial, I want to understand why they are worrying so much, why they are acting out on that level?
AK: What position should we, the German society, have in this case of injustice? What do you think would be a strategy to get the undisclosed files to the public?
EW: At the end of the day, if there are enough Germans that care about the communities of people that were not born in Germany, that live here, that contribute to our society, contribute to our economy, if there is this very basic care, then every decent German must write to their representatives, they should write petitions and they should go to the street. Beate Zschäpe is going to court – this is a big deal, a really big deal. After so many years of trial they will decide her guilt in a few days. The story isn’t over as long as the case is unresolved, as long as the files are sealed. If they contain nothing of importance: let us see them! If you believe Temme, then show us that he had nothing to do with the crime, that he had no contact with the perpetrators before or after the murder. What was the subject of his telephone conversation before he left the internet café? Explain why he was there. If it was for personal reasons, show us that there’s no connection. Unseal the files. Until we are allowed to see them, we regard this as a form of terrorism: state terrorism. It is terrorism which is affected and supported by a political party. And this is absolutely horrible because not knowing that fact, hiding that fact for five generations is telling people here: We don’t care about you; we have more important aims. We have more important issues that concern other parts of German society. Your wishes are not important to us. I think they should really understand what it means to be a cultural minority in a very dominant and powerful state. And I think that to my great sadness, Germany is not the most progressive country in acknowledging and understanding that. They always seek a kind of integration on the terms of the dominant part of society. There is very little understanding of the situated knowledge, of the perspective of those people that are marginalized. The situation in the UK is not much better, but it is better. In other countries too. I think Germany must confront the fact that democracy, openness, and tolerance are not rights to be permitted. Tolerance is a deep, existential thing, it’s fundamentally seeing society from the point of view of the weakest. What are the needs of the most marginalized and of the most threatened?