In autumn 2021, it will be 20 years since the murders of Abdurrahim Özüdoğru, Habil Kılıç and Süleyman Taşköprü. This anniversary falls at a time where hatred – in parliaments and on the streets – is gaining ground once again.
This series of murders were committed by a group calling themselves the National Socialist Underground (NSU). In 2011, when it became public that the NSU was behind these murders, some parts of society saw them as a one-off expression of extreme right-wing violence. Today, however, we are forced to acknowledge that the crimes committed by the NSU were the tip of the iceberg, a precursor for revitalised racist, antisemitic, inhumane attitudes and behaviour, a mindset which finds expression in so many different ways.
Even now, ten years after the murders, the true facts about the NSU organisation remain hazy: to this day, despite the lengthy five-year trial, there are still no satisfactory answers to questions about the involvement and possible complicity of the authorities. Overt and latent racism among the investigative authorities, exacerbated and reinforced by an increasingly extremist right-wing climate, continue to (re)traumatise those affected and the families of the victims today.
To build and bolster a free society based on solidarity, what we need – besides knowledge and information about the forms and the impact of racism and empathy for the victims and those affected – is a safe space for the expression of the fears, experiences and concerns of those confronted with racism. Racist violence and all its different manifestations, which every now and then horrifies the general public, but which for the most part goes unreported by the media, is sadly an everyday occurrence in the Federal Republic of Germany.
The murders of Enver Şimşek (2000), Abdurrahim Özüdoğru (2001) and İsmail Yaşar (2005) in Nuremberg, Habil Kılıç (2001) and Theodoros Boulgarides (2005) in Munich, Süleyman Taşköprü (2001) in Hamburg, Mehmet Turgut (2004) in Rostock, Mehmet Kubaşik (2006) in Dortmund, Halit Yozgat (2006) in Kassel and Michèle Kiesewetter (2007) in Heilbronn, as well as so many other assaults and attacks, such as those in Cologne in 2001 and 2004, are just a few examples of the countless cases of right-wing extremist and racist violence in Germany since 1945.
But more than this – they are also a symbol of society’s ability to look the other way, of the structural lack of empathy for the suffering of victims’ friends and families, of suppression, the unwillingness to uncover the truth, and false suspicions. They reflect a tremendous loss of trust in government institutions and security forces; authorities which so many people living in Germany today, particularly those with a migrant background and BIPoC, feel have abandoned them and left them unprotected. There is a long list of unanswered questions about the NSU organisation, and the investigation committees at national and regional levels, as well as the Munich trial and its written verdict published in spring 2020, failed to shed much light on the situation.
On the initiative of Jonas Zipf, Cultural Operations Manager at JenaKultur, in close cooperation with curator Ayşe Güleç, dramaturges Tunçay Kulaoğlu and Simon Meienreis, and sociologist Matthias Quent, theatres and institutions from 15 towns and cities in Germany joined forces to form a collaborative network with the shared goal of implementing the interdisciplinary theatre project Kein Schlussstrich! (This is not over!). The project seeks to use the arts and culture to address and scrutinise the crimes committed by the NSU as well as the organisation’s origins. Project participants are from the towns and cities that witnessed the racist murders of ten citizens, as well as those where the NSU perpetrators grew up, lived or found support.
With productions, exhibitions, concerts and musical interventions in the public space, readings, discussions, workshops and a whole raft of other formats, Kein Schlussstrich! seeks to raise public awareness for the victims’ families’ perspectives as well as for (post-)migrant communities and encourage a critical examination of the institutional and structural racism pervading our society. The project also aspires to remind us of the events and consequences of the horrific attacks in Halle, Hanau and Kassel which bore witness to right-wing terrorism and racism.
The project is executed by the non-profit association Licht ins Dunkel e.V. (Light in the darkness), founded in 2020. Project partners are: ASA-FF e.V. in Chemnitz, Theater Chemnitz, Dietrich-Keuning-Haus Dortmund (under the aegis of the cultural institutions of the city of Dortmund), Landestheater Eisenach/Meininger Staatstheater, Kampnagel Hamburg, Theater Heilbronn, JenaKultur, Institut für Demokratie und Zivilgesellschaft Jena (Institute for Democracy and Civil Society Jena, under the aegis of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation), Theaterhaus Jena, Staatstheater Kassel, Schauspiel Köln, Münchner Kammerspiele and Real München e.V., Staatstheater Nürnberg, Theater Plauen-Zwickau, Volkstheater Rostock, Theater Rudolstadt and Deutsches Nationaltheater Weimar.
For over 40 years now, ASA-FF e.V. has been promoting development policy discussions, international communication and the creation of new global learning concepts.
Since 2013, we have also been pursuing these objectives through the arts and culture, a medium which has inspired us to take new and innovative approaches. We seek to address issues that are pertinent to society and communicate those issues from an artistic perspective. From 2012 to 2021, the association’s projects have received a whole gamut of awards, the most recent of these being: the KULTURLICHTER – German Prize for Cultural Education (Audience Award) in 2021, a nomination for the shortlist of the Kulturgestaltenpreis der Kulturpolitischen Gesellschaft for cultural design in 2020, and the Children’s Jury prize at the WILDWECHSEL children’s and youth theatre festival in 2019, the Chemnitzer Friedenspreis (Chemnitz Peace Prize) in 2017, and an award from the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (German Federal Agency for Civic Education) in 2014.
Under the direction of Dr Christoph Dittrich and covering all five theatre genres – opera, ballet, philharmonic, drama and puppet theatre – Theater Chemnitz includes some of the largest theatres in East Germany. This municipal theatre organisation was also actively involved in the city’s successful bid for the title of European Capital of Culture 2025. With their highly diverse repertoire, in terms of both the forms and themes they encompass, the city’s playhouse and puppet theatre have built up a strong reputation, not just within the region but across Germany. Both the playhouse and the puppet theatre work in partnership with a wide range of actors from civil society and the arts. Most recently, the playhouse worked with Kollektiv Eins. The puppet theatre regularly collaborates with ASA-FF e.V., including in the context of the Unentdeckte Nachbarn (Undiscovered Neighbours) theatre conference, which tackled issues related to the NSU. Our project partners were awarded the Chemnitzer Friedenspreis in recognition of their successful implementation of this event, and more recently also received the KULTURLICHTER Audience Award for their interactive production Wandertag im Weltraum (Hiking day in space).
Covering a huge range of genres, the Dietrich-Keuning-Haus in Dortmund is the largest cultural and socio-cultural centre of its kind in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Its programme appeals to audiences of all ages, with concerts, festivals, dance events, drama, musicals and films, as well as talks, conferences and all kinds of cultural events. Dietrich-Keuning-Haus is a cultural centre with a dedicated section for children and young people. It also serves to connect local actors. At the same time, the centre seeks to have impact at national level by providing a space to debate socio-political issues and by offering different dialogue and discussion formats, including its online YouTube channel Keuninghaus to Go, which has proven immensely popular across Germany. The centre also has a skate and sports park. Clubs, associations, groups and private individuals can rent the Keuning-Haus premises and media equipment for their own events and projects.
Over its 140-year history, the Landestheater Eisenach has become the hub of cultural and social life in the Wartburg region. The theatre employs 80 staff from 15 different countries and draws an average of 60,000 spectators each season. The 2021/22 season saw Jens Neundorff von Enzberg take on the artistic direction of the theatres in Eisenach and Meiningen, while ballet director Andris Plucis is continuing his work as artistic director in Eisenach. Under the new leadership of Jule Kracht, the Junge Schauspiel youth theatre has realigned its focus and its programme now draws heavily on the lifeworlds and experiences of children, young people and families. Landestheater Eisenach is part of the Kulturstiftung Meiningen-Eisenach (Meiningen-Eisenach Cultural Foundation).
Alongside contemporary performing arts productions, world-renowned international production house Kampnagel Hamburg also holds concerts, conferences and a whole raft of different festivals on a wide range of themes. The six Kampnagel stages showcase the works of international artists and performers from the local Hamburg scene. The programme covers a broad spectrum of aesthetic positions and ground-breaking approaches, not only from the theatre, dance and performance genres, but also visual arts and architecture. Kampnagel serves as a creative laboratory for the development of ideas, a think tank, and a platform for exploring controversial issues, a space that is open to the community and can be used to examine and address the realities faced by that community through the arts. The organisation is networked with an alliance of international production houses and works with a range of different collaborative partners both locally and globally.
With its three stages comprising the Große Haus (main house), Komödienhaus (comedy house) and the Junge Theater in der BOXX (youth theatre) and a total of 1,140 seats, Theater Heilbronn is one of the biggest cultural attractions of the Heilbronn-Franconia region. Theater Heilbronn stages plays and musical productions performed by its own ensemble as well as high-calibre national and international guest performances in the opera, operetta and dance genres. It also hosts a number of annual international festivals including contemporary dance festival Tanz! Heilbronn, the Science & Theatre festival which is run in cooperation with Germany’s biggest science centre experimenta Heilbronn, and the biennial international puppet theatre festival IMAGINALE. Axel Vornam has been artistic director of Theater Heilbronn since 2008.
JenaKultur is a commercially run enterprise, owned and operated by the city of Jena. It both funds and produces innovative art, promotes cultural education, manages event venues, and is also engaged in cultural, municipal and tourism marketing. JenaKultur represents some of the most important facets of and moments in the lives of the people of Jena and those who come to visit our city. The Kulturarena music festival and Jena Philharmonic Orchestra. Jena Community College and Music and Art School. The Ernst-Abbe library and Jena’s municipal museums. The public baths and the Volkshaus. Tourism and cultural marketing. All this and so much more besides. For both young and old alike. Preserving history and yet looking forward to the future. Our cultural establishments and the issues they address are diverse and forever dynamic.
Since its establishment in 2005, every project carried out by JenaKultur’s now more than 250-strong team, every course, every concert and every event is testimony to the passion with which they live culture, nurturing it and helping it to grow and flourish for the good of the city.
The Institut für Demokratie und Zivilgesellschaft- Thüringer Dokumentations- und Forschungsstelle gegen Menschenfeindlichkeit (IDZ) (Institute for Democracy and Civil Society) is an extramural research institute under the aegis of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation. The Institute is government funded through the Thüringer Landesprogramm für Demokratie, Toleranz und Weltoffenheit (Regional Programme for Democracy, Tolerance and Openness) and began its work in Jena in August 2016. The IDZ seeks to facilitate knowledge transfer between academia, politics and civil society. It also aims to enhance democratic culture through collaborative development, implementation and dissemination of research projects. Since 1st June 2020, the IDZ has been one of 11 establishments across Germany that make up the new Forschungsinstitut Gesellschaftlicher Zusammenhalt (FGZ) (Social Cohesion Research Institute) funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
In the early 1990s, the whole of East Germany had to reinvent itself, and the same applied to Theaterhaus Jena. Emerging from the ruins of Jena’s derelict municipal theatre, which had been reduced to just the stage area, an artistic collective was born. This group, motivated by a desire and indeed obligation to collectively take the fate of the theatre into their own hands, founded a new theatre in the middle of this small university city. Since the early 1990s, this “actors’theatre” has stood for an entirely unique artistic repertoire that is dedicated to the spirit of the artistic collective upon which the theatre was founded. Theaterhaus Jena straddles two roles: serving both as a venue for the innovative independent theatre scene and as a theatre for the city. In 2018, the Dutch actors’ collective Wunderbaum took on the artistic direction of the theatre, which has since focussed on writing productions informed by popular culture, rooted in the experiences of the local community. Besides Wunderbaum, director Lizzy Timmers and the feminist collective hashtagmonike also regularly perform their own productions at the theatre. With its three stages (assuming the world is not in the midst of a pandemic), Theaterhaus Jena offers a diverse range of material and forms. In addition, the theatre has hosted numerous discursive event formats – including those addressing the issue of the NSU organisation.
As of the 2021/22 season, Staatstheater Kassel, which includes the genres of musical theatre, drama, dance, municipal youth theatre and concerts by the Kassel municipal orchestra, will be under the artistic direction of Florian Lutz. With Lutz at the Helm, Staatstheater Kassel will remain a venue for socio-political dialogue and debate, but will also place strong emphasis on hybrid lighthouse projects and participatory formats – with its finger constantly on the pulse, Staatstheater Kassel will implement projects that are in tune with the present yet set against the backdrop of the city’s colourful history.
Since the 2013/14 season, Schauspiel Köln, one of Cologne’s municipal theatres, has resided in the former industrial Carlswerk site in the district of Köln-Mülheim due to ongoing renovations on the city centre theatre. Since 2013, the theatre has been under the artistic direction of Stefan Bachmann, and since the 2019/20 season, the Richard Siegal/Ballet of Difference dance company has also been part of Schauspiel Köln. Time and again the theatre’s productions have explored issues that are relevant to Köln-Mülheim, a district of Cologne on the right bank of the Rhine that is marked by structural change, a challenging mobility infrastructure, gentrification and the repercussions of the 2004 right-wing terrorist nail bombing.
The cultural landscape of our society does not even come close to reflecting its true diversity. This situation can only change if the members of the different social groups feel motivated and inspired to make their own contributions and, driven by a sense of optimism, become involved in the cultural life of the city in which they live. Real München e.V. plays an active part in helping us achieve this objective in reality by holding various arts, cultural and musical events throughout the year and across the city. In doing so, the association seeks to involve people with a diverse range of backgrounds in organising and curating large-scale events. The focus is on interpersonal relationships, creating a level playing field, and fostering participation and mutual respect.
In its over 650 productions a year, Staatstheater Nürnberg showcases a plethora of intentionally diverse theatrical forms and aesthetics. The theatre has a strong national appeal while, at the same time, focussing on the issues and actors that are most important to Nuremberg. With its open meeting spaces, its many collaboration and networking formats, and the wide range of events it hosts, Staatstheater Nürnberg is also a theatre for the people. Some of the most important facets here are post-migrant realities, the urban community, cultural diversity and the multiplicity of perspectives. With this in mind and in view of the city’s older and more recent history, Staatstheater Nürnberg sees itself as playing an especially important role in supporting and stimulating the debate on the continuities in ethno-nationalist mentalities, racism and right-wing terrorism.
Since autumn 2000,Theater Plauen-Zwickau gGmbH has comprised an amalgamation of several stages, making it the fourth largest theatre in Saxony. It now brings together four genres under one roof. Since the 2009/10 season, Roland May has been responsible for the artistic direction of the theatre. Musical theatre, drama, ballet and orchestra combine to produce a wide-ranging and multifaceted performance calendar, with their repertoire incorporating opera, operetta and musicals, an extensive programme of classical theatrical performances alongside contemporary drama, classical narrative ballet and debut dance performances, as well as a packed concert schedule. Theater Plauen-Zwickau attaches particular importance to staging diverse performances for children and young people as well as an extensive range of initiatives with a focus on theatre pedagogy.
Volkstheater Rostock is the largest theatre in the Hanseatic and university city of Rostock. The theatre stages productions covering four genres – musical theatre, drama, dance theatre and an array of concerts performed by the Norddeutsche Philharmonie Rostock (Rostock North German Philharmonic) – put this theatre it at the heart of the city’s cultural life. With classical performances in the Große Haus, a great entertainment programme put on by the Kleine Komödie Warnemünde comedy theatre and a contemporary programme at the Ateliertheater, Volkstheater Rostock provides a wide audience with diverse experiences of the arts in all shapes and forms. The theatre has cultivated collaborative relations with a number of institutions and companies based in the city and the surrounding area, at the same time working closely with other artistic and cultural institutions. In addition, the Volkstheater is committed to cultural and social education through its active involvement in workshops, theatre and drama clubs and participatory projects.
The Weimar Theatre is steeped in history, both artistic and political. Among the eminent artists who have worked there over the years are Goethe, Schiller, Liszt and Strauss, and the theatre boasts an impressive list of premieres including Maria Stuart, William Tell, Lohengrin and Hansel and Gretel. It was also here that Germany’s first democratic constitution came into being at the 1919 National Assembly. The Deutsche Nationaltheater (German National Theatre) is home to the Staatskapelle Weimar, one of the world’s oldest and most historic symphony orchestras. To this day, the relationship between these two institutions plays a key role in city’s cultural life and its reputation extends far beyond the region. The theatre’s performance calendar covers a whole range of genres including drama, opera and concert, from the classical canon to the contemporary – rounded off with the multi-genre Weimar Arts Festival, which has taken place under the aegis of the Deutsche Nationaltheater since 2014.
Amelie Deuflhard was artistic director of the Sophiensæle (Berlin) from 2000 to 2007. In 2004/05 she was part of a team of artistic directors working on the Volkspalast project, a festival-like display of the dismantled Palace of the Republic. In 2007, Amelie took over the artistic direction of Kampnagel (Hamburg), Europe’s largest independent production venue for the performing arts. In 2014, she launched EcoFavela Lampedusa Nord, a living space and venue for artistic and handicraft activities for refugees. The project was continued in the form of the award-winning Migrantpolitan meeting place,also at Kampnagel. Amelie Deuflhard was part of the four-member Advisory Board of the 2017 Theater der Welt international theatre festival. She has authored several publications and has been a regular visiting lecturer at various universities. In recognition of her work and achievements, Amelie was awarded the Caroline Neuber Prize in 2012 and named Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in 2013. In 2018, she received the European Cultural Manager of the Year award.
Jonas Zipf, born 1982 in Darmstadt, has held the position of Cultural Operations Manager at JenaKultur, the municipal enterprise for culture, cultural education, tourism and marketing, owned and operated by the city of Jena since 2016. Jonas is a qualified psychologist and director of both musical and straight theatre. In his position at JenaKultur, he is cultural administrator for the city of Jena, initiating cultural projects and urban society processes such as the three-day urban design festival 72 Stunden Urban Action Lobeda. Prior to this position, after completing his studies in Berlin, Paris and Munich, he worked as a dramaturge and theatre director at various theatres including Thalia Theater Hamburg, Theaterhaus Jena and Staatstheater Darmstadt.
Ayşe Güleç is a professional educationalist, curator, art mediator and activist researcher at the interface of anti-racism, art, art mediation and migration. She is part of the artistic team responsible for the documenta 15 arts and culture platform. In 2018/19, Ayşe was responsible for art mediation at the Museum of Modern Art, Frankfurt am Main. From 2016 to 2017, she was Head of Community Liaison for documenta 14, where she created connections between artists, works of art and socio-political contexts. She was also one of the coordinators of a project that sought to network local initiatives across Germany, including the collective movement Tribunal NSU-Komplex Auflösen (Unravelling the NSU complex)which was implemented in Cologne in 2017. From 1998 to 2016, Ayşe worked at the socio-cultural centre Schlachthof in Kassel, where she was responsible for migration as well as local, regional and European activist networking. In 2007, she established the Advisory Committee for documenta 12, going on to become the group’s spokesperson. In 2012, she trained art mediators as part of documenta 13’s Maybe Education programme.
Tunçay Kulaoğlu Kulaoğlu is a filmmaker, dramaturge, curator and author. He has recently been working with director Nuran David Çalış on the development of a piece for the performative documentary re-enactment 438 Tage NSU-Prozess (The 438-day NSU trial), which premiered at the Weimar Arts Festival.
Simon Meienreis was born in Bochum in 1986 and studied economics, philosophy and sociology in Essen, Hamburg and Jena. He currently works as a dramaturge at Schauspiel Essen. He was previously employed by various theatres including Theaterhaus Jena, Hessische Landestheater Marburg and Schauspielhaus Bochum.
Ferda Ataman, born 1979, is a journalist and chair of the Neue deutsche Medienmacher:innen (New German media professionals) association, which advocates for more diversity in the media. She is also spokesperson for the Neue deutschen Organisationen, a Germany-wide network of over 120 post-migrant initiatives committed to diversity and equal participation. In March 2019, her book Hört auf zu fragen. Ich bin von hier! (I’m from here. Stop asking!) was published by S. Fischer Verlag. Up until 2020, she also wrote the bi-weekly column on issues of migration and integration for the Spiegel magazine.
İdil Nuna Baydar, born in Celle in 1975, is a German comedian, actor and social influencer. In December 2011, she produced and posted her first social criticism video featuring fictional characters Jilet Ayşe and Gerda Grischke on YouTube. After breaking the million click barrier, in 2014 she developed her first full-length comedy programme. Since then she has featured in various cabaret and comedy programmes and has also performed in a range of Internet formats in the role of Jilet Ayşe. In 2015, she received a Special Award for Integration and Tolerance from the initiative Hauptstadt Berlin e.V. and in 2016, she was awarded the Golden Broom cabaret prize by the SWR broadcasting corporation, the city of Stuttgart and Renitenztheater Stuttgart. In 2018 she performed in the Hamburg production of Elfriede Jelinek’s Am Königsweg (On the Royal Road) directed by Falk Richter, a production that was invited to feature in the Berliner Theatertreffen festival.
Isidora Randjelović, born in 1975, graduated in social pedagogy and is a qualified social worker. She is the director of the feminist Romnja:Archiv RomaniPhen, which seeks to raise the visibility of the Roma and Sinti. Isidora writes on points of intersection between race and gender as well as movements in these areas and self-organisation. She is also actively involved in IniRromnja, an association that seeks to combat racism towards the Roma and Sinti. Isidora Randjelović is a lecturer at Alice Salomon University of Applied Sciences Berlin and a member of the RomaniPhen e.V. board.
Katharina Warda, was born in 1985 and has a degree in sociology and literature. She lives in Berlin where she works as a freelance writer. The areas she focuses on include East Germany, racism, classism and punk. Katharina’s doctoral thesis looks at digital diaries, marginalised identities, and the concept of resilience in biographical storytelling. In her project Dunkeldeutschland (Dark Germany), she explores the post-reunification period from the social margins and illuminates blind spots in German historiography based on her own experiences as a Black East German woman in the GDR.
Vanessa Eileen Thompson is a black sociologist who teaches and conducts research at the Institute for Sociology, Goethe University, Frankfurt. Her research focuses are critical race theory, Black Studies (in particular black intersectional movements in Europe), as well as feminist and post/decolonial social theory. Vanessa is also a committed activist. She co-founded the Christy Schwundeck initiative and plays an active role in Copwatch FFM, an initiative that seeks to identify cases of racial profiling by law enforcement officers in Frankfurt.
Local International, established by Elena Krüskemper and Kristina Wydra in Bonn in 2010, works in the fields of dramaturgy, PR, project management and translation for theatres and other cultural establishments as well as independent cultural professionals and ensembles. Serving as the production office for Kein Schlussstrich!, Local International handles the business management for the executing agency along with overall project management and programme coordination, as well as press and public relations work.
Tanja Ehrlein und Peer Stark Stark are the team behind the Kein Schlussstrich! public education programme. They bring extensive experience in the culture and management fields, which they will build on by specialising in participation and audience development. A valuable addition to our interdisciplinary team is Leyla Erkuş. Leyla joins us from the area of primary and secondary school education and is also involved in initiatives that centre on maintaining and developing sub-cultural venues in Cologne.
Meike Boldt und Dorothea Hanke konzipieren und realisieren die Social Media-Kommunikation für Kein Schlussstrich!. Meike Boldt ist Medienwissenschaftlerin und aktiv im Bereich der wissenschaftlichen und politischen Kommunikation, wobei Erinnerungskultur u. a. an den NSU-Komplex einen Schwerpunkt bildet. Die Sozialökonomin Dorothea Hanke ist Multiplikatorin für Globales Lernen und als Öffentlichkeitsarbeiterin in wissenschaftlichen und politischen Kontexten tätig.