Blind Spots – Interdisciplinary Scientific Perspectives on the NSU Complex

Blind Spots – Interdisciplinary Scientific Perspectives on the NSU Complex

Friday, December 11, Senate Hall, Humboldt University Berlin

The interdisciplinary conference “Scientific Perspectives on the NSU Complex” seeks to create room to debate the legal and social science dimensions of the NSU complex.[1] The invited panelists include both German and international scholars, who have already researched on the NSU complex as well as scholars whose expertise is on subjects relevant to the subject. The conference will also bring together scholars with activists and lawyers involved with the NSU complex outside of academia. Thus all sides have the chance to pose open questions to each other and give impulses for research and policy.

The conference language is German. English translation will be provided for the last panel.


9:30 Reception

9:45 Statement of Welcome and Organizational Questions (Dr. des  Çağrı Kahveci, Berlin)

Welcoming Notes

Prof. Dr. Christian Waldhoff (Dean, HU Berlin Law Faculty)
Prof. Dr. Naika Foroutan (Deputy Director, Berlin Center for Integration and Migration Research, HU Berlin)

10:15 Keynote Speech

Antonia von der Behrens, lawyer, Berlin: “Blind Spots within the NSU complex”.

10:45 Coffee Break 1

11:00 Panel 1: Failure of the States? Failure of Society?

  1. “Has the Germany’s concept of ‘militant democracy’ failed?” (Dr. Ulrich K. Preuß, Prof. em. Freie Universität Berlin, Hertie School of Governance)
  2. “The interior intelligence service and civil society discourse”. (Fritz Burschel, NSU Watch, RLS Akademie für Politische Bildung)
  3. “Accident NSU – the wrong interpretations and foreseeable consequences for intelligence policy.” (Heiner Busch, editor of “Bürgerrechte & Polizei” (CILIP))
  4. “The prospects and limits of parliamentary truth-finding missions on the NSU complex from the example of the first Bundestag Commission of Inquiry” (Heike Kleffner, journalist, Head of Division in the NSU commission of inquiry of the party “Die Linke”)
  5. “The NSU in the media”. (Dr. Derya Gür-Şeker, University Duisburg-Essen)

Moderation: Doris Liebscher, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

13:00 Lunch Break

14:30 Panel 2: Racism

  1. “NSU and racism”. (Prof. Dr. Manuela Bojadzijev, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg, Berliner Institut für empirische Integrations- und Migrationsforschung)
  2. “The Turkish community and the NSU: On grief, anger and the resolve to stay” (Özge Pinar Sarp, NSU Watch)
  3. “The migrants’ situated knowledge of the NSU’s victims – strategies of showing and speaking.” (Ayse Gülec, Kasseler “Initiative 6. April”)
  4. “Institutional Racism. Concept, manifestation and relevance for the democratization of public institutions”. (Prof. Dr. Mechtild Gomolla, Helmut-Schmidt-Universität/Universität der Bundeswehr Hamburg)
  5. “Institutional Racism in the context of and beyond the NSU complex”. (Tahir Della, Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland, Berlin)

Moderation: Prof. Dr. Juliane Karakayali (Berlin)

16:30 Break

17:00 Panel 3: Perspectives on the NSU Complex

  1. “The NSU complex and the duty of democratic scholarship”.(Prof. Dr. a.D. Hajo Funke, Freie Universität Berlin)
  2. “Lessons to Learn from Great Britain: Race, Exclusion, Police” (Dr. Eddie Bruce Jones, School of Law Birkbeck, University of London)
  3. “Human rights and informants in paramilitary groups: the Northern Ireland experience”. (Dr. Daniel Holder, Commitee on the Administration of Justice, Belfast)
  4. “The social context from the Fall of the Berlin Wall to the Keupstraße bombing” . (Massimo Perinelli, Universität zu Köln, Initiative Keupstraße ist überall)
  5. “A résumé of the NSU trial from an international comparative perspective”. (Carsten Ilius, lawyer, Berlin)

Moderation: Carl Melchers (Freie Universität Berlin)

19:00 Socializing and Buffet


The conference is organized by an interdisciplinary group of scholars from the Humboldt Law Clinic for Fundamental and Human Rights of the Humboldt University Faculty of Law, the Evangelische Hochschule Berlin, the Otto-Suhr-Institute for Political Science of the Free University and the Alice Salomon Hochschule Berlin.

[1] The „National Socialist Underground“ (NSU) exposed itself in November 2011 by claiming responsibility for numerous bombings and murders. The group is believed to have murdered ten people in the entire area of the Federal Republic of Germany from 2000 to 2007. All but one of the victims were members of migrant communities, predominantly with a Turkish background. The only victim without a migrant background was a female police officer. These serial killings were unique in post-World War II German history, and many questions about what exactly happened remain unresolved.
Since May 2013 a surviving member of the NSU, Beate Zschäpe, and four men accused of assisting and supporting the group face trial in Munich. In the German public the NSU complex is highly visible. Media have covered the Munich trial extensively; on the political level a number of parliamentary committees of inquiry have been involved in clarifying how a group of supposedly only three core members aided by a handful of like-minded associates remained undetected for more than a decade.
The NSU complex begs many questions that need to be scientifically examined. What is the relationship between politics, law and the various agencies? What does the failure of the system of secret service informants mean for Germany’s constitutional concept of “militant democracy”? What are the blind spots in existing scholarship on Germany’s extreme right? What role did institutional racism play in the failure of law enforcement agencies to solve the crimes?

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