Wir haben mit Talya Feldman (Überlebende und Nebenklägerin im #HalleProzess) und Rachel Spicker (Prozessbegleiterin- und beobachterin, Amadeu Antonio Stiftung) über das Halle-Attentat, den Gerichtsprozess sowie ihre interaktive künstlerische Arbeit gesprochen. Zusammen mit weiteren Überlebenden, Künstlerinnen und Wissenschaftlerinnen haben beide eine interaktive Timemap entwickelt. Im Interview sprechen sie über die Motivation und Entstehungsgeschichte des Projektes.
Talya: I survived the attack in Halle. I’m also an artist and I am studying for my Masters in Hamburg. I worked with many people in many different fields to make the timemap a reality.
Rachel: My name is Rachel. I’m currently working as a social scientist and systemic counsellor. I’ve been working in the Amadeu Antonio Foundation for quite some time now in the department of gender and right-wing extremism.
Talya: In the beginning um there was a lot of processing of course, there’s a lot of pain. In the beginning my work was very different in how I was approaching what happened but at the same time I was reaching out to these researchers in organizations, think tanks like Data & Society in New York and asking these questions of “what is the context here?” and “how could this have happened?” That was very helpful and that kind of what led me to start talking to Rachel as well with her work here at the Amadeu Antonio Foundation but also just her work in the community and being also a great support, good friend. That kind of just evolved into this ongoing conversation of “what does this mean?”, “how did this happen?” and then it wasn’t until actually the trial was about to begin that this idea, to approach it through data, kind of came into fruition. I think we were noticing as soon as the indictment came out, that I think was when things shifted for me. Reading the indictment, it was very clear that the prosecutors had no clue what online radicalization was, what the internet was. They had no concept of how this was so closely connected to Christchurch, to Poway, to El Paso, to Oslo. They had no interest in talking about the people in the synagogue and what we experienced, they had no interest in even identifying certain people as victims – like Rachel mentioned Aftax. He still has yet to be acknowledged as a target when it’s very clear that he was. In addition to that: İsmet Tekin. He wasn’t accepted as a co-plaintiff until two days before the trial, when it was clear that he was shot at because of who he was, because of where he comes from. That was incredibly disheartening and devastating to see – to see that this justice was not yet there. So I think there’s a lot of power in Germany in allowing for co-plaintiffs to come forward, because as a co-plaintiff you not only have access to all the materials in the court records, to the investigations, to the witness statements, but you also have a right to ask your own questions. I think that was very important for me and the main catalyst of making the timemap as well, because it can’t just be me asking these questions. We all have to ask these questions and pressure the court to recognize it but also pressure… even going back to these platforms that these extremists use, they also have some blame here and need to be held accountable. They haven’t been and the court hasn’t yet done any of that.
Talya: I would say in June actually, so the trial started July 21st and in June I approached my professor and a few other professors as well, who actually are from Halle and I said, I need a lot of help but this is my idea and I think it’s very important that we do it now while the trial is still ongoing. And that we get these voices heard that we get these images out there, that we control this narrative and make sure especially that the right people are given a platform and not the wrong – meaning particularly that this shooter who believes that the dissemination is more important than the attack itself is not getting that platform. That was kind of the beginning of it. It kind of came together quite fast because the beginning of June was when I first approached the these other artists, and they very quickly mobilized. I’m incredibly grateful, I’m so grateful for everything that they did and all the work that they put in. They worked also closely with an animator, and we went through the… we recreated what happened and wrote the texts myself and this other co-plaintiff. We did it. Then it was incredibly lucky as well, that we then were introduced actually through my lawyer to the NSU Watch. I think without them to be honest I don’t know that it would have been possible. They have been an incredible support to the project. They’ve offered a lot of guidance for the project, a lot of analysis, a lot of help even in building the web platform making sure that it works, making sure that it looks good, making sure that we have everything there that we need. In a lot of ways it’s been an incredibly healing process to be able to work with so many people who care about this and recognize this issue and are willing to give their time and their skills and so much of themselves to make this happen and to make sure that this is out there.
Rachel: It was a lot of reading going on first. I remember the first time we talked about the indictment over Zoom, I think you weren’t in the country at that time, and we tried to think about how we can make it possible that every voice is being heard and that the narratives are right. We not only dug through the material itself through the witness statements, through the indictment and through the files, but we also travelled to Halle again to take pictures and photographs of different crime scenes and to get the animations right, to talk to İsmet and Rifat, to talk to Aftax about what happened, how they could be part of the reconstruction, of the animations, and then we went through the subtitles again and again to get the stories right. We changed it like a few times – a lot of times – to get it right and also to get the translations right. The MOB [Mobile Opferberatung] was a great help (the counselling service in Saxony-Anhalt itself). Antje, Zissi and Dana helped us a lot through that project and it was a lot about communication, about reading, asking getting into conversations with everyone and making sure that we still get the story right.
I think the idea is to draw attention to the aspects we just mentioned of blind spots in the analysis not being heard, being seen but also drawing attention to the fact, that we need not only imagery, but also that behind every crime scene, behind every attack there’s a story, there’s a person affected, there’s a survivor. The survivors have this connection through the attacks and the ideologies behind the attacks, but they also might have a common story about healing, about resilience about joining forces together to overcome what they’ve lived through and this is something we want to connect also. We want to connect stories, we want to connect people and the stories behind the attacks and also zoom into the individuals and their living realities and what they faced before the attack even maybe and what they still are facing and what they have to live through. I think the timemap with these different approaches of having the timeline, having the animations of the crime scenes and having the interviews and voices is a contribution to that. Also, to Jana and Kevin who have been murdered because now they can’t speak for themselves any more. We don’t want to speak for them, but we want to commemorate them, and we want to give people an idea what it means to be affected by this attack and what people still have to suffer from today.
Talya: I think a big part of this has also been in recognizing that the timemap the information there that we are presenting especially in this discussion of online radicalization and extremism is not new information. It’s all collected from various research organizations, various activist networks, various really vocal scientists, data scientists academics and artists as well. It’s important to recognize, that the timemap doesn’t have all the information, but what we really hope with it, is that in presenting something we can get people to start asking those questions and to start delving deeper as well, like we have been. I hope is what it can do and what it is doing and yeah and that with those questions there comes then action.
Talya: Part of the approach to the timemap as well was offering an alternative narrative that’s coming from the people who lived it. So a big part of the timemap is – like Rachel said – making sure those voices are heard: linking interviews, linking quotes from the survivors but also descriptions and stories about the people who were killed. I think that’s also important that in collecting this data, that we also are trying not to be so cold with the data, but to recognize that there are human beings behind that data.
Another aspect of the timemap was bringing in these visual recreations and images. Part of what we were seeing happening in the media, part of what I was seeing was, that there were certain images that were being presented over and over and over again. Those images unfortunately were primarily of the shooter, of the attacker and of things that felt to me to be missing the point – e.g. the door of the synagogue. These images were so heavily used – they’re still being so heavily used – and so what we kind of approached this as well as thinking about it through imagery is, how do you control what kind of imagery is out there? You present the press with imagery that in a way you give them, so you control the narrative by offering what they already want. They want imagery. People want imagery. They want to look at things, they want to see pictures and it helps to understand in a big way what’s happening. So if we could control what kind of imagery that is, then we could also control the narratives that we ourselves need to be heard.
That was also a big part of this project was presenting these videos, these animations, recreations to have the narrator be speaking what we remember happening, going through the details and not what the press already has – not even what the police have offered, not even what the court has offered. That was also incredibly important for us in approaching this project.
Talya: I mentioned the door because so often when these attacks happen it’s very easy to brush off the blame, to look a different way, to look at things that are less hard to acknowledge and I think with what happened in Halle it’s very hard for people to recognize it for what it is which is that there is antisemitism and there is racism in our communities and that it is hurting people that it is killing people. It’s a lot easier to avoid that, to avoid recognizing that and the fault that we all have and allowing that to permeate our society. It’s a lot easier to look at something and say well “this door saved these people – how great is the door” instead of saying “How could this have happened? Why was someone attacking this synagogue? Why is there antisemitism still? Why is there racism not only antisemitism?” This attacker did not differentiate his hate and I think that’s also incredibly important in approaching this timemap and this and what happened – in this court, the trial, is recognizing that this is a much bigger problem that we all are affected by and that we all have to address.
Talya: Another connection of my professor, is a researcher in New Zealand who really delved deep into the Christchurch massacre but even more so into the history of violence against minorities in New Zealand and its relationship to legal actions and legislature that allowed for that violence to happen. So seeing it in context historically so that you can understand how something like Christchurch is not a singular event. That was something that very much interested me as well in understanding also the context of Halle that it wasn’t a one-time attack. It wasn’t a guy who just suddenly decided to pick up a gun, but it was someone who is heavily entrenched in these communities that promote this violence that instil this kind of hate. That was important for me to understand and so in connecting with this researcher Dr. Karamia Muller – she had done a project involved with Forensic Architecture and connected me with them and their open source technology that allows for you to visually kind of map out how certain events led to another. So what it allows for you to do is to input your own data and then see it in an interactive web platform that takes it from both in space and in time. So you see it in a timeline these events but also you see it cartographically on a map and in interacting with it my hope was as well that this interaction and this ability to see it all laid out for you so that these connections become very clear for people; that it would allow for more information and for better understanding not just for myself, but for many people in our society today because I do believe that it is a problem, that we as a society must face and that we must face it so that we can together make sure that they do not continue.
Rachel: I think this project is really crucial or important to me because of two reasons. The first one being that we have on the one hand different crime scenes of this attack. It’s primarily and first and foremost it’s an antisemitic attack but it’s not only an antisemitic attack it’s also a racist attack. Also, other people have suffered from this attack because the attacker wanted to shoot them on his way away from the synagogue on the way to the Döner shop when he fled the scene later on. We have so many different crime scenes actually that are not like in the centre of attention: we have Aftax Ibrahim, who’s also a victim and a survivor of this attack who was run over by him on the Magdeburger Straße [street]. And we have the couple in Wiedersdorf who’s also been attacked and shot by him and also the um people from the KfZ garage. With this project we tried to take into account that there are different perspectives on this attack and that there are many survivors out of different reasons and crime scenes. The idea was to give them a voice and to give like to take into account their perspectives on this attack and to give a platform to their analysis. That’s I think a very crucial point of this project and why I was very glad to be able to join.
The second one is that a lot of people especially in Germany – state authorities, politicians – talk about right-wing terrorist attacks and also right-wing violence as “lone wolf incidents” somehow and this is also something that we try to address. With connecting the online activities and the offline activities worldwide, we have to point out that right-wing violence antisemitic attacks, racist attacks are not like lone incidents; that there’s a continuity of right-wing violence especially also in Germany but also all over the world and that authorities but also civil society, also people who do research in this field need to take into account that these incidents are connected and that right-wing terrorism is a global phenomenon. That’s something we want to try to raise awareness to.
Talya: I guess I also would say in that vein in looking now to online radicalization specifically in the connection that this shooter has to so many communities online that celebrate this violence, that encourage this violence, that are inspired by each other, is that he himself has said in court – I think that this especially we have to pay attention to – he has said, that the attack itself didn’t matter; what matters is that it is disseminated, that it inspires more. I think that is incredibly key here, especially following Hanau and now Hamburg and especially following what’s going on in the US with Kenosha and the Proud Boys, that we recognize that they don’t care how many people they kill, just as long as more people are going out and making their own guns and doing it. We have an incredible problem on our hands that they’re not afraid to do it, that they laugh about it, that it’s funny, that it’s a game. If we can’t recognize that and in addition to that, force our politicians and our courtrooms and our justice systems to recognize that then we’re in trouble.
Rachel: You mentioned before: the part of online radicalization which especially in Germany, the German authorities are not paying attention to. A lot of the networking in right-wing extremism is online, is through image boards, is through gaming forums and message boards and messenger telegram channels and so this is something I think we have to take into account doing the analysis but also like doing prevention work. And especially connected to online radicalization is the topic of anti-feminism which has been kind of a blind spot in the public eye. I mean a lot of media paid attention to the fact that at the beginning when the live stream started and the attacker mentioned that “feminism is the cause of declining birth rates and that the Jew is the problem behind it”. That’s the only thing they mentioned about anti-feminist motives and ideologies behind this attack but it’s even more. It’s about sexism it’s about misogyny. This is something we can also witness during the trial like how the attacker acts towards co-plaintiffs and women and also towards attorneys and lawyers. This is something on a broader scale which this project is also trying to focus on to push the blind spots in into the public eye.
Rachel: I feel like this trial is very special compared to other terrorist trials like the NSU or Gruppe Freital or Old School Society, Ballstädt-Verfahren. What we witness here is that a lot of very active co-plaintiffs, female co-planters, queer feminist co-plaintiffs taking the lead and during the testimonies but also with this timemap project. To me it’s very impressive how accurate your analysis is in terms of contextualizing what’s going on in this country, but also what’s going on in the US for example or all over Europe.
The other point is, what sticks in my head and what’s also connected with the project and the trial is that we know, that he did the attack on his own, but as like one of the survivors from the attack at the “Kiez-Döner” shop said “he did the attack alone, but he did not think alone”.
Talya: This is so powerful.
Rachel: Yes, it’s very powerful. This is something he mentioned in his interview. A few weeks ago we had the testimony of Sabrina S. She also mentioned that the society itself walked the attacker to a certain point, where he felt supported, and then he carried out the attack on his own, but he felt supported through a network of right-wing extremists online, through a society that votes for parties like AfD, through antisemitism, racism and anti-feminism that’s part of this mainstream society. This is an analysis which is very powerful and this is also something that we want to keep in mind with the project that he has support from his networks online but that he also has support from broader society itself.
Talya: It became very clear to me, fairly quickly that for a lot of people involved in this trial they – similar to how society is looking at the door instead of the real issues that we need to be talking about – they want it to be kind of quick and easy. “This guy, he was alone, he didn’t have any friends, he did this and that’s it. We’re gonna put him in jail. That’s it. That’s all we need to do.” When in fact of course we know he’s going to jail. He did it. There is a live stream video that he did it. But my question is, what are we going to do about the causes that led him to do it. And the fact is, he is a symptom of this cause and that cause has yet to really be explored by this court and by this trial. I am constantly reminded that the law is not justice and I find that we ourselves as co-plaintiffs, as survivors, as human beings, as humanity, we have to call for that justice, we have to fight for that justice and hope that the politicians, the justice systems and the law enforcement, that they will follow. What I am seeing happening a bit in the courtroom is that suddenly you have co-plaintiffs who are testifying and saying that this is not enough: “What you’re doing is not enough. You’re amplifying the wrong voice. You’re giving platform to the wrong voice. You’re not recognizing the context of this issue of what has happened. What are you going to do to make sure that I feel safe in my own country?” That has been incredibly powerful to witness and incredibly important that more and more voices are coming out and saying this is not enough and now what I’m seeing is that slowly the courtroom is inviting now more expert witnesses and I hope they continue to do so. I hope that the conversation continues even after he’s put in jail because that is really what needs to happen here.
In addition to that I would say… I guess the second thing I would say about the court: it was incredibly embarrassing and devastating to sit there in court when the BKA testified. For them to see no connection to Christchurch, to see no connection to a history, it’s not because… Again: this isn’t new hate. This recycled hate that’s now permeating online, but we’ve seen it before. Everything that’s being said, we’ve seen it before again and again and again, and we know where it leads. We know what happens when this propaganda and this speech goes unchecked. We know it. For the BKA to sit there and say that it’s not their job to understand context and to say that they hadn’t even really looked at a message board that they didn’t think that was important for them to do, is very concerning and very embarrassing and that has to be rectified and I hope that as the trial progresses that it is.