Eight months after the official founding of the independent observation group NSU-watch in April of 2013, and after over sixty documented days of trial in the Munich high regional court (OLG, Oberlandesgericht), we have drawn up a summary of our work. It is based on an internal evaluation made by our network of participants which we wanted to make, in part, transparent.
NSU-watch as a project is, in its scope and measure according to self-assigned tasks, very, perhaps overly ambitious. In the process of summarization, we were astounded by what we have already accomplished: we publish reliable high quality and detailed reports in German, Turkish and partially in English. We contextualize the proceedings with information about Neo-Nazis and racism that is already available to the project or is acquired. We hope to that extent we assist in clarifying the events in question.. We are in conversation with representatives of the co-plaintiffs and keep a continuously growing number of followers on twitter informed directly from the break room of the OLG. We organize events and give interviews. The response from external parties is predominately complimentary. What we have sadly not yet accomplished is continuous translation into English, not to mention translations into other languages. Even when there is a mistake here, or a misunderstanding there in the reports, a detail gets lost, it takes unexpectedly long to create a report or we don’t achieve our ambitious aims, all in all the balance sheet of our work remains positive.
Less good, all things considered, is the financial balance.
Each trial day costs us about 750 euros. The money that we have collected thus far will last until March of 2014 – however the trial will, according to our estimations, last one year more. Because we consider it essential that NSU-watch remains completely independent, we continue to rely on private donations or small grants from neutral foundations.
Our network decided in 2012 to found the independent observation group NSU-watch on the 1st of April 2013 and to give a formal structure to our collective work on the subject with which we could confront the challenges of the trial. We were thoroughly aware of the necessity and the responsibility that this project would have. Sometimes the whole scope seemed to be a little too big for us, and we were prepared at certain points to fail; to not meet our own or external demands. At our last network meeting, after a half-year of intensive trial observation, we have done the books on our work. This mid-season summary is overall positive, despite some deductions. There are some new alterations (written in italics in the text). The largest is the adjustment in regards to the termination of translation of court-reports into English for financial, as well as pragmatic content-related reasons.
Who is NSU-Watch?
NSU-watch is supported by a confederation of about a dozen anti-fascist and anti-racist groups and individuals from all over Germany that have worked in the area for over a decade. Because of the intensity of the trial observation and the length of the trial duration, with the already received money two branches were grounded (observation in Munich, coordination in Berlin) and translators hired to translate the reports into Turkish and English. Furthermore, there is a part-time employee in Munich for on site coordination. All other participants at the NSU-watch work in an honorary/voluntary capacity. The group is all together about two-dozen people.
1. Trial Observation
The core of NSU-watch’s work is the observation of the trial proceedings against Beate Zschäpe, Ralf Wohlleben, Holger G., André E. and Carsten Sch. at the OLG in Munich. Even without our own seat reservation cards we have succeeded, thanks to the help of sympathetic Journalists, to be able to follow every trial day in its full length. One official observer (and often one or more engaged members from the network) sat in the press stands and recorded court minutes. He compiled from these transcript (that were frequently 30-40 pages) a readable report that was reworked by the second branch, coordination in Berlin, and then published the report on the blog. The colleagues in Berlin also facilitate the translation of the reports and other texts by a pool of translators.
The reports have, above all, documentary value and should enable others to engage in the issue. Their value is the high level of detail and strict limitation to the facts, which distinguishes it from the at this time still good reportage in the media and makes its unique and indispensible. While in the press it’s also possible for false interpretations of trial events to spread, NSU-watch has been very successful with its concept. Sadly it cannot be avoided that sometimes minor details are cut from our reports that turn out later to be relevant.
Roughly every three weeks, a summary of the trial events is put together, divided according to subject, and published. In these reports we give ourselves space to offer our own assessments.
2. Contextualizing our knowledge about Neo-Nazis
NSU-watch, as a project composed of anti-fascist and anti-racist (research) groups, has access to considerable knowledge about the Neo-Nazi scene and the structures involved with the NSU. As a result, the networking of competent anti-fascist projects and individuals along with the co-plaintiff’s lawyers and the development of collective assessments and expertise have a central significance for our work.
With this competence, already on the first day of the trial opening, NSU-watch was able to raise public awareness about the presence of neo-Nazi trial visitors. That Nazis come to the trial and who they are continues to be openly discussed, thanks to the project, because we continue to provide information in that regard. The press also considers us to be a competent contact partner.
We place it as a negative that the trial observation takes up so much space within our own structure. Similarly, that we only rarely have the chance to discuss as a group our collective political assessments, to say nothing of publishing them.
Next to the court reports about the trial, providing information about Neo-Nazis and the NSU is central to our work. Background articles about the NSU, research results and secondary publishing of selected articles are made available on the blog every or every other week on average.
3. Response to the Project:
External impact, in general:
NSU-watch has received a relatively large response. It is clear from the press, as well as in conversations with journalists, representatives of the co-plaintiffs and interested parties from our surrounding environment that our work is well known and valued. The project receives positive letters by email from people we don’t know, but also the odd piece of hate mail.
A particular highlight in terms of recognition of our work was the conference of the Media project prize for 2013 from the Otto-Brenner foundation in November of this year. The award, about which you can find more out <<here>>, endowed with a 2,000-euro prize, which was channeled entirely into financing the project.
Number of Hits on the Blog:
Whenever there is a trial day, the number of hits goes up. German hits on the site are currently about 450-700 hits per day. The German reports are read about 350-1,000 times, Turkish and English only about 10-60 times.
Most of our hits are from direct access. When one searches “NSU” on Google NSU-watch is the second return (aside from the auto manufacturer and the American University) after editorial news.
We are satisfied with our number of hits on the German reports and articles, even though we see there is still potential to raise those numbers, primarily for the background reports, etc. The hits for the Turkish- and English-language texts remain below our expectations. Regardless, we consider the political value, especially of the Turkish-language translations, to be high. We believe we are far from exhausting the potential Turkish-language readership.
→ In the next couple of months our Turkish-speaking co-workers and friends will approach the Turkish-language press as well as networks, in order to raise the NSU-watch’s profile. This would be not only to raise the number of hits we receive, but also in the hopes that it would intensify an exchange with Turkish speaking communities and publications (Newspapers and blogs).
For the English speaking translations of the reports there is the following problem: there is hardly any background reporting or trial reportage in English. For that reason, the detailed court-reports are not accessible for English speaking readers because they hardly have access to background information.
→For financial reasons we have decided to stop translation of the court-reports into English. Summaries and selected background articles will continue to be translated voluntarily or for a fee.
NSU-watch operates a twitter account (@nsuwatch) that has well over 3,400 followers at the moment. On the account we publish automatically newly appeared press articles about the NSU and blog contributions from the NSU-trial co-plaintiffs. Moreover, we give reports from the trial, and provide information about new information on the subject being investigated. These tweets (i.e. that we were presumably the first or only ones on twitter to have though about the
anniversary of the death of a NSU murder victim) are, partly, retweeted up to 65 times. On trial days, approximately 10 new followers subscribe to the account, in notable to this affect, is that many tweet in either English or Turkish. The twitter account could rightly be considered the most important account on twitter in regards to the NSU.
The facebook page for NSU-watch (https://fb.com/nsuwatch) is once again automated.
NSU-watch has given dozens of interviews since shortly before the beginning of the trial. Sometimes they are about providing the foundational knowledge for an article about a subject, but they are also often reports about our work. Currently, we give regular assessments about the events of the trial on the radio and are requested as competent contact partners and experts. We have also given the occasional television interview.
NSU-watch and its representatives have been requested as speakers at education and discussion events at the latest since the grounding of the independent observation group. This work does not fall under the purview of the two branches, but is an indication of the response to, and standing of the project and co-workers. According to our estimation, NSU-watch has expanded the spectrum of people requesting events predominately into civil and journalistic circles. However, the majority of our events still occur at antifascist projects.
4. Financial Situation
NSU-watch is politically and financially independent, and finances itself exclusively through donations from individuals or organizations and foundations that have absolutely no influence on our work.
In order to finance the project, we have purposefully turned to diverse foundations, sympathetic institutions as well as private individual donors through an online donation campaign. All together roughly 38,000 euros were donated or granted by the end of November 2013. The largest portion of donations came from private donors, with approximately three quarters of the total. The remaining quarter was raised half by various foundations, and the other half was provided by the participants in the NSU-watch themselves.
The money we’ve assembled will be exhausted by March of 2014. In terms of expenses, the two most significant are the partial position for the trial observer in Munich and Berlin. A further set of expenses are the professional fees for the translations into Turkish and English, the cost of which already exceeds several thousand euros. Aside from the simple personnel costs, we have expenses for the necessary infrastructure (technology, like laptops and telephones), travel expenses for the trips to Munich and rental costs for the colleague who is on site during the trial and writes the court reports.
Every single trial day, until the summer break – that was 32 days altogether – had cost us around 750 euros. This sum is not the cost of the individual days, but rather the preparations costs and infrastructure and personnel costs calculated to a per diem value.
The work of NSU-watch, as it is currently structured and organized, is meaningful in our opinion also based on the positive response from external parties. For that reason we want to continue our work in 2014. Aside from the termination of translations of court-reports to English, we do not see any possible ways to save more money. The part-time position in berlin is absolutely essential for the securing of foundational work from trial observation and for the coordination of public and internal work, which in turn allows us to provide assessments and background research from participating projects. It is even more necessary in light of the fact that the majority of the work is already performed voluntarily. Contacts with Turkish speaking media and public response in the communities will hopefully be expanded through our network.
In order to secure the independence of NSU-watch, we will continue to rely on the donations of private individuals and non-governmental foundations.