The NSU Trial in Radio Plays: Part II – Cacophony in the Courtroom and the Media

In this second installment of the three-part series on the NSU trial, guest columnist Monika Preuß analyzes the polyphonic structure of several radio plays and the resulting “Rashomon” effect created by the layering of diverse perspectives of the trial participants and the general public. 

You can read this post in the original German here. The first installment in this series is available in English and German.

The investigations at the NSU trial brought various voices and perspectives to the fore. In particular, discussions on the role of the Offices for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV, Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz) and their right-wing confidential informants (V-Männer) caused widespread speechlessness and consternation among the general public. The court proceedings demonstrated that the local and federal BfV institutions did not work to contain the influences of right-wing extremists, but rather used and supported their claims. The following radio plays address public reactions to these scandalous events.

Kathrin Rögglas’s radio play “Proceedings: The NSU Trial as the Ghostly Grotesque” (“Verfahren. Der NSU-Prozess als gespenstische Groteske,” 2020) is conceived as an “audiophonic court evocation” (audiophone Gerichtsbeschwörung, 01:36f.). It explores how the ghostly voices (Geisterstimmen, 07:17f.) of judges, defendants, and lawyers were trapped in the microphone long after they had left the courtroom. Special characteristics of radio plays are used to superimpose and distort the lingering voices. These spectral voices sometimes mingled with (hineinfließen, 07:17f.) those of the observing public. Such a form of expression allows the audience of the trial to comment on the individual perspectives of the trial participants, e.g., that of the judge, and even to cast doubt on some of the statements presented in court. This style of representation creates a polyphonic structure that fosters attention to individual points of view.

An earlier experimental radio play “Rashomon Hilti” by Edgar Lipki (released in 2014, only one year after the start of the NSU Trial) produces a startling effect by superimposing a diverse array of exaggerated, condensed voices from the murders, robberies, and collective life of Beate Zschäpe, Uwe Bönhardt, and Uwe Mundlos, as well as from subsequent debates on these events in the media. Phrases such as “pop them” (“Baller sie weg”, hip-hop slang for killing, 00:29ff.) and “national body” (Volkskörper, Nazi terminology, 00:41ff.) are repeated and overlap with other sounds. The contrast between conflicting witness statements, the voices of the media and society, and the replayed scenes creates an intense atmosphere and a Rashomon effect, as one event gets experienced and retold in completely different ways.

The four-part radio play “The Silent Girl” (“Das schweigende Mädchen,” 2015) is an adaptation of a play of the same name by Elfriede Jelinek. The radio play also makes use of transcripts from the trial and media reports, while making references to the Bible to reveal the conflicting witness statements and the general sense of shock in society, after the actions of the BfV and affiliated police departments came to light.

References

Jelinek, Elfriede: Das schweigende Mädchen. Bayerischer Rundfunk 2015.

Jelinek, Elfriede: Das schweigende Mädchen. Ulrike Maria Stuart. Zwei Theaterstücke. Reinbek bei Hamburg 2015.

Lipki, Edgar: Rashomon Hilti. Westdeutscher Rundfunk 2014. Available at: https://soundcloud.com/fs-kollektiv/rashomon-hilti

Röggla, Kathrin: Verfahren. Der NSU Prozess als gespenstische Groteske. Westdeutscher Rundfunk/ Bayerischer Rundfunk 2020. Available at: https://www1.wdr.de/mediathek/audio/wdr3/wdr3-hoerspiel/audio-verfahren—der-nsu-prozess-als-gespenstische-groteske-100.html

SchauspielDo Archiv Voges: Trailer Das schweigende Mädchen Schauspiel Dortmund. 19.01.2016. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wh6XTZVvO7g

Zur Regie der Produktion “Das schweigende Mädchen” von Elfriede Jelinek – Mit Leonhard Koppelmann. Bayerischer Rundfunk 2015. Available at: https://www.br.de/mediathek/podcast/artmix-galerie/zur-regie-der-produktion-das-schweigende-maedchen-von-elfriede-jelinek-mit-leonhard-koppelmann/31715

About Freya Qingyang Zhou

Qingyang Zhou (Freya) is a PhD candidate in German Studies at UC Berkeley. She researches on the intersections of German-Asian cultures, particularly as they pertain to the cinematic entanglements among Germany, China, and Korea.
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