I received an e-mail from German photographer Eva Leitolf yesterday with a link to her series German Images - Looking for Evidence 1992-1994/2006-2008. As her statement succinctly expresses:
"In 'German Images - Looking for Evidence' photographer Eva Leitolf turns her attention to racist crimes in Germany and the ways they are discussed in society. In the early 1990s she photographed crime scenes, victims and perpetrators, and uninvolved bystanders. Returning to the theme in 2006, she reduced the visual content to nothing more than the places where the crimes had been committed, combined her images with meticulously researched texts about the events themselves and the way they were dealt with afterwards politically, by the courts, and in the media. Conceived as a long-term study, this work challenges the way society deals with racist violence and in the process tests the bounds and possibilities of what can be said visually."
From Top To Bottom:
State road, Weihenlinden, 2007
On 16 May 1999 there was a serious road accident on state road 2078, where all five Turkish occupants of the car were killed. Two days later a driver discovered a poster at the scene of the accident bearing a swastika and the words 'the moral of the story - dead Turks don't bother us'. The poster was secured by the police and examined forensically, but the investigation remained inconclusive.
River Spree, Berlin Friedrichshain, 2007
During the night of 25-26 July 1994 a Polish building worker drowned in the River Spree in Berlin. After an argument with a group of young Germans, the forty-five-year-old man and his thirty-six-year-old countryman had been pushed into the water and prevented from swimming to the bank. It was claimed that the events had been triggered by the two Poles pestering two young women. Apoliceman reported having heard shouts of 'Poles piss off' and 'Don't let the Pole out [of the water]'. The court found no xenophobic motive, saying that the shouts may merely have referred factually to the nationality of the victims. In May 1995 four men aged between nineteen and twenty-five, and two girls aged sixteen and seventeen were found guilty of bodily harm followed by death and given custodial sentences (in some cases suspended) of up to four years.
Schöna, Sächsische Schweiz, 2006
In the Saxony state elections in 2004 the fascist National Democratic Party gained 23.1 percent of the vote in Reinhardtsdorf- Schöna. According to press reports it maintains close contact with the banned SSS group (Sächsische Schweiz Skinheads), which has set itself the goal of ridding the area of foreigners.
Beach, Heringsdorf, 2007
In the night of 29-30 July 2004 a group of local men and women assaulted a group of teenagers from Berlin who were listening to music on the beach. One of the victims had to spend five days in a Berlin hospital being treated for bruising to the ribs and back, concussion and craniocerebral trauma. According to a report in the local newspaper, the victim's lawyer criticised that it had taken more than a year for the results of the investigation to be passed to the state prosecutor, and that charges had not been brought until 4 April 2006. This case, he said, gave 'encouragement to Nazi thugs' because it gave them the impression that they 'could get away with it'. At the trial witnesses reported that a darkskinned girl belonging to the group from Berlin had been called a 'negro slut' during the attack, and victim support groups said it was a racist attack. The court found no evidence that the perpetrators had a right-wing political background and decided that the loud music the victims had been listening to had been the motive for the crime. On 30 November 2006 a juvenile court found two of the perpetrators guilty of grievous bodily harm. One was sentenced to one hundred hours of community service, the other ordered to pay compensation of 1,700 Euro to the main victim.
Car park, Helmstedt, 2007
On 22 August 2007 a German man of Turkish extraction was pressed against the fence of a shopping centre car park by another man, who racially insulted him and threatened him with death. The attacker also said that the victim's flat would be stormed and mentioned the number '88', which is used by right-wing extremists as a code for 'Heil Hitler' ('H' being the eighth letter of the alphabet). Acourt order imposing punishment was issued, against which the accused appealed. Acourt case is pending in Helmstedt.
All Images © Eva Leitolf