Play on the nsu at the residenztheater: did you have life insurance?

Christine Umpfenbach takes sides with the victims of the NSU terror with her play "Urteile" at Munich’s Residenztheater. An evening of haunting emotions.

Responsibility for the bereaved: Rehearsal scene of the play "Urteile". Image: dpa

Now the victims have arrived at the State Theater and thus in the center of society. On stage, they are represented by three actors. In the auditorium, they sit themselves at the premiere: as witnesses to the attempt at rehabilitation that a director is making.

And Christine Umpfenbach is serious. For almost two years, she held talks with lawyers, journalists and investigators – but above all with the relatives of the two men murdered by the right-wing terror cell NSU in Munich: Vegetable vendor Habil Kilic died in August 2001, followed in June 2005 by Theodoros Boulgarides in his locksmith shop.

Two of ten executed for xenophobia, chosen by Umpfenbach because they were Munich residents and some viewers on their way home might notice the greengrocer’s store still there. Then the horrifying memory of the dried blood that Kilic’s brother had to scrape off the floor would come back. Or was that the other’s brother? The contours of the two cases deliberately blur.

What these families went through between their incomprehensible loss and the discovery of the Zwickau terror trio is told in an exemplary way in "Urteile". Those judgments in the NSU case, which has been in the news since the 6th of September. May 2013 before the Munich Higher Regional Court have still not been spoken.

It has been easier for the police and the media to prejudge the victims: "Did you have life insurance?" – "Who did you deal drugs with?" Such questions rained down on those around them. Because it seemed clear from the start that these "kebab murders" had to do with the "Turkish mafia" or other customs "in this milieu". Whoever something like that happens to must have deserved it: The salvation of the supposedly unaffected clung to such thought templates. For the others, grief and fear were now piled up with guilt.

On the intimate Marstall stage of the Bayerisches Staatsschauspiel, the audience sits close to the action. The roots of the green maple tree hanging upside down from the ceiling are long and vital. And yet you can’t just stick them back in the ground somewhere else. The brother of "Theo" Boulgarides tried Greece after his colleagues turned away as soon as he entered the room. But he could not live "down there". Habil Kilic’s mother-in-law also claims to belong in Bavaria. But what to do when one’s homeland counts one among "the others" again after 60 years?

Quiet empathy

Paul Wolff-Plottegg, Gunther Eckes and Demet Gul speak with quiet empathy the words of all those whose names run across an information tape in neon letters. At one point, the men try a Pontic dance that "the great Theo" loved so much. At one point, all three throw melons onto the stage as Habil Kilic’s wholesale market colleagues. Otherwise, aesthetics and staging are secondary. The texts must speak for themselves.

The freelance director, who received the Munchner Theater-Forderpreis for her work in the service of the marginalized, clearly takes sides with the victims. That’s okay, because Umpfenbach has taken responsibility towards them. And because these people must not be hurt again, the performance takes all their statements very seriously, while a principal, a journalist and a police reporter veer more towards caricature.

In the interpolated self-awareness accounts of Umpfenbach’s co-author Azar Mortazavi, the racism flag is raised very quickly, where awkwardness would already suffice as an explanation. In the end, anyone who doesn’t pronounce a name correctly on the first try feels like a villain. That diminishes the enormity of what happened to the victims’ families. "Judgments" is not an evening of analysis, but one of haunting emotion.