Dirty brown watercolor

Merleau-Ponty and the NSU investigation committee in Bavaria

We don’t know if Gerhard Forster has ever seen Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s "Phenomenology of perception" and stumbled across sentences like this one: "But sensations and images, which are supposed to be the beginning and end of all cognition, in truth already appear in a horizon of meaning, the significance of what is perceived, instead of resulting from associations, in truth already underlies every association, be it the synopsis of a present figure or the memory of former experiences."

Well, Gerhard Forster, as president of the Bavarian State Office for the Protection of Interception from 1994 to 2001, was probably more concerned with studying files, but in this function he has something to do with Merleau-Ponty: Both are concerned with the perception.

For example, about the perception of the NSU murder cell, which killed five people in Bavaria and of which the Bavarian Verfangsschutz had no knowledge. At least that’s what ex-president Forster told the Bavarian parliament’s investigative committee when he was heard as the first witness on Tuesday.

The "Committee on right-wing terrorism in Bavaria – NSU" was found on 4. The committee was set up in July 2012 at the request of the opposition in the Bavarian state parliament and dealt with procedural ies in two meetings before the summer. "Since five of the murders were committed in Bavaria, respect for the victims and their families demands that an investigative committee be set up in Bavaria as well, especially since accusations are also being made against Bavarian security and judicial authorities, and the state government’s answers to corresponding inquiries so far have not been exhaustive", so the reasoning of the motion. In this context, it is also necessary to review, "how the investigators have dealt with the victims’ relatives, which is said to have led to their being stigmatized as part of a criminal system, and what consequences should be drawn from this".

In addition, the committee of inquiry is to obtain an overall picture of right-wing extremist structures and activities in Bavaria since 1994, the assessment of the dangers of right-wing extremism and the measures taken to combat them, what has happened since the alleged perpetrators went into hiding on June 26. January 1998, in particular on the findings of Bavarian security authorities regarding their whereabouts and whether they had contact with persons from Bavaria and whether and to what extent they were supported by them. The reference year 1994 was chosen because in this year contacts of one of the alleged accomplices to Bavaria on the occasion of a neo-Nazi meeting were proven for the first time.

No, Forster said in front of the committee, so they had gone into the scene, but nothing came back. "The result was zero", says the ex-president. And no, the Verfangsschutz had not made any mistakes in this respect, they had only been able to query the sources. "What else could we have done?" The NSU was a small conspiratorial cell, and "we had no one on it".

And then, in the course of the trial, which lasted several hours, a reference point to Merleau-Ponty suddenly appeared. Because in his sentence above he says nothing else than that our perception is pre-structured, so we only recognize what we already know. And the chairman of the committee, Franz Schindler (SPD), had said in an interview that the Bavarian security service was, so to speak, rather blind to the right and therefore liked to focus on civil society organizations such as the Association of Persecutees of the Nazi Regime (VVN). And Schindler already reminded that the Verfangsschutz was built with old Nazis from SS and Gestapo. Schindler thus applies Merleau-Ponty, as it were, to Bavarian interception and addresses its patterns of perception, which historically have been structured primarily against the left.

Forster also provides an interesting detail: Until 1989, he says, the Verfangsschutz was primarily directed against the left; 70 percent of its employees dealt with the left spectrum, including, for example, the VVN. It was not until after the fall of the Berlin Wall that the balance shifted to the observation of the extreme right-wing scene "Left" and "Right" 40 to 60 confessed.

Yes, that’s how it is with interception, perception and Merleau-Ponty. If one wants to recognize something, one should already have an idea. Templates for this had already existed. For example, the investigative committee of the Bavarian parliament from 1924 to 1928, which dealt with the scandalously mild verdict against Adolf Hitler. The Hitler putsch in Munich in 1923 had cost the lives of four policemen.

Historical insight and perceptually relevant reflection for the Verfangsschutz had been that in Bavaria the enemy is traditionally on the left, while the right edge has historically always blended toward the center, as in a dirty brown watercolor. And that the NSU perpetrators were not even foreseen, so to speak, in the perception structure of the Verfangsschutz.

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