Commemorating Neo-Nazi Terror Victims
A Daughter Pays Tribute to Her Murdered FatherBy Julia Jüttner
Candles at Thursday's memorial service in Berlin.
Semiya Simsek will have a mere four minutes and 45 seconds to pay tribute to her father, to mourn his death and to rage against his murderers.
Semiya will deliver a speech at Thursday's event to commemorate the victims of the neo-Nazi terrorist group known as the National Socialist Underground (NSU). She will stand in the Konzerthaus concert hall in Berlin before a crowd of some 1,400 guests invited by former German President Christian Wulff, who resigned last week. Thousands, perhaps even millions, will listen to her as the event is broadcast live.
Semiya has waited for these four minutes and 45 seconds for 11 years. "For the first time," the 25-year-old says, "I can reach the entire world." Her voice resonates with courage. Semiya is the only relative of the NSU's victims who will deliver a speech. The daughter of another victim will read a poem aloud. Other relatives withdrew their pledges to speak from the podium.
"It doesn't help at all if we just hide in the corner," Semiya says. "Someone has to have the strength to take a stand." Semiya has this strength. "My father would have been proud of me for doing this," she adds.
Barbara John, the government's ombudswoman for the families of the victims of the NSU terror cell, says that the victims must get actively involved, even if it only means expressing their feelings.
Semiya will be speaking for herself, for her mother, for her brother and for her entire family, none of whom has yet recovered from Enver Simsek's death. But she will also be speaking for the other victims' relatives, for the Özüdogru, Tasköprü, Turgut, Kilic, Yasar, Kubasik, Yozgat and Boulgarides families. They also lost their fathers, husbands, sons and brothers to a neo-Nazi execution squad. All of them were shot dead with a Ceska pistol at close range and in broad daylight.
When Uncertainty Breeds Self-Doubt
Unsolved murders are often unbearable for the victims' families. Having some certainty about the exact details surrounding the death can often bring a sense of relief that makes coping with the loss at least somewhat more bearable. With Semiya, however, the opposite is the case. Things have gotten increasing worse for her after learning that her father, Enver Simsek, died for the simple fact that he wasn't German.
Semiya was born and raised in Germany. She attended university here and now works as a kindergarten teacher in Frankfurt. Her brother is currently at a German university. It never even occurred to her to ask herself if she was "integrated" into German society, as she was so obviously German. But ever since her father's murder was solved, she has been asking herself questions she would otherwise never have posed. "Who am I?" she asks. "Am I German? Turkish? Turkish-German? Did we somehow bring my father's death in Germany upon ourselves?"
Samiya's father grew up in the mountains of Isparta province in southwestern Turkey, where he worked as a shepherd. But then he fell in love with Adile, Semiya's mother, and followed her to Germany, leaving the rest of his family behind. Isparta is famous for its rugs and magnificent roses. Once in Germany, Enver Simsek tried his hand at being a flower dealer. Every Monday morning, he would wake up early and drive from his home in the state of Hesse to the Netherlands, where he would walk through the flower markets' fragrant halls placing his orders.
Enver worked hard and saved up enough to buy a little house on a hillside in Isparta. Whenever he returned to Turkey, he would work on his dream home, building it brick by brick. It was here that he hoped to spend his retirement.
'Did Your Father Own Any Weapons?'
Then came Sept. 9, 2000. Enver Simsek, at the time a 38-year-old father of two , had traveled from Schlüchtern, in the state of Hesse, to Nuremberg to stand in for a sick colleague. He set up a flower stand on one of the city's busy arterial roads. At approximately 12:45 p.m., he was hit by eight bullets from two handguns. Enver collapsed and was taken to a hospital's intensive care unit.
Semiya was 14 at the time. She was only allowed to go to her father's bedside after she had answered a series of questions from a police officer. They were strange questions that confused the teenager -- and still make her angry today. "Did your father own any weapons?" she was asked. "Had he been threatened?"
When she finally saw her father and his severe head injuries, she fainted. Two days later, the doctors turned off her father's life-support machine. Semiya had to tell the news to her family in Turkey.
The police initially assumed the crime was a family drama. Enver's wife and brother-in-law came under suspicion. It was not until Süleyman Tasköprü and Abdurrahim Özüdogru were murdered in June 2001 with the same weapon that investigators changed their minds. But the unprecedented series of murders remained unsolved, and the feeling of trust within the Simsek family was shattered. To this day, there is a deep split within the family.
Honest Words, Last Words
In her speech on Thursday, Semiya wants to express the immense scope of the grief the victims' families feel. That grief is also mixed with anger owing to the hurtful accusations that were made. Semiya will also try to put into words the shock that the families felt when they learned the murders were racially motivated.
"She will say what she wants," says Jens Rabe, her lawyer. Together with his colleague Stephen Lucas, Rabe represents Semiya and has been assisting her for weeks. Neither of them tried to influence the contents of her speech. Rabe says that the indirect criticism of the investigation is important to Simsek. "She wants to show how someone feels when her father is on his death bed and her mother is suspected of the crime," he says.
Semiya says she has chosen to use emotional words. She also says she's decided not to shed any tears in public.
Her speech at Berlin's Konzerthaus will be her last public appearance in Germany. In June, Semiya plans to leave the country she used to believe was her home. She is going to a foreign country, to her father's homeland, to Turkey. She will move to Isparta, where her relatives have finished building her late father's house. The roses will be blooming in the garden her father planted.