Issue 1/2019, 115. Volume Page 50–70
The Invention of the “Heilbronn Phantom”
Cultural-Anthropological Approaches to the NSU Complex
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In the course of investigating the murder of police officer Michelle Kiesewetter in spring 2007 in Heilbronn, the police soon searched for an unknown female person whose DNA had been detected at the crime scene. The track followed by the investigators soon proved to be wrong; the person who became known in the media as the “Heilbronn Phantom” never existed. In fact, the NSU complex was responsible for the murder of Kiesewetter. Building on the review of files on the Kiesewetter case, the essay is a first approach to a cultural analysis of the NSU complex. In the light of current research, it is not only about exploring the sources and reconstruction but mainly about highlighting the possibilities of cultural-anthropological research in this highly politicized field as well as the related ethical challenges. The analysis of existing documents indicates an unfortunate interplay between e.g. prejudice structures of investigators, DNA-based investigation methods and media in the construction of the “Heilbronn phantom” which was a hindrance to crime solving. The blind faith of many involved actors in supposedly objective scientific investigation methods needs to be critically scrutinized, whilst their questioning and deconstructing by the cultural anthropological researcher causes further controversies.
NSU Complex, political anthropology, legal anthropology, police, ethics