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Staging of »Solingen 1993 - A Theatrical Bus Journey into the Past«: 30 years after the racist attack, the names of the victims are printed on white stickers


Melanie Zanin

Durmus Genc: I just wanted to earn a few pennies and then go back. Some from our village went to Germany, and when they came to visit on holiday a year later, they praised it in the highest tones, they found no end at all. I became curious about what kind of country they called "Almanya" would be.

Mevlüde Genc: What is it like in Germany?

Durmuş Genc: Good

Mevlüde Genc: Then catch up with me.

I came here in 1973. I drove to my workplace, picked up the broom and started. They have always treated us as strangers!

Mevlüde Genc: Let's buy a house.

Durmuş Genc: We looked through an advertising paper.

Mevlüde Genc: And that's where we found the house. We have renovated the house. And brought the children from Turkey.*

Tagesschau, May 29, 1993:

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Six months after the murders of Mölln, five people have now been killed in Solingen. They were the victims of xenophobic murderers. The unknown perpetrators set fire to an apartment building in the city center last night. The fire spread rapidly. The victims are two Turkish women and three girls between the ages of 4 and 13."

Gürsün Ince Hatice Genc Gülüstan Öztürk
Hülya Genc Saime

30 years after the racist attack in Solingen, their names are printed on white stickers. It's a Tuesday evening in May 2023. The director Bassam Ghazi has staged the play »Solingen 1993 – A Theatrical Bus Journey into the Past« with the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus. It is a journey through time that begins in a bus at Düsseldorf's main train station and transports the participants to the 90s with old Bravo magazines, game consoles, songs and stories of reunification, and then takes them to the city center of Solingen. There, visitors will be guided on four different routes into that past that is never gone for the Genc family.

The whole city commemorates the names of the dead

It is a trip with which Ghazi wants to commemorate the anniversary of the racist attack. The white stickers with the names of the victims are intended to counteract forgetting. Every visitor gets five of them in their hands and is supposed to stick them on the city center of Solingen.

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The house of the Turkish Genc family in Solingen, which was destroyed in the arson attack (archive photo from 29.05.1993).

Photo: Roland Scheidemann / dpa

15 visitors of the group stand in a circle, they should get to know each other before they go on this emotional journey together. They tell each other the names of their grandmothers, their own birthplaces, Albstadt, Moscow, they name a small town in Hungary, Bochum, Berlin.

Then they follow the green arrows on the streets together, walk past chalk slogans on the ground "Born here, burned here", follow the instructions in the chat to meet contemporary witnesses, actors and actresses who speak to them with the memories of the survivors. The routes have titles such as "Voices of the City", "Backers and Backgrounds", "Night of Action", "Family Voices".

"I asked my father what happened. But he always cried."

Güldane Genc

For weeks, the actors have been guiding their audience through the city in this way, and this evening the tenth performance will take place. On the way you can see the white stickers with the names of the victims. Bassam Ghazi promised the Genc family at the premiere, at the end of the performance the whole city remembers the names of their dead.

But it doesn't seem to please everyone in the city.

Arriving at a playground, a colleague from the taz pastes over two Nazi stickers with the name stickers of the dead. When he asks the play's dramaturge whether the Nazi stickers are part of the production, she says no. Already at the premiere, director Ghazi had to call the police because drunken right-wingers made fun of the attack during the tour.

On the playground, an actress passes a picture of a burnt girl's face through the rows and speaks on behalf of Güldane Genc, who was thrown out of the burning house as a three-year-old so that she would survive.

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A burnt photograph of Hatice Genc (right) and Gürsun Ince, who were killed in the arson attack.

Photo: Emmerling / dpa

Güldane Genc: The scars were always there. For as long as I can remember. I asked my father what happened. But he always cried. It hurts me to see my dad like that. Normally, my father is a really strong man. For half my life, I believed that my skin was burned by hot tea water.

Baba felt obligated to remarry quickly. He wanted a family for me. He wanted to wait with the story until I finished school. But I suspected that something was wrong. My father then told me about my mother. On the bookshelf I found a file folder with documents on the arson attack.*

Director Bassam Ghazi also seems to break up the powerlessness and silence of the family with his play. At the premiere, many of the survivors walked through the streets with their children and grandchildren in continuous rain and listened to their family history, which young actors spoke on their behalf.

Hatice Genc: Actually, we don't even want to think about it. But of course, when we go to sleep in the evening, everything happens before our eyes like a movie.

Kamil Genc: At that time, for example. That happened at half past two. Only after this time... Or we can only fall asleep an hour later. Before that, there is no sleep.

Hatice Genc: I haven't been able to sleep for 30 years.

Kamil Genc: There is no way she sleeps before half past three. This time must have elapsed.

Hatice Genc: Because I'm the first to see this. Everyone was asleep, only I saw it. That's why I can't sleep when that time approaches.*

Hatice and Kamil Genc lost their two young daughters in the attack.

And even on the days when they are not there, their voices can be heard in video messages and voice messages in the chat group of the visitors. When the voice messages start, small groups or couples stand together, sit on iron stairs and hear these voices together, some of the visitors wipe tears from the corners of their eyes, others seem increasingly angry.

"I was never allowed to get to know my sisters because an attack was carried out on my family. Unfortunately, I can and could never talk to my parents about it, how is that supposed to work? My parents lost two children. I don't want to burden my parents even more. It just doesn't work. My name is Cihat Genc. I am the son of Kamil and Hatice Genc. I never got to know my sisters."

On this evening, however, visitors also walk past neighbors standing at their fences with their arms crossed, men racing out of their driveway with humming motorcycles through a crowd of visitors standing close together. They make theatergoers feel that they don't want to remember. Not on their street, not on their driveway.

One of the actresses says that there has been trouble again and again in recent weeks. She says she then explains to people that the curb belongs to all of them, that this is her story, German history. Director Ghazi has deliberately chosen actors who were all born after 1993. They spent weeks immersing themselves in the events of that time, conducting interviews with the Genc family themselves, meeting contemporary witnesses and the family's psychologist. Many of the actors are themselves children of parents with a migration history, some have one themselves. Ghazi wants this generation to find its own way of remembering.

There is Turkish tea and rap songs

In the place where the house once stood, there are pictures of the five dead, in front of which are red roses. Since the performance has been running, the place again looks as if the crime had happened again. Only the five tall chestnut trees remind us of the 30 years that have passed.

At the end, the four routes lead all spectators through a forest in which a voice can be heard singing the well-known Turkish song »Ayrilik«, Separation.

The sun is setting, all the actors are now gathered at the top of the bear hole, there is Turkish tea and rap songs. The voice of Serpil Temiz Unvar can be heard from the box, she is the mother of Ferhat Unvar, who was murdered by a racist along with eight other people in the attack in Hanau on February 19, 2020. She says her thoughts are with her relatives in Solingen. And she says that no one can ever give her back her life before the crime.

Hatice Genc, the namesake of 1993-year-old Hatice Genc, who died on that May evening in 18, survived the attack, but she lost her two young daughters, Saime and Hülya. Visitors also get to see a video sequence of her on this walk, she is interviewed by one of the actresses in the short recording.

Hatice Genc: "One of the perpetrators was released after 7.5 years for good behavior. He's out there now, we don't know where he's walking around, but he's running around. One of the perpetrators was in prison for 15 years, but what is 15 years? In the blink of an eye. The dead will never come back."

Actress: "Did they forgive the perpetrators?


Hatice Genc: "Never. No, I didn't forgive them. They are killing my children and I am supposed to forgive them? Never! They will forever remain my enemies. It's not that simple."

*Excerpts from dialogues from the play »Solingen 1993 – A Theatrical Bus Journey into the Past«