Terrorism won’t defeat the Berliners
By Harald Dähne in Berlin
When Berlin experienced its first attack from islamist terrorists –on the Breitscheid Platz in the western part of the city — I was with my colleagues in our office near Brandenburg gate in the East, on the other side of the Tiergarten. We had enjoyed a nice Christmas staff party and were in good spirits.
Thirty minutes after the attack I drove my car through the city, from Brandenburg Gate through the Tiergarten, then over the
Siegessäule to the Western City.
I wondered why the streets were so extraordinarily empty — it was a little bit scary. Near the site of the attacks I saw a lot of ambulances, but not until I got home did I hear the shocking news.
The Breitscheid Platz is the center of the western city and famous among international tourists. Sited near the Zoo station, it was the centre of West Berlin during the years of the Berlin Wall.
And the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Kirche, bombed during WWII, is a famous memorial against war.
So the terrorists must have thought that this big Christmas market, taking place around the church, provided a good symbol for an attack. Shocking !
But ever since the events in London and Madrid in 2004 we’re been expecting such an attack in Berlin.
I work for the German Parliament and was often near vulnerable buildings and places such as the Reichstag, the US Embassy or the Brandenburg Gate.
So I saw at first hand the fences, the police, the security checks and the bulletproofed windows. And in the last few years the safety precautions were intensified. But still we realised that, if there was a suicide bomber in the underground trains or in a crowd, we really couldn’t do a thing about it.
So I closed my eyes, went to the U-Bahn every day and got to work. Why worry, I thought, I can’t do anything and it would be much more dangerous skiing in the mountains.
Security good before
Also, in the past, the German security officials have done a good job. Many terrorist plans and attempts have been foiled.
Now, at the time of writing, an offender is on escape with a gun – and maybe his backers.
Despite this, today all 60 Christmas markets in Berlin will open again.
Berliners are fatalistic. They have experienced a lot over the last 100 years. They survived bombing and destruction in the Second World War, the Cold War and the Berlin blockade after the war, the building of the Berlin Wall — and later the reunion of East and West Germany.
Nearly four million people are living here. Accidents and crime are normal in such a big city — but not terrorism like this.
Merkel not taken by surprise
Chancellor Merkel and the other politicians from the established democratic parties weren’t taken by surprised by such an attack.
But nobody knows, really, what happened, if the offender was a refugee or a Muslim.
Some of the other Germans could go down the road of fear, hate and intolerance, but not Berliners.
The racists will say: ‘Merkel is guilty, the blood of the killed people in on her hands. Her policy is wrong. She let the fanatics, killers and rapists in our country.’
But if hate is the answer, then the terrorist(s) reached one important goal.
We Germans should go on as normal and look on such an attack as an accident on the highway.
For a time we will drive more slowly, look at what has happened and then after a time, we will get back to our normal speed…
On the whole my thoughts today. I went for two days to the Baltic Sea. Very cold, dark and lonely here on the sea. But it’s good, to be for a while far away.