The Method in Angela Merkel’s Measured Response to Terror
With Monday’s assault on one of Berlin’s most popular Christmas markets, Germans finally experienced the kind of atrocity many have been expecting since Islamist attacks in France and Belgium. Daniela Schwarzer writes in the Financial Times that the support of Germany's civil society for the chancellor’s refugee policy remains vital.
The attack hit the country hard, not least in its symbolism. The cherished Christmas markets are places of joy and openness, bringing together all generations — and indeed many cultural traditions, from North African ceramics to Peruvian textiles. Not only did the attacker choose one of the capital’s busiest shopping streets but also, specifically, close to the Gedächtniskirche, a church left a partial ruin after the second world war to remind passers-by of the dark days of the Nazi regime, of the consequences of violent intolerance and war.
The decision to kill innocent people at this location in Germany’s most liberal and cosmopolitan city evokes memories of the horrific attacks in Paris and Nice, both of which claimed far higher numbers of casualties. Here, too, cheerful places of urban encounter were instantaneously transformed into venues of grief, anxiety and distrust. And yet, all three cities showed remarkable resilience, seeking a way back to normal, refusing to let anxiety reign.
Despite these parallels, however, the German reaction to the assault differs from the immediate response in France in several important ways. For example, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, waited more than 12 hours after the attacks before addressing the public.
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Daniela Schwarzer is director of the DGAP's research institute
Financial Times, December 22, 2016