German President Horst Köhler said he was "appalled and saddened" by the event. Köhler and his wife expressed their condolences to the victims and their families and friends. "We feel a deep bond with them in these difficult hours," he said.
A spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was "deeply shaken and appalled" by the events. The spokesman assured all family members and friends of the victims that they had the full sympathy of the German leader and her government ministers. The federal government said it had also offered whatever help is needed to police and security officials on the scene in the southern German town, which is located in the state of Baden-Württemberg.
German Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen also appeared deeply moved by the events. "It first leaves you speechless," the politician with conservative Christian Democrats said. "It is shattering." She said the first question people should ask is how more active preventative measures can be taken to ensure crimes like this don't happen again. Von der Leyen added that the root causes that prompted the man to go on a killing spree must be found. The family minister also called on schools and parents to create partnerships in raising kids. She also noted that the reasons for killing sprees are often very different, but that they are often committed by isolated youth. Meanwhile, she warned that gun owners have a responsibility to ensure that they do not fall into the hands of people who don't have the right to possess them.
Günther Oettinger, governor of the southern German state of Baden-Würtemberg, traveled to the scene of the crime by helicopter shortly after the news broke. Oettinger spoke of a "horrible and in no way explainable crime." He also expressed his condolences to the victims, students and families. "This has touched all of Baden-Württemberg. The school, the town, the future, education and raising children -- to destroy these things like that is especially cruel."
The government in the eastern German state of Thuringia offered help in the form of specially-trained psychologists, Education Minister Bernward Müller said on Wednesday in Erfurt. Erfurt has painful experience with such events: In 2002, a 19-year-old killed 16 people in a similar school shooting. Thuringia's education minister said residents of the state had been deeply shocked by the tragedy at the Baden-Württemberg school.
The Strasbourg, France-based Council of Europe expressed its sympathy Wednesday morning as well. "My thoughts are with the victims, their families and relatives in Winnenden, which is only an hour's drive from the Council," General Secretary Terry Davis said. "We must be active to prevent such crimes in the future."
"What worries me is that the wounds of Erfurt will be reopened," Josef Kraus, the president of the German Teachers' Union, told the Chemnitz Freien Presse newspaper. Still, he argued against installing increased security measures like cameras or guards at schools. "Such measures just simulate security," he said. "One can turn a school into a high security zone, but when someone wants to go crazy like this they could also target a schoolbus and no one could do anything about it."
dsl/agc -- with wires
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