Commentary on the Berlin Attack Our Strength

The attack in Berlin has shown us that Germany is also vulnerable. This makes it that much more important that we all keep our cool.
The site of the suspected terrorist attack in Berlin

The site of the suspected terrorist attack in Berlin

Foto:

HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/ REUTERS

Twelve people are dead, many more are injured, and this shortly before Christmas. All they wanted to do was enjoy a nice evening on the town, to take a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life -- have a glass of mulled wine and chat with friends or relatives. It's always difficult to put words to the suffering that people can inflict on other, completely innocent people. In Aleppo, in Nice, in Orlando or, now, here in Berlin.

But the attacks keep coming -- from hateful lone wolves but also from groups who allege to be fighting for a higher cause and those who kill out of revenge, pure pleasure or out of religious insanity. The attack on a peaceful Christmas market in Berlin provides a shocking demonstration of just how vulnerable Germany has become. Despite this, because of it, we must keep our cool. We must remain calm and stay reasonable, even if that is difficult to do.

Fotostrecke

Photo Gallery: 'A Bad Evening for Berlin'

Foto: ODD ANDERSEN/ AFP

Acting reasonably means ensuring that hatred, distrust between Germans, foreigners, Muslims, the West or the South or the East doesn't continue to grow. Hysteria, xenophobia or lashing out blindly neither helps anyone nor solves any problems.

Acting reasonably means to not play anything down or deny it. It's possible the perpetrator in Berlin came to Germany as a refugee. That would be a problem. That's why we need to address and minimize the security gaps created by the entry into Germany of huge numbers of migrants. Failures must be detected and analyzed. That's the job of the federal government, parliament and the security authorities.

Fotostrecke

Photo Gallery: The Day After the Catastrophe

Foto: TOBIAS SCHWARZ/ AFP

Acting reasonably means recognizing our own strengths: Germany may be a target for terrorists, but it is also a strong democracy, with functioning government institutions. It has long been feared that an attack like this could happen. It's not possible to protect 100 percent against terrorism. But the fact is that the security authorities have also foiled numerous other attacks. Security officials are pursuing terrorists and their supporters both in Germany and abroad with the full force of the law. This is covered by the anti-terrorism measures in Paragraph 129 of Germany's penal code, along with other legislation. The country has many tools at its disposal to ensure that this happens, including Germany's anti-extremism agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, excellent government criminal investigators and prosecutors as well as excellent police special forces.

Acting reasonably means standing in the way of hate preachers. Those who seek to exploit the current situation -- cynical people like Germany's right-wing populist Alternative for Germany party -- in order to stir up hatred between people are also helping to fuel the terrorists. They want to drive us apart, unsettle us and evoke a clash of cultures. The intention of their hatred is to constantly foment new hatred.

But that's the path that can only end in calamity. It's one we must ensure we do not take.

Foto: SPIEGEL ONLINE

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