’Social peace is at stake’: readers react to the recent German attacks
One week on from the Munich attack, our readers in Germany discuss the mood in the country
Photo: Germany are set to boost police presence at airports and train stations and carry out stop-and-search operations close to border areas. Photograph: Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters
Rachel Obordo and Guardian readers
Friday 29 July 2016 12.20 BST
Within the space of a week, Germany has been rocked by an axe attack on a train, a mass shooting in Munich that left nine dead, a machete attack in which a pregnant woman was killed and a suicide bomb in Ansbach.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, German chancellor Angela Merkel said the assailants “wanted to undermine our sense of community, our openness and our willingness to help people in need. We firmly reject this.”
We heard from readers across the Germany, who reflected on the mood of the country in the wake of the recent attacks.
‘I will not let them win by allowing anxiety to dictate my behaviour’
I guess the key word is unsettled. As was rightly pointed out by an author in the German weekly Die Zeit, the logic of the attacks is to sow fear and terror, by making sure that the public gets the message that anybody can be a target. We have our own terrorism history but in the past, the elites were the targets. Nowadays, it can happen to anybody, anywhere - that is what they (ISIS) want us to think. There is, however, nothing we can do. Nothing that can be done except stand back and let the police do its work. Life is dangerous. And for all the high-profile attention that a terrorist attack achieves, chances are much higher that I’ll be injured in a traffic accident than in a terror incident.
Sure, we can increase surveillance, but does that truly increase security? Should we pay the price that comes with that? So far, all politicians except the right-wingers have resisted the trap set by the terrorists to turn Germany into an “Überwachungsstaat” (surveillance state). Good.
Personally, my life carries on as before. I am not changing my behaviour. Am I a bit more anxious before entering so-called “soft target areas” (i.e. where lots of people congregate)? Yes. Do I let that anxiety dictate my behaviour? No. I will not let them win.
Volker Motzkus, Düsseldorf
Police crime scene investigators work at the scene of the machete attack in Reutlingen.
Police crime scene investigators work at the scene of the machete attack in Reutlingen. Photograph: Christoph Schmidt/EPA
‘I’m scared to even take a 30 minute S-Bahn ride into the city’
There is now a fear present in my life that was never there before. Munich was the place where I always felt safe and was never worried about anything happening. Now I’m scared to even take a 30 minute S-Bahn ride into the city. Its awful and I hate to live in fear. I am flying to the USA in a few weeks and I am terrified of being in the airport and in the air.
‘I was struck by how much he had in common with my child’
On Friday night, when news reached us of the attack at the Olympia Einkaufszentrum mall, we hurriedly packed our belongings and left the beer garden to head home. Some of us in our group were very panicked whereas others wondered if we were overreacting by cutting our evening short. Getting home was difficult: public transport had been halted and the few taxis whizzing by were occupied. People still continued to wait at bus stops looking dazed. Rumours were rife of up to three gunmen using the underground to reach other parts of the city. A text message informed me to keep clear of downtown.
My companion suggested avoiding main streets to get home. We started jogging. Reaching my apartment, I called my husband and launched into a diatribe: “How dare they? Who do they think they are? It makes you think about getting a gun to protect yourself?” As word reached us later that the culprit was a lone gunman, a teenager, someone who was mentally ill, possibly bullied, the relief was palpable that it wasn’t a terrorist attack. It wasn’t a refugee. Germany is still safe.
Reading the biography of the killer on German and international news portals, I was struck by how much he had in common with my child - age, the quarter he lived in, immigrant parents, a casual newspaper deliverer. The name Sonboly went through my head - the comparison with the word “somebody” intruding on my thoughts. News information on the victims was less obvious. Why did I know so much about Ali and so little about the other dead children? A friend suggested that it could have been the wish of the victims to have their privacy protected.
German police investigate the site in Ansbach, Germany, where a failed asylum-seeker from Syria blew himself up and wounded 15 people after being turned away from an open-air music festival in southern Germany.
German police investigate the site in Ansbach, Germany, where a failed asylum-seeker from Syria blew himself up and wounded 15 people after being turned away from an open-air music festival in southern Germany. Photograph: Daniel Karmann/AP
‘There will be a call from some to celebrate hyper-Germanness’
Before the shooting in Munich, the axe attack in Würzburg and the machete attack in Reutlingen, Germans were already on edge.
The various attacks in recent days have laid open Germans’ obsessive fear that the open-door immigration policy will be undermined and compromise German security. Angela Merkel’s party, which normally connotes and represents law and order, will be forced to take a more uncompromising stance towards immigrants, and there will be uncontrollable yearning for more stringent laws and restrictive measures to boost security. All these measures will definitely turn the tides against immigration.
The coming days will likely usher in wanton politicking and put more pressure on the political elite and backlash from right-wing parties. More foreigners will be blatantly alienated and there will be call for the celebration and display of hyper-Germanness: a semblance of invulnerability.
‘People are uneasy but I feel no panic around me’
Life in Freiburg has not been affected in any obvious way by the events in Bavaria. I attended a multicultural festival yesterday and it was a beautiful, happy event.
I think this is due to the relatively calm reporting and self-critical evaluation of how quickly the media jumped to wrong conclusion. People are uneasy about the news, but I can feel no panic around me.
Family members and members of the ‘Turkish-Islamic Union of the Institute for Religion Association’ commemorate the victims of the Olympic shopping centre shooting in Munich.
Family members and members of the ‘Turkish-Islamic Union of the Institute for Religion Association’ commemorate the victims of the Olympic shopping centre shooting in Munich. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
‘Sometimes you feel as if it’s the end of the world as we know it’
I have to say the tragic events in Munich, Ansbach and on the train to Würzburg have indeed been shocking, as must have been New Year’s Eve at the central station of the city I live in, just by the cathedral. What is particularly disturbing is that over here, we didn’t use to know this kind of aggression. I suppose that most of it is part of a phenomenon we are bound to see continue and possibly unfold even further for years to come.
What I feel is at stake - and has been for a while now - is social peace. On one hand, we’ve now witnessed terrible crimes committed by ISIS supporters. On the other, aggression has taken to dimensions unknown in my generation when it comes to hatred against foreigners, especially refugees and/or Muslims. Attacks on asylum seekers’ homes have become a widely spread phenomenon, especially in the eastern states of the country and in the countryside in general. Take that and the terrible series of murders committed by the Nationalist Socialist Underground, and you see radicalisation at work.
I wouldn’t say I feel unsafe in this country but the extent of radicalisation is appalling on both sides, and it appears to be a trend that’s set in elsewhere too, including France and the UK. So I doubt this is restricted to Germany but sometimes it’s just so much you feel it is the end of the world as we know it, a world somewhat governed by a fair amount of moderation and compromise for everybody’s benefit.
‘We are determined that our lives will not be changed by these attacks’
We have been shocked by the frequent attacks. I have a number of friends who live or work in Munich, they are all safe but my thoughts and prayers go out to those who were not so lucky. I also have a teenage daughter who likes going to shopping centres.
We pray that those affected by the bomb in Ansbach and the attack in Wuerzburg will make a full recovery. We are determined that our lives will not be changed by these attacks.