Terror has finally come to Germany
The past 18 months have seen a string of major terrorist attacks striking at the heart of Europe. The continent, which has up to this point largely been free of the kind of major Jihadist terror attacks that have had such an impact on the United States, is now struggling to cope in the wake of these tragedies.
France has thus far born the brunt of the attacks. The Charlie Hebdo shootings, the Paris shootings, and the Nice attacks have all done much to remind the world that homegrown terrorism is now a very real threat in Europe.
Until this week, however, Germany has seemed relatively lucky to have been spared these kinds of mass attacks.
There has been the occasional assault and the foiled threats which have before now characterized the German experience with terrorism, but with a bombing, a shooting this week, and an axe attack within the space of a week, it seems like terrorism has finally come to Germany.
Germany was one of the most welcoming countries in Europe when the migrant crisis first began. Chancellor Angela Merkel took the lead in establishing the nation as a place where the dispossessed and displaced peoples of Syria might find refuge and opened the doors to over one million migrants.
The flow of refugees soon strained the capacity of their ability to integrate, and the result is that Germany’s national character and attitude towards outsiders is changing.
In many ways, the current national character of Germany is a result of the second World War. The legacy of the Holocaust has left a lasting impact on the way Germans teach their children about tolerance. They are reminded that they have an obligation to be more open and humane than other countries, due to a sense of collective guilt.
This sense within the German public sphere of duty to humanity is now straining to withstand the impact of repeated terrorist attacks and the heavy burden of integrating so many refugees. Merkel and the open door policy she espouses are becoming increasingly unpopular with the German public.
The response has been familiar to anyone who has lived in a country struck by terrorism. People are beginning to distrust outsiders, and anti-Muslim sentiment is growing. Fear and suspicion are becoming part of the fabric of German life in a way that hasn’t been seen since the Cold War.
The situation is touching the lives of everyone living in the country. As a temporary resident of the country, I have personally seen the way that security has tightened at borders and watched migrants pulled off of buses by German Police for not having the correct visa papers.
This general failure of Germany’s open and tolerant culture to respond to this situation is obvious in the German political system as well. The NPD, a German political party which is known for its fiercely anti-immigrant stance has been polling at record levels for months now. People in the country are frightened, and as so often happens, that fear is turning into anger.
The wave of terrorism in Europe that seems to be breaking at the moment is of course, not an exclusively German phenomenon, and the total casualties of Terror has remained blessedly low within the country. It remains to be seen, however, what kind of response that future attacks might bring, and future attacks seem certain. Only time will tell if the German people will be able to endure them without sacrificing the tolerant culture they have worked so hard to build.