German Chancellor Angela Merkel © Axel Schmidt / Reuters
The families of those killed in Berlin’s Christmas market attack last year have lambasted Angela Merkel in an open letter. They particularly accused the German chancellor of “inaction” in the face of terrorism and negligence toward the attack victims.
The attack, during which a Tunisian asylum seeker, Anis Amri, drove a truck into the crowded Christmas market on December 19, 2016, was a “tragic consequence of political inaction of your government,”the victims’ relatives wrote in a letter, addressing Merkel personally. They went on to say that 12 people died because “you [Merkel] had failed to timely accumulate the necessary resources and reform the inordinate [security] structures to fight this [terrorist] threats.”
The people, some of whom did not just lost their loved ones in that attack but also sustained injuries themselves, also reproached Merkel and her government for the fact that Germany “still lacks basic professionalism in dealing with terrorism.” The letter, obtained by Germany’s Der Spiegel weekly, says that the investigation of the attack revealed numerous deficiencies in the work of the German services tasked with tackling the terrorist threats.
They particularly pointed out that the perpetrator of the attack was long known to police and had “numerous criminal records.” Moreover, the police warned the Interior Ministry that Amri could pose a terrorist threat as early as nine months before the attack. However, despite all these facts, police only monitored his actions “from time to time” and eventually failed to prevent the attack.
“German regional and federal police departments as well as some 50 other [security] services are plagued by competence chaos,” the letter says, adding specific functions of particular services are unclear while the level of information sharing between them is “absolutely insufficient.” It also urged Merkel to “correct all faults as soon as possible.”
“Outrageous deficiencies that were revealed [during the investigation of the attack] cannot be tolerated anymore,” the victims’ relatives said. They also stressed that it is Merkel who is ultimately responsible for providing all the necessary resources to fight terrorism in Germany.
The German government’s inability to properly tackle the terrorist threats was, however, not the only thing that the letter’s authors criticized the chancellor over. Survivors and victims’ families, who kept in touch after the tragedy and even created a group to give each other all the help they could, also accused Merkel of complete disregard of the plight of the victims and all those affected by the attack.
“Almost a year after the attack, you have not offer condolences to the families of the victims, either in person nor in a written statement,” the victims’ relatives said, addressing Merkel. They added that this situation has led them to “understanding that you are not fit for your post.”
“The attack affected not only the victims [and their relatives] but the whole of Germany. It is a matter of respect, of dignity and actually a matter of course that you as the head of Government should have offered condolences to the families of the victims… on behalf of the nation,” the letter says. Its authors also drew attention to the fact that then German President Joachim Gauck was almost the only senior German state official who offered his condolences over the tragedy, but even he did it only 60 days after the attack.
Another official who also sent his condolences to the victims’ families was Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller, but it took him just as long. He offered his sympathies to the relatives of the victims two months after the attack, citing difficulties in obtaining their addresses and even claiming that he “deliberately let some time pass” since the December tragedy as he wanted all those affected to receive the messages at the same time.
The relatives’ letter ends up with a warning that the December 2016 attack is unlikely to become the last such incident in Germany. It also calls on Merkel to do her best to prevent any future attacks as well as to pay more attention to those who could be affected by them. “A simple correction of the existing mistakes… would be irresponsible,”it says.
The 2016 Berlin Christmas market attack has become the most high-profile such incident in Germany. It claimed lives of 12 people and left more than 50 others injured. The perpetrator of the attack managed to flee Germany but was eventually killed by police in Italy days after the incident.