The aroma of sausages and Glühwein fills the air, as a familiar row of decked out festival stalls set up for the opening day at Berlin’s Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz. A year after the 2016 terror attack, it appeared to be business as usual at the Charlottenburg market, which opened with a religious service at Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and heightened security around the market. Now, vendors are preparing to close for the day on December 19, to honour the victims of the 2016 attack and to unveil the official memorial designed by Merz Merz.
The attack that shook Berlin
On December 19, 2016, the annual Christmas festivities in Berlin came to a tragic halt when, Anis Amri, a Tunisian asylum seeker and Islamic State sympathiser, crashed a hijacked truck through crowds of people. The attack killed 12 people and injured more than 45 others, leaving the city shaken by the violent terrorist attack.
Amri was shot dead by Italian police, days later, after a Europe-wide manhunt for the perpetrator of this 2016 attack.
Heightened security and resilience among vendors and visitors
A year on, the market opened on November 27 surrounded by concrete pollards, police patrols and vans. To the casual eye, the tightened security could appear normal, however, with the festive season in full swing German authorities assure crowds that there will be no repeat of last year’s terrorizing attack.
The tightened security measures appear to be having the desired effect, as a relaxed crowd wanders through the rows of Christmas stalls, sipping on fragrant mulled wine and nibbling sausages. It’s hard to believe that one year ago this festive market was the site of a headline-grabbing tragedy. Visitors and vendors all say they feel safe, some even asserting that the strength in resolve around the market shows that terrorism has no place in Germany.
One vendor, Mila, who has sold her handcrafted Christmas ornaments at the market for a number of years, says she feels safe at the market this year. ‘There is no reason to feel scared, the police are here and they have put up barriers.’
Two American tourists visiting the market for the first time this year agreed, ‘There are police vans, police patrolling and pollards, we feel really safe here and we’re happy we can be here to enjoy the market and support the people working here.’
A group of German men, merrily sipping Glühwein, mirror this sentiment by saying they come to the market every year as a tradition. ‘Meeting here is a tradition for us, and we will continue to do it.’
A surprise visit from Merkel, and the planned memorial
Shortly before the anniversary of the 2016 attack, Angela Merkel delighted market-goers and vendors with a surprise visit. During her visit, Merkel spoke with stall owners who had lived through the ordeal and lent support to injured people in last year’s attack, and showing her respect for the people who tragically lost their lives, the chancellor placed a white rose at a memorial that had been set up where the truck first hit.
Merkel’s visit comes days before the market is due to close for an official memorial that will take place on December 19. Here, the winning memorial design, from Merz Merz, will be unveiled, with an inscription reading ‘In memory of the victims of the terror attack on the Christmas market on December 19, 2016. For the peaceful coexistence of all people.’