Below is the second in a series of articles translated by Egri Nök about the repercussions from the most recent culturally enriched Silvesternacht (New Year’s Eve) in Germany. This one was published in Stern:
A quiet turn of the year
That is why this Silvester, too, everything was by no means all right
January 3, 2017
The police were prepared; everything remained largely calm. Especially in Cologne, where in 2015 there had been mass sexual assaults. Everything in apple-pie order, then? Not at all. Women, for example, barely dared to attend public parties.
Apart from the public discussion of operations by the Cologne Police, relief is dominant after the turn of the year. Everything remained calm on Silvester night, no unusual incidents. There were no excesses like the mass sexual assaults that took place in downtown Cologne on Silvester Night 2015. So, was everything done right, everything in apple-pie order again? Not at all.
“As good as the news was this year: it was only possible under a massive deployment,” the Göttingen anxiety-researcher Borwin Bandelow assesses the situation on Silvester Night for Bild Online. And indeed: 1,500 officers were in service around Cathedral and the main train station, and a further 200 had to be requested during the course of the evening. In addition 800 Federal Police officers were on hand.
Despite this immense contingent, according to the record, there were critical situations, as the Stern reporter chronicled, too. 2,000 persons “relevant for search” [fahndungsrelevant] came to Cologne; police had to issue 1,090 dismissals. There were more than 160 criminal complaints, and 27 temporary arrests. This certainly has nothing to do with carefree, peaceful Silvester celebrations. And: will this be the new norm now for Cologne, year after year?
And a second reason, why everything remained calm on Silvester, is only superficial: “Many women did not go out to celebrate from the start”, the anxiety researcher Bandelow states to Bild. At any rate, women avoided public celebrations to such an extent that it stood out in the view of the city. According to a Bild survey among police spokespersons, there were “noticeably fewer women on the Schloss [castle] Square” in Stuttgart, and according to the “impression of the colleagues on site”, in general at large events in Frankfurt. The police in Munich even said that there were fewer people overall on the streets of the town at Silvester — and here, too, allegedly especially fewer women. The reason, according to Bandelow, is apparent: Women’s fears that something could happen to them at public celebrations is justified. Cologne 2015 showed this, and surveys underlined this impression. According to an Allensbach [a polling institute] study, 56% of women in 2016 averred that they did not feel secure in public spaces anymore (previously, it had been 42%).
The impact of this reluctance: in the city centers, there “were predominantly young men with migration backgrounds,” a police speaker in Hannover tells Bild. Similar to the situation in Munich. The word is that the migrants head out, because otherwise they can often only spend Silvester Night in their accommodations. Similar to Cologne, the Hamburg police had to curb an increasingly aggressive atmosphere on Jungfernstieg [promenade area by the river] — according to the police report, initiated “by persons predominantly with migration backgrounds.”
A piece of freedom has been taken away
Thus, the trend that is becoming apparent from Silvester 2016 is: Many people, especially women, retreat from public celebrations out of fear. These celebrations have to be secured by large police contingents. Thus, currently we are — at least in the major cities — far away from careless Silvester celebrations. Security, according to the anxiety researcher Bandelow, is “only fragile, unfortunately.” Psychologists assess: fear has already taken a piece of our freedom away.