The following essay about the lack of a national commemoration of the jihad attack on the Christmas market in Berlin is from Cicero Online, a monthly German magazine on political and cultural issues. Many thanks to Nash Montana for the translation:
The wrong dead people
by Alexander Kissler
In the heart of the capital city twelve people were murdered. An official commemoration is lacking. But a society that does not honor its dead will lose its humanity.
If it is true that the state of civilization is measured by how said civilization handles its dead, then we are looking into a grim future. We have unlearned how to grieve. Sure, there is no lack of public tears; the separation from a partner is sobbed over as much as the closing of a favorite club or an unjust dismissal from a job. Communal grief over bereavement, however, is being made taboo. Because they were all our dead, they shall be nobody’s dead. We shall not think of them, because all of us were intended: This sad chorus suppresses commemoration for the victims at the Berlin Breitscheidplatz.
On December 19th — one has to remember — 12 people were murdered by a previously convicted Tunisian Islamist who was living in Germany illegally. In addition to the dead, there were also 56 injured, of whom twelve were seriously injured victims. Their lives will never again be the same. They will carry heavy scars on body and soul. Even the outwardly uninjured witnesses of the attack are victims. Those who saw and heard and smelled how next to them bones broke, skin burst, blood sprayed — they, too, will be marked for the rest of their lives. And to them all the State and the Government say: Personally unfortunate, tragic, terrible; sure, but you’ll have to cope with it alone, on your own.
How else can it be explained that the Government after the attack in the capitol city was unwilling to hold a public commemorative service? That they held a silent participation at a remembrance service at the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Memorial Church on the 20th of December, and left it at that? There, in the first row, stood Norbert Lammert [president of the Bundestag], Angela Merkel [chancellor], and Joachim Gauck [president of the Bundesrepublik] holding hands, feigned dismay on their faces. And the same thing was done in the choir room a Catholic and an evangelical bishop, a rabbi and an imam. And that was all. To this day.
Rather not break wind
This enacted program of speechlessness was exceeded only by the silence after the Istanbul attack a year ago almost to the day. Eleven of the twelve victims of the attack were Germans; the injured and the witnesses don’t make much of a statistic, but they are victims of Islamism nonetheless. The fact that they were targeted because they were a Western group of tourists, that we have to speak of elimination of racism in concomitance with religious terrorism, that with those German tourists an almost immaculate representative sample of our society was killed, and that ultimately the larger We of the mobile, travel-loving, likable Germans were the target: nothing of that is spoken about. There’s an impression as if the official institutions were bashful about the violence incurred, as if the monstrosity of German victims embarrassed them: We’d rather not break wind.
The wrong victims?
In Berlin, the community of fate was mixed — until now, seven Germans and five foreigners found dead; and of them, as well as of the heavy and serious injured, we know almost no names, no faces. The silence is vociferous; empathy is dangerous. A bad suspicion pushes itself to the surface: In the end, were they the wrong victims? Was it the wrong perpetrator?
An official commemoration that lived up to its name would not leave it simply at empty phrases of solidarity, fellowship, and community reconciliation. It also would have to overcome the stale oratories in media and politics that twist an Islamist attack into a “tragedy”. A communal commemoration would have to find a language that would name the entanglement and connection without falling into polemics: People were murdered because Islamic fanatics see this as a divine sacrament.
A community that may not exist
A public commemoration also wouldn’t be able to get around the question what exactly the target was: A Christmas market? The right of consumption? A symbol of the customs of the Christian West? Germany? The target community would have to be named. We have no thoughts about that, because said community simply may not exist.
Time will change things. The federal minister of the interior attunes us to “difficult times” and “new threats”, even to “larger terrorist attacks”. Apparently need and necessity do not just make us pray, but they make us talk too. Ours we will have to commemorate.