Exeposé Features online (20 November 2015) – my excerpt from longer collaborative piece
“Paris changes everything.” This German response did the rounds pretty heavily at the weekend. Who said it? The Bavarian finance minister. And what did he mean? That the country should consider closing its borders. “It cannot be that we don’t know who is coming to Germany and what these people are doing here,” he stressed.
I guess that’s a big question now: should this tragedy impact Germany’s stance on the thousands of people seeking refuge here? Absolutely not, interior minister Thomas de Maizière said on Monday. With repeated attacks on refugee homes already shaking Germany, he warned the public not to “hurriedly create a link to the debate over the refugee issue.”
Berlin has been on high alert this week. By Monday evening, we’d had eight separate bomb scares. All were false alarms, but it shows a city understandably on edge. Nonetheless, the overwhelming emotions are of sympathy and grief. On Monday, I travelled to Berlin’s Pariser Platz, as hundreds gathered before the French Embassy for a minute’s silence. A sea of flowers, candles, flags and messages lay across the pavement, growing larger by the minute.
I thought I’d end up interviewing people with loved ones in Paris but, in fact, no-one I spoke to had any such link. They were just German citizens who wanted to show their love and respect for those who died in the attacks.
The morning after the Paris attacks, Angela Merkel made a public address. “We, your German friends, are with you,” she told the French people. And from what I’ve seen so far in Berlin, that’s no empty promise.