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TERRORISM

German media roundup: Alert but not hysterical

Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière has warned of imminent terrorist attacks in Germany. His task was delicate, but newspapers in The Local’s media roundup on Thursday praised his approach, saying he had calmly informed citizens without inciting hysteria.

German media roundup: Alert but not hysterical
Photo: DPA

On Wednesday, the Interior Minister solemnly cited information from “foreign partners,” stating that terrorist attacks had been planned for late November, and described a “new situation” regarding the Islamist threat towards the nation.

The minister also encouraged Germans to go about their lives without worrying, explaining that federal police had been put on alert and heightened security was in place at transportation hubs.

Conservative daily Die Welt complimented de Maizière’s reassuring conduct, which it said balanced the seriousness of the threat with the need to avoid panic. It was the very refusal to resort to hysteria that was the great strength of a democracy, the paper wrote.

“The west (to Islamists) is molly-coddled, cowardly and unwilling to fight. Better red – or whatever else – than dead. It is among the strongest features of our civilisation that this is not true,” the paper wrote.

On the contrary, the west had come through crisis after crisis with its values and its constitutions intact, the paper argued – whether it was the blitz in London or September 11 in the United States.

“There are situations in which calm is actually a civic duty and has nothing to do with apathy. It is not a sign of carelessness but of strength if life goes on as normal in dangerous situations. In a democracy, heroism and the most normal daily routine go hand in hand.”

Centre-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote that unlike his predecessors, de Maizière has been no “Federal Fearmongering Minister.”

“For this reason his warning of an impending attack is so effective,” the paper said.

The threat of terrorism presents a Catch-22 for government leaders, who face criticism if they have failed to warn citizens in the event of an attack, or accusations of fearmongering when they do issue a warning. Given the situation, de Maizière’s approach was correct, “and there is no better answer,” the paper said.

It was appropriate for the minister to advise against hysteria and worry, because the danger of actually being the victim of a terrorist attack is smaller than any other security risk in Germany, the paper explained.

But the state must show strength as well as restraint, it said.

“Interior security requires internal strength and unbreakable trust in the basic rights of the constitution – even in times of terrorism. As long as an interior minister can rely on this, then interior security in Germany isn’t in a bad position,” the paper wrote.

Centrist daily Der Tagesspiegel also referred to the challenge that confronts politicians in times of terror, but said citizens are responsible for ensuring their rights are not infringed.

“There is no escape from this dilemma,” the paper wrote. “In the area of security (de Maizière) can’t win despite clever measures, because there is no thanks for the unhindered continuation of normality.”

Meanwhile the average citizen’s abstract understanding of the danger posed by terroristm rarely correlates with everyday experience, it said.

“Here a few more police officers, there more fundamental security checks at the airport. And the only, often unsatisfying measure, of whether this is necessary is the word of a minister. We must trust him because we can’t know any better.”

Citizens must allow the government to take a “leap of faith” in such situations, the paper said.

“But they still maintain the right to punish misuse,” it concluded.

The centre-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote that every citizen needed to make a level-headed assessment of the threat. That meant being watchful but also getting on with life.

“The Interior Minister cannot please everyone. If he issues warnings too loudly and too often, people accuse him of being alarmist. If he is too cool and guarded, it is said, he is lulling people with the illusory comfort of safety,” it wrote.

“There are by nature ‘great security gaps’ of the kind the police union is talking about. But that doesn’t mean we are defenceless. Any individual, however much he may rely on the law of the state, can meet terrorism head on. Not only by being watchful, but also by continuing to live the way he wants. No reason for hysteria, says the minister. There shouldn’t be, even in an emergency.”

Daily Saarbrücker Zeitung referred to security experts who say a terror attack in Germany is just a matter of time.

“That isn’t very encouraging, but unfortunately realistic,” it said. “With this in mind Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière displayed the right solution: We will allow terrorism to alter neither our habits nor our culture.”

The Local/ka/dw

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TERRORISM

Anti-Semitism ‘massive problem’ in Germany, says Jewish leader on terror attack anniversary

On the second anniversary of a far-right terror attack at a German synagogue, the German Jewish Council has warned that the government needs to make more efforts to stop the spread of anti-Semitism online.

Anti-Semitism 'massive problem' in Germany, says Jewish leader on terror attack anniversary
A star of David on the roof of the Halle synagogue. Photo: dpa-Zentralbild | Hendrik Schmidt

Two years after a terrorist attack in the east German town of Halle that left two people dead, Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews, said that more needed to be done in the fight against anti-Semitism and right-wing extremism.

“The spread and incitement of hate, for example in the form of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories via social media, is a massive problem,” Schuster told DPA.

On October 9th 2019, a heavily armed right-wing extremist called Stephan Balliet tried to enter the Halle city synagogue on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

When he failed to do so, he shot a 40-year-old passerby. He later killed a 20-year-old man at a kebab shop. While trying to escape, the 28-year-old injured several people before he was caught by the police.

The city of Halle is commemorating the event on Saturday, with wreaths to be laid at the scene of the crime. Reiner Haseloff, state leader of Saxony-Anhalt, is expected to attend.

Balliet was sentenced to life in prison in 2020 by the Naumburg Higher Regional Court. His sentence will be followed by preventive detention.

Funs for synagogue security

While praising the German government for introducing a law that makes social media companies responsible for hateful content posted on their sites, Schuster said that the legislation needed to be extended to messenger services such as Telegram.

“We must do everything we can to ensure that the internet is not a lawless space,” he said.

According to Schuster, the German government reacted quickly after the Halle attack by providing money to improve security at Jewish institutions.

This was an important step, he said. “However, there is still much to be done at the political and social level to combat growing anti-Semitism.”

SEE ALSO: Four held over foiled ‘Islamist’ attack on German synagogue

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