A call to Germany

Timothy Garton Ash in the Guardian, 21 December, ‘. . . But what if Breitscheidplatz turns out to be what so many analysts have always feared: a major terrorist attack perpetrated by someone who entered Germany as a refugee after Merkel “opened the door” last year, whether or not he was inspired or even instructed by so-called Islamic State? Could 2017 see her going the way of David Cameron? And what then? An already notorious comment tweeted by the Alternative for Germany (AfD) politician Marcus Pretzell – “these are Merkel’s dead” – is so disgusting that there must be an initial revulsion against that rightwing, anti-immigrant and anti-euro party. But will this send voters to the AfD in the months to come?

. . . The Bild headline, however, was one word that all readers will instantly understand: “Angst!” I think Merkel instinctively homed in on the deepest mental danger for her compatriots when she said, “We don’t want to live paralysed by the fear of evil.” A Berlin daily responded to the atrocity with a front-page picture of a Christmas tree in front of the Brandenburg gate, and three words from the Gospel according to Saint Luke: “Be not afraid!”  The Polish lorry driver who seems to have been the first victim of this murderer will surely have known that this was the message tirelessly repeated by Pope John Paul II, who added another simple injunction: “Defeat evil by good.”  It’s a tall order, but if Germany can even get close to this ideal, it will be leading Europe by its example.