Last Saturday evening I attended a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach's Christmas Oratorio in Berlin's Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. It was the traditional concert of the Bach Choir conducted by the wonderful Achim Zimmermann.
On the way to the performance I stopped briefly at the place where the Berliners and their guests still remember the victims of the attack on the local Christmas market three years ago. Even this small devotion symbolized that nothing is as it once was. Our society has changed drastically and, unlike a notorious Green politician, I cannot be happy about it. I thought of Anabel Schunk's article on the "Axis of Good" about how badly the victims of the attack are being neglected by politicians, of the fact that the Senate did not feel it necessary to invite those affected to this year's memorial service, of the committee of inquiry that found out that the Merkel government neglected to do everything that could have prevented the attack. Currently, a film is running in our cinemas, ‘Der letzte Bulle’ (‘The last cop’), in which the Arab clans are glorified and the police are vilified. The question is not whether the next attack is coming, but when. I lit a candle and went on to the concert.
The church was filled to the last seat. Only they had put up a few extra chairs at the very edge for people like me who come at the last minute. From the beginning, the first notes of ‘Jauchzet, frohlocket!’ (‘Rejoice, exult!’) I forgot the world around me. The music led the audience into heavenly spheres. Among the arias and choirs there are treasures of the first order, such as the aria ‘Schließe, mein Herze’ (‘Close, my heart’) or ‘Frohe Hirten, eilt, . . . sucht die Anmut zu gewinnen’, (‘Glad shepherds, hurry, . . . strive to gain the grace’) or the choir ‘Brich an, du schönes Morgenlicht’ (‘Break, beautiful morning light’). “Bach never created anything finer in this form,” says the playbill. I have nothing to add to this. Whoever listens to Bach knows what the strength of our culture is.
During the final chorus ‘Tod, Teufel, Sünd und Hölle sind ganz und gar geschwächt’ (‘Death, devil, sin and hell are fully stricken’) I felt strengthened and comforted. After the music had faded away, the audience remained in awestruck silence before the storm of applause broke out.
When we left the church, the Christmas market tempted us to stroll around. It was still well attended, but you could get mulled wine without having to stand in line for long. We were just about to decide on a chalet when armed policemen started to clear the market. They did this very professionally and without any loudspeaker announcements. This prevented a panic, because many of the people around us, especially the young, were immediately extremely upset and anxious and started to push. On all faces I saw the fear of a terrorist attack.
The evacuation proceeded quickly, nobody resisted. My elation had completely disappeared and I felt my stomach cramping. The discomfort was intensified when black-helmeted motorcyclists rushed by at about 60 mph, followed by a sports car with camouflage paint and a loudly howling engine.
Every day we pretend that our lives continue as normal. But our way of life is already destroyed. The lightness of our being has been taken from us, our carelessness is gone. We can talk, laugh, enjoy, listen to music, play with our children, but we can no longer do any of these things lightly. ‘Merkelpoller’ (‘Merkel bollards’), security guards at events, the insecurity of public spaces are now part of our everyday life. Soon we will have forgotten that there was once a time when women and children could move around without fear.
Our daily brainwashing tells us that we live in the safest Germany we have ever had, even if terror and homicide have increased somewhat. Because it is safer than ever, the politicians who got us into this mess are now only moving around with bodyguards and in armored limousines. Soon there will even be a security trench around the Bundestag.
I can't stand these people anymore. I would like to curse them like in the poem The Silesian Weavers by Heinrich Heine.
Addendum: In the meantime the police have given the all-clear. One of the two suspects, temporarily arrested for conspicuous behavior, as the ‘Welt’ reports, only had links with the Islamic state but no bomb on him.
Translated from eigentümlich frei, where the original article was published on December 26th 2019.