People in the western German town have been shocked by the violence that killed the student. Many Bad Godesberg residents said they had not felt safe even before the attack, and then their fears rose significantly.
Niklas was 17 years old when he died. He was on the way home from a concert with his friends on the night of Friday, May 6, and was waiting to take a night bus close to the train station in Bad Godesberg, a neighborhood in the south of Bonn. The group, including Niklas P., his sister and two of his friends, wasattacked by three young men
shortly after midnight.
Allegedly, 20-year-old Walid S. hit Niklas so hard that he fell to the ground and lost consciousness. When one of Niklas' friends wanted to help him, Walid S. kicked Niklas' head.
The 17-year-old student fell into a coma and died at the hospital a week later. The mini-roundabout at the intersection where the attack took place has been transformed into a memorial by the people of Bad Godesberg.
A photo of Niklas kissing his girlfriend. A wooden cross, placed there by the local Catholic priest on the day Niklas died, so family and friends would have a place to grieve when there wasn't a grave yet. And a wreath of roses and daisies, adorned with four words: "With love, your Mom."
'We will find you'
On the eve of Niklas' funeral on Saturday, people were still leaving flowers and candles and cards. During the day, even a gray and rainy one like this Friday, it's a busy street corner, with two bus stops, a kiosk and the district's main train station nearby. But at night, the mini-roundabout right at the entrance of an underpass is a scary place for the citizens of Bad Godesberg.
"Walking here, by this dark underpass, is really uncomfortable," says an older woman who has come to see the memorial before she has to catch a bus. "I don't like to think of my grandchildren who pass this every day on their way to school."
People have written letters voicing their fear, and anger, too, about the situation. They lie between the flowers and hand-drawn pictures of hearts. "I don't want to let my kids go to the movie theater anymore," one reads. The "Kinopolis" lies on the other side of the underpass.
"You should know that we will find you and that we won't let you go," another, more menacing, message, addressed to the perpetrators, states.
The alleged attacker is from Italy. His parents immigrated to Germany from Morocco. Last Saturday, a group of rightwing extremists staged a protest right by Niklas' memorial.
Streetlights for more safety
"My parents are worried, too," 14-year-old Marie, who has come to the memorial with a group of people, says. "I don't feel safe here anymore," her friend Cindy (17) admits.
District mayor Simone Stein-Lücke says she's taking her citizens' feelings of fear very seriously.
"I want there to be more streetlights, and we'll also cut back the bushes and greenery to make it a more open space," said Stein-Lücke, who was "stunned and horrified" when police called her with the news of the attack.
At the same time, Bad Godesberg's mayor stresses that crimes like burglary and assault have been decreasing in her district for years. Perceptions might still be skewed because "we were living in a bubble for years," Stein-Lücke says.
She's referring to the fact that Bad Godesberg was known as the "mansion district" when Bonn was West Germany's capital in the days before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Ambassadors lived side by side with high-level government employees and seemingly every other house was protected by police.
A whole district in mourning
Remnants from this era still exist in Bad Godesberg. Walking from the circle where Niklas was attacked through the underpass and up the hill, the first building you see is the Hotel Kaiserhof, or "Emperor's Court."
Take a few more steps and you'll enter the "spa gardens," a nice little park with a tennis court at the center. All that stands in stark contrast to the run-down kiosk across from Niklas' memorial and the small Turkish and Arab stores in the poorer parts of the neighborhood. Today, many Muslims, Russians and Serbs live in the area, and they don't necessarily get along, local residents say.
But after Niklas' death, people from all parts of Bad Godesberg are united in grief. The flag at the district's historic castle is flying at half-mast, and last Saturday all the churches rang their bells in honor of the 17-year-old student.
This Saturday, mourners will not only gather inside the church where his funeral will take place. The mass will be aired on a screen outside the chapel as well - because even the biggest church in Bad Godesberg won't be big enough for all those who want to say goodbye to Niklas.