Shortly before the anniversary of the 2016 Berlin terror attack, Chancellor Angela Merkel has paid a surprise visit to Breitscheidplatz's Christmas market. Survivors recently criticized Merkel's handling of the attack.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with survivors, Christmas market stand owners and first responders on Tuesday in Berlin, just days before the one year anniversary of the deadly terror attack.
On December 19 last year, Tunisian-born Anis Amri drove a truck into the crowds at the Breitscheidplatz Christmas Market in Berlin. Twelve people died and about 70 people were injured.
During her surprise visit to the Christmas market, which lasted about 30 minutes, Merkel paid her respects to those who were killed, laying a white rose at a memorial that has been set up where the truck first struck.
In an effort to show solidarity with the survivors, the chancellor spoke with Christmas market stand owners and bratwurst-sellers who lived through last year's attack.
At one stand, Merkel was gifted an alcohol-free mulled wine. She thanked the stand's owner, Axel Kaiser, and his employees for providing first aid to those who were wounded last year.
Show of solidarity after critique
The German chancellor was recently criticized by the relatives of those who had been killed in the attack who accused her of "political inaction" and failing to reach out to the affected families in the aftermath in an open letter.
"Almost a year after the attack, we note that you have not shared your condolences with us either in person or in writing. In our opinion, this means that you are not doing justice to your office," said the letter, published by German news magazine Der Spiegel.
Following the letter's publication, Merkel's spokesman said she will meet with the families of those killed.
The chancellor laid a white rose at a Breitscheidplatz memorial alongside representatives of local business organizations
German authorities have also come under fire for failing to apprehend Amri, despite knowing that he mingled in Islamist extremist circles, dealt drugs and had his asylum application rejected.
On the one year anniversary of the attack next Tuesday, Merkel will take part in several memorials to the victims alongside German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. She is not expected to speak at an interfaith service at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church at Breitscheidplatz.
Germany has been on high alert since last year's attack, with heightened security measures accompanying this year's Christmas market celebrations across the country.