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Dozens of New Year attacks on Berlin firefighters

January 1, 2023

Firefighters in the German capital, Berlin, have reported multiple attacks while trying to do their job. Across the country, there were reports of violence on a "terrifying" New Year for many emergency staff.

Fireworks over the Berlin cityscape
Berlin welcomed in the New Year with fireworks after two years of restrictions because of the pandemicImage: Paul Zinken/dpa/picture alliance

Berlin's fire department on Sunday said its emergency crews had been attacked 38 times as the city rang in the New Year.

There were attacks in other parts of the county as well as numerous instances of revelers being injured as many Germans celebrated with their first turn-of-year firework displays since the COVID-19 pandemic began. 

In a series of incidents in Berlin, 15 emergency responders were injured with one of them needing hospital treatment.

The police department said 18 of its officers had been hurt in the unrest.

Berlin's firefighters had to respond to 1,700 calls over the evening and into the morning, only to be met with violence on numerous occasions. The fire department reported that assailants had shot fireworks and thrown beer crates at crews, and had also looted fire vehicles.

The fire brigade said it had been prepared for the situation in light of previous attacks, but that it was surprised by "the number and intensity of attacks on our emergency services."

"There is no justification for this behavior, and I can only condemn it in the strongest possible terms," regional fire chief Karsten Homrighausen said.

Reports of aggression nationwide

Police departments across the country, such as Düsseldorf, also reported "heavily drunk people, rioters, disputes and bodily harm."

Emergency vehicles on a street in Berlin
Firefighters were called to hundreds of incidents and were often met with violenceImage: Paul Zinken/dpa/picture alliance

In the eastern city of Leipzig, police said a 17-year-old was fatally injured while handling unauthorized fireworks.

Police in the northern Bavarian region of Central Franconia said they had experienced "the most intense New Year's Eve in recent years."

Fire officials in Germany's second largest city Hamburg said the night had been "terrifying," with emergency services "aggressively approached" and "literally shot at" with fireworks.

Officials had lifted a coronavirus-pandemic ban on rockets and firecrackers, allowing them to be fired on New Year's Eve for the first time in two years.

Germany's GdP police union called for higher penalties for the perpetrators of attacks on emergency staff.

"The attacks on rescue workers and police officers are brutalization that we cannot accept," GdP representative Andreas Rosskopf told the Rheinische Post newspaper.

rc/dj (AFP, dpa)