Germany′s flag at half-mast for Paris | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 14.11.2015
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Germany's flag at half-mast for Paris

In the aftermath of the terrorist slaughter in Paris, Germany's flag flew at half-mast in the Federal Republic's capital, Berlin, in a symbol of mourning. The mood is subdued, as people look to the future with worry.

On Saturday morning, Germany's minister of the interior, Thomas de Maiziere, ordered the nation's black-red-gold flag to be flown at half-mast throughout the Federal Republic. The order applied to every federal government agency, and saw thousands of German civil servants donning coats and mufflers on a chilly November day to attend to the flagpoles.

"This is a symbol of our sympathy and solidarity with the people of France after the heinous series of attacks in Paris yesterday evening," the Interior Ministry said in a statement released on its website.

That sympathy is very real. Berliners, like Parisians, live in the capital of a leading European nation, and citizens are aware that people just like themselves - ordinary Parisians simply going about their lives - were murdered in Friday's brutal attacks. People worry about what the future might hold in store as sectarian ultraviolence centered on the Middle East spills over, with increasing frequency, into Europe.

Deutschland Berlin Beileidsbekundung vor französischer Botschaft

Many Germans expressed their condolences at the French embassy

Fear and questions

"I'm afraid of more attacks. And I'm also afraid of the reaction of our society - what effect this might have on our commitment to freedom and democracy," said Jakob Weber, a Berliner who works as a sales manager for Germany's railway company, Deutsche Bahn.

"I'm asking myself: Can I carry on as before, or do I as a citizen need to do something now, and get involved somehow?" he wondered.

Weber believes carrying on as before isn't an option, but he doesn't yet know what specifically he personally can or will do. "Somehow, as citizens we need to become more engaged politically in defending freedom, and we need to find a way to build lasting peace," he said.

Chancellor Merkel: "Live our values"

Chancellor Angela Merkel released a long statement expressing her solidarity, and that of Germany, with the people of France. It said the German government had offered every assistance to the French authorities in tracking down those responsible.

"We, France's German friends, we feel so close to you. We weep with you," the chancellor's message said. "This attack on freedom wasn't aimed just at Paris - it was aimed at all of us. And so we're going to respond to it together, all of us."

Merkel drew a contrast between the values of extremists who "hate life lived in freedom" and the modern European values lived by Parisians, a city that celebrates life in liberty. As citizens, Merkel said, "we live from compassion, love of one's neighbors, and joy in community. We believe in everyone's individual right to seek happiness… in respect for others and in tolerance."

She called on Europeans to "answer the terrorists by living our values confidently, and strengthening them in the whole of Europe - now more than ever."

Frankreich Paris Anschlag Gedenken Berlin

Berlin's Brandenburg Gate has been illuminated in the colors of the French flag as a show of German support for France

Targets and risks

Germany has not participated in military actions against Islamist targets in the Middle East or North Africa. There have not been any German fighter jets dropping bombs anywhere.

France, on the other hand, was a major player in the air campaign that drove Moammer Ghadafi from power in Libya, and it has been conducting air strikes against "Islamic State" (IS) targets in Syria and Iraq.

That's why Islamist terrorist actions may be significantly less likely in Berlin than in Paris. But it's impossible to say for sure that attacks won't happen here, said Wolfgang Oels, a father of three small daughters, at an early Christmas market in Berlin.

Addressing causes

"Where does this violence come from and what must be done to stop it?" Oels asked. "To do what they do, 'IS' needs money, weapons and people. I'd have thought it would be easy enough to stop the flow of money and weapons, at least. How can it be that 'IS' sends oil tanker trucks to Turkey to make millions in oil revenues, and no one stops them? And why do various countries keep pumping weapons into the region?"

Weapons can't defeat ideologies; only moderate Muslims can stifle the religion's own extremists, he said. But he said that the West, and especially the US, needed to take responsibility for the mistakes it has made in recent years, pointing out that there had been no apology, no accountability for the tens of thousands that died in Iraq during and after the US invasion.

"We need a new relationship with Islam. We need a dialogue with moderate religious leaders and elites in the Islamic world. We need to talk about what's gone wrong between us in the past and how to build a common future together, in peace and mutual respect," he said.

Oels, an engineer, suggested that "common projects involving Europe and neighboring Muslim regions, such as construction of large-scale solar power capacity in North Africa and the Middle East," could help build mutual trust, provide jobs and prosperity - and begin to drain the swamp of angry, unemployed young men from which "IS" and other extremist groups recruit.

Steinmeier is working on it

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was in Vienna on Saturday for talks between the countries that are sponsoring various sides in Syria's complex and bloody civil war. Steinmeier is the leading convenor of the talks. For weeks, he has been jetting from capital to capital to cajole leaders from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, Russia, the USA and other nations involved in Syria to come together to seek an end to the fighting, in which "IS" militants play a major role.

"The dimension of the horror that is embodied in all this exceeds anyone's ability to imagine it," he said on the sidelines of the talks, in reference to the slaughter in Paris, adding that Germany "stands firmly at the side of our friends in France in their hour of suffering and despair."