They were injured, some seriously. They were suspected of having committed the attacks themselves and they are traumatized. These are the victims of the terrorist attacks in Cologne that occurred between 2001 and 2004.
Eleven years ago, a German-Iranian woman was wounded in an attack on a grocery store in Cologne. Three years later on Keupstraße in Cologne, a nail bomb exploded. In this predominantly Turkish neighborhood 22 people were injured. Just last year it was revealed that the National Socialist Underground (NSU), a neo-Nazi organization was behind both attacks.
The chairman of the neo-Nazi investigation committee, Sebastian Edathy, was in Cologne to talk to victims on Friday. The meeting was attended by the federal government's ombudswoman for the victims, Barbara John, and Cologne's police chief, Wolfgang Albers. However only nine people, who were victims of the attack itself or relatives of victims, were part of the conversation. The meeting was closed to the public and took almost three and a half hours. Even during the press conference, the representatives of the victims did not want to talk about the attacks. They did not want to continue with their previous life in the public, said Barbara John.
Victims twice over
The victims of the attack in Keupstraße have had all kinds of problems. For many, life has fundamentally changed, John said, citing the "chronic health problems because they lost their jobs; because social relations were disrupted, which included openly voiced suspicions that they themselves were involved in the attacks."
Edathy also stressed that it has become clearer through the dialogue, just how traumatic the events were. These people were victims twice: once for a serious offense, and again because of the false accusations.
The committee will submit its final report next year and Edathy said it would examine how long-term care for traumatized victims could be organized differently in future. Victims of such attacks needed more attention and fixed contact persons.
Improving victim protection
How this will look in practice is still unclear. Ersan Atan, who was at the event representing his father, said that the discussions had been very open and sometimes very personal. The politicians had listened to them and were understanding of the victims suffering. But will something really be done for the victims? Ersan Atan is optimistic: "I hope so," he said.
Reinhard Schön, a lawyer representing five victims' families, is cautiously optimistic about the talks, "Some victims are in bad shape. There have been initial commitments of assistance." But, he said, victim protection and victim support had fallen short over the years and only now is it starting to take hold, "We are happy for any help there is."