Opinion Piece by Astrid Passin
Berlin, October 2023
Because of my own experience of losing a relative in a terrorist attack, my search began into the needs of those similarly affected. The loss of my father on 19 December 2016, at the Christmas market in Berlin, was so impactful that my role in life became one of helping victims of terrorism in Germany and abroad.
It became increasingly clear that clarification and investigation of this event was important; especially for someone who had lost a loved one. My respect for all first responders, police officers, emergency services, witnesses and injured persons, became so strong that I felt these individuals’ experiences should be given a more prominent position and treated with due recognition, following acts of terrorism.
Individual needs are very different, because of the various components that make each life so unique. One’s first view “outside” can be blocked, or a new path can be opened. What is important is that needs are accepted and acknowledged over time; that everyone has their own way of dealing with and coming to terms with their unique experience. This is why it is all the more important to document these different experiences; to encourage us to consider that any extraordinary event requires society to find a completely different approach to acknowledging it.
And this starts in schools, with those children and young people who need special protection due to the loss of one or both of their parents; with the way children, whose parents are marked by loss because of a terrorist attack, will be brought up in a way that will instil in them a different perception of life, of how they think of their security; subconsciously, automatically. Furthermore, it remains to be seen whether, when – in the future – reflecting on terrorist attacks on German soil, the State response to acts of terrorism will, uncomfortably, remain the same.
For many decades, the topic of supporting victims of these acts has been an unpleasant and uncomfortable one for politicians, because the threat of an attack always hides an ideological component that no one wants to examine. This has led to cases being ignored, only being examined if a victim or a journalist raises the subject of State responsibility following a terrorist attack.
The position and actions of politicians, guardians of the State, are twofold; that of failed protectors of the people and, during judicial processes, that of State representatives hiding from the victims, refusing to acknowledge their guilt when errors have been made by governmental authorities. Such behaviour can only be deemed inadequate, while highlighting the politicians’ (lack of) involvement is always labelled as a “threat to the welfare of the State”. No one wants to jeopardise national security methods or question their competence, but it is of considerable importance that the victims at least receive an acknowledgement of state remorse.
Appropriate medical and financial care are fundamental to the healthy development of the individual; the loss of a loved one, the lifelong consequences and hardships related to victimisation do not diminish over time without such support. A caring approach would benefit the health insurance companies and pension offices more than having to assume the escalating costs of the growing damage – especially considering the trust the state has in them.
Spokeswoman for the surviving dependents and affected from Dec 19, 2016