THE BLOG

How the Paris Terror Attacks Have Already Changed Germany

Flowers are placed in front of the embassy of France close to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Nov. 16, 2015,
Flowers are placed in front of the embassy of France close to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Nov. 16, 2015, to honor the victims of the terrorist attacks in France on Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Multiple attacks across Paris on Friday night have left scores dead and hundreds injured. Text on poster reads 'We are all Parisians'. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

The past few days were full of tense moments that were somewhat foreign to Germans.

  • The barely manageable fear of unclaimed baggage.
  • The unjust fear of Arab-looking men.
  • Feeling uncomfortable on the subway.
  • A suppressed thought of perhaps not going to the stadium.

One thing has changed this time.

There were deadly terrorist attacks in Europe before the attack in Paris. Madrid, London, Brussels. For over 10 years, Islamist extremists have murdered people in countries that are connected to Germany by both the EU and NATO. For the first time, Germans are very aware that the terror might also hit them. And with good reason.

This would be the first exposure of what is perhaps the biggest political lie in Germany of the early 21st century, starting from when Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) refused to give allegiance to Americans in early 2003. At that time, the Federal Republic of Germany stayed out of the Iraq war, and most Germans trusted that their country was safe from terrorist attacks.

Political illusions in the fight against terror.

Al Qaeda -- the most closely followed terrorist franchise in the world -- only bombed those who were at war in the Arabian Peninsula, and were part of the Persian Gulf War.

Many German citizens, at that time, secretly believed that Spaniards and Britons were deceptively complicit in the attacks against their nations -- after all, they made themselves a target by following George W. Bush.

But terrorists obviously don't follow strategic patterns, as Germans quickly understood during the failed bombing of Cologne's main train station in 2006, and the deadly attack at Frankfurt Airport in 2011.

France is very close to Germany.

That France, a former anti-war ally from 2003, has been struck twice in less than a year, brutally reveals that terror can reach any Western nation. And France is closer to Germany than any other country. These past days have revealed how deep the friendships between these countries have become: the German-French youth office, alone, has helped a total of 8.2 million young people to enroll in foreign exchange programs since its inception in 1963.

Many Germans have memories in Paris. Or, at least, longings to spend time there.

Explosions sounded in German living rooms.

The attacks were committed in the middle of the city, in tourist locations. Locations you would most likely have seen if you've been to Paris. That's why Germans empathize with the French in the wake of these attacks. The murders did not happen on the other side of the world, but 200 kilometers from Germany's western border.

Additionally, the explosions in St. Denis sounded during the broadcast of the traditional soccer match between Germany and France. In the second half-time, millions of people witnessed a surreal spectacle: football commentary was mixed with reports of attacks, deaths, and injuries. Imagine if Americans had experienced this during the annual "Super Bowl."

So the bombs were heard even in German living rooms. The acting chairman of the DFB, Reinhard Rauball, said "Football has taken a different turn," in response to the news of the terror-related cancellation of a match between Germany and Netherlands on Tuesday.

Germany has changed dramatically.

Germany has changed dramatically since the parliamentary elections in 2013. The silence of the first eight years of Merkel's term is gone, and gone with it is the belief that things are well and fine in Germany. The Federal Republic is in the midst of one of the most intense political debates in decades.

One of the most important questions is whether or not Germany is strong enough to handle the influx of asylum seekers. For the right-wing populists, the bombings represent a "downfield pass." They've been spouting disgusting slogans for days, which have resonated with fearful citizens. Meanwhile, the AFD (the far-right party, Alternative for Germany) is the third-strongest party in the polls.

The great uncertainty. The debate hits even those who had previously defended Angela Merkel's "Welcoming culture." Now they see themselves confronted with fresh fears.

Indeed, no one can guarantee whether or not potential terrorists have snuck in among the million asylum seekers in Germany.

This doesn't mean Germany is at risk of attack. Then again, maybe it is. No one knows...

And that's a new feeling.

This post first appeared on HuffPost Germany. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.