Berlin (dpa) – Hundreds of people gathered in central Berlin on Thursday to commemorate the 12 victims of the 2016 Christmas market attack, which saw an Islamist militant plough across the city’s Breitscheidplatz square in a steel-laden truck.
Mourners gathered at the memorial in front of Berlin’s Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church – a golden crack in the ground – to lay down wreaths, light candles and stand in quiet contemplation.
On December 19, 2016, Tunisian national Anis Amri drove a stolen truck through the festive gathering there, killing 11 people and injuring 70 more. Amri had already killed the driver of the truck and seized his vehicle to carry out the attack.
The commemorative event – attended by Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller, as well first responders and some of the injured – included a speech by Protestant minister Martin Germer as well as statements from family members of the victims.
“For us this day was literally the darkest day of the year,” said an Israeli woman whose mother was killed.
She added that though the wound of losing her mother was unlikely to heal, she was sure that she had been happy in the final minutes of her life, “and that is how I will remember her.”
At 8.02 pm (1802 GMT), the time of the attack, the bells of church at the square rang out 12 times. The lights at the Christmas market were temporarily switched off as an act of commemoration.
Addressing the country’s parliament earlier, the German Bundestag President Wolfgang Schaeuble told lawmakers that the victims of the attack had not been forgotten.
Schaeuble said lawmakers are addressing shortcomings in how the country’s security agencies work together to prevent such attacks in the future.
Amri was later shot dead in Italy several days after the attack. There have been fierce discussions over errors associated with the case.
An investigative committee from the Bundestag heard on Thursday that a senior police officer had written about Amri, a known radical Islamist, in his deployment diary.
According to the diary, a joint state and federal terror defence committee discussed Amri’s case in February 2016 and recommended he be monitored by the authorities in Berlin.
Many victims of the attack are receiving financial support but this was late in coming and many complained they had been unable to get the support they needed.