Was This Germany’s 9/11?

After the Berlin attack, Germans are grappling with a choice between who they want to be and who they need to be.

On December 19, it happened: the gruesome, heart-wrenching terrorist attack on Germany’s capital that many expected, and that the West’s radical Islamist enemies warned was coming. A radical Muslim in a truck mowed into a crowd in a Berlin Christmas market, killing 12 and injuring 48 others.

The question is, what effect will this attack have on Germany and Europe?

Only time will tell. But this could be a game changer. One analyst said the day after the attack that this could be Germany’s 9/11. It’s easy to exaggerate in the moment, but he may be right. The death count is far lower, but the symbolism and, more importantly, the consequences—on Germany and Europe, and eventually even the international community—could be similar.

The attack joined the already long list of Islamist terrorist attacks on Europe, a list that includes the Charlie Hebdo slaughter (12 deaths), the November 2015 Paris attacks (130 deaths), the Brussels bombings (32 deaths), the Cologne sexual assaults (1,200 victims), the Nice massacre (84 deaths), the Würzburg ax assault (5 injured), the Reutlingen attack (1 killed, 2 injured), the Munich shooting (9 deaths) and the Ansbach festival suicide attack (15 injured). But what happened in Berlin is likely to impact Germans and Germany more profoundly than these. Why?

To begin with, three reasons: the timing, the target and the location.

The Timing and Target

The timing of the attack, less than a week before Christmas, resonated powerfully with the German people. Germans have a special, fervent love of this holiday. The Christmas tradition is rooted in ancient Babylon but was perpetuated particularly well by the Germans. This wasn’t just an attack on a crowd of people, a community or even a city; it was an attack on a deep-seated cultural and social tradition. It was an attack on what it means to be German, at least at this time of year. “During the last months of the year, Germany is extra popular because of its Christmas markets,” explains Berlin-Enjoy.com, a popular travel blog. “The German Christmas atmosphere is different from most other countries in the world. The German people simply love Christmas, and this can be observed on the streets, in the shopping centers and even around touristic attractions.”

Today this love of Christmas is more cultural and social than spiritual or religious. Still, Christmas is obviously a distinctly Christian practice. The radical Islamist terrorists know this—and so do Germans, many of whom view this as an assault on Germany’s Christian heritage. There is already growing momentum in Germany (especially in the conservative, traditional south) and Europe to revive and defend Europe’s Christian roots. This trend isn’t obvious; Europe’s churches aren’t overflowing. But look at the politicians and parties whose popularity is growing, like François Fillon in France and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands. These and a host of others all seek to revive Europe’s Christian heritage.

December’s attack drove home the message to Germans that Germany’s Christian culture, its Christian traditions, and its Christian values and morality are under attack. The response, quite naturally, will be for growing numbers of Germans to gravitate toward the leader or political party they believe will best defend them.

Consider also the specific target of this attack. Christmas markets are a feature in villages, towns and city centers across Germany in the weeks before Christmas. Some are internationally renowned, attracting tourists from all over the world. The market attacked in Berlin, the Weihnachtsmarkt an der Gedächtniskirche, is one of Berlin’s most popular; more than 2 million people visit each year. If you’re American, what happened in Berlin is akin to a 50-ton truck thundering down 6th Avenue and plowing through spectators at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The attack on a Christmas market just before Christmas resonated with Germans in a unique and personal way.


Consider too the location of this attack. Berlin is Germany’s capital and, in many respects, the capital of Europe. It is home to the Bundestag, most of Germany’s intellectual and political leadership, and the most powerful person in Europe, Angela Merkel.

But Berlin is more than just a national capital. It is Germany’s shining city on a hill. It’s a symbol of the progress and achievements of postwar and post-unification Germany. Berlin is a glowing testament to Germany’s incredible post-unification transformation, and a prophecy—in the eyes of the German elite—of Germany’s future.

During the Cold War, Berlin was divided and dilapidated. Since 1989, however, it has become one of Europe’s most vibrant, wealthy, sophisticated and liberal cities. Berlin is cosmopolitan and multicultural, a city marinating in various cultures, races and religions. Time magazine in 2009 called Berlin Europe’s capital of “cool.”

Now consider the mentality and spirit behind Berlin’s stunning transformation. Berlin was created by German liberals and today is the epicenter of German liberalism. To Germany’s intellectual and political class, the city of Berlin—its culture, laws, atmosphere, politics and media—embodies what it means to be a post-unification German: secular, sophisticated, tolerant, open-minded, multicultural, environmentally friendly.

Berlin is home to Germany’s leaders and trendsetters, the intellectual elite, the mainstream media, members of the mainstream political parties, the nation’s top journalists, professors, artists and politicians. And it’s from Berlin that these liberal leaders seek to transform the rest of the country into Berlin. From Berlin they beam their message of tolerance, multiculturalism and secularism to the rest of the nation.

This attack shows that radical Islamist terrorism is not being stopped, not even in Europe’s most important city. This attack in Berlin—a city that supposedly testifies to the countless benefits of being multicultural, progressive and sophisticated—exposed the dangerous flaws of German liberalism. It revealed that multiculturalism, secularism, tolerance and open-mindedness can be deadly.

Time will tell, but this could be a milestone event in the evolution of the post-unification German psyche. It could mark the moment Germany stopped moving toward being progressive, secular and multicultural and began moving much more quickly toward its more traditional, conservative, nationalist roots.

In Berlin on December 19, noble dreams met grim reality. Being open-minded and multicultural, altruistic and welcoming of migrants can be wonderful and empowering—until an Islamist terrorist hijacks a lorry and plows into innocent bystanders enjoying a Christmas market. There will be more terrorist attacks in Europe, and with each attack this reality will grow more evident.

As it does, Germans and Europeans will increasingly substitute postwar values with basic human urges. Tolerance will be replaced by prejudice, multiculturalism by patriotism, the community spirit with a greater determination for self-preservation.

Berliners, the German people and even Europeans in general will increasingly grapple with a choice between who they want to be and who they need to be. They might want to be progressive, open-minded and tolerant, but the message from Berlin and all the other attacks is that they need to be more cynical, more unforgiving and more confrontational. This, you can be sure, is a trend that will affect us all.

What Can We Expect?

Following the Berlin attack (as well as the others), the response from the Merkel administration and Germany’s mainstream elite was alarming. While they were certainly sobered by the attack and displayed compassion for the victims, Merkel and her colleagues were extremely apathetic about the broader causes of the attack.

There was no dramatic and forceful response from Merkel or her government. No meaningful change in direction. No recognition that her migrant policies are flawed and have clearly put Germany in danger. There were plenty of platitudes, but no major decisions; plenty of promises, but no noticeable actions.

Many in the West, especially intellectuals, would argue that this “rational,” unemotional response speaks to Germany’s postwar transformation. This is how an advanced, sophisticated nation is supposed to react in this situation.

Millions of Germans, however, will not see Merkel’s response this way. It is very human amid such a crisis to seek vengeance, and to go into self-preservation mode. The Berlin attack will add massively to the public’s frustration and disillusionment with mainstream politicians, particularly Chancellor Merkel. In fact, many Germans consider Merkel responsible for these attacks.

These frustrated Germans don’t want to persecute migrants, beat them up, imprison them or kill them. They are not Nazis seeking to commit genocide against German Muslims. Most are regular, sound-thinking, rational people, many of whom have great sympathy for the migrants. But they are justifiably concerned and alarmed at the impact millions of migrants are having on Germany—on its institutions, its infrastructure, its economy, its culture and its people. They are frightened by the prospect of more terrorist attacks. And they are concerned that Merkel’s government refuses to give serious attention to their fears and worries.

Merkel’s failure to react more energetically to the Berlin attack, her failure to recognize the extent of the problem and the part her policies played in creating it, and her failure to take the German public’s concerns seriously are deeply alarming. By failing to tackle these issues, Angela Merkel is turning the German people into a ticking time bomb!

The more disillusioned, frustrated and angry the German people become, the more vulnerable they will be to radical politics and radical leaders with radical solutions.

Bible prophecy says we can expect this scenario. The book of Daniel is written specifically for the “time of the end” (Daniel 8:17; 12:4, 9). Passage after passage describes a powerful leader who will shake the world. He will be the “king of the north” (Daniel 11:40), ruling over a united European power. He will most likely be the leader of Germany, which controls the rest of the European Union.

What type of man is this new leader? The Bible says that “the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god” (verse 36). He will be a “king of fierce countenance” (Daniel 8:23). He is assertive, aggressive and ambitious. He is a strong leader!

This leader will come “understanding dark sentences” (same verse)—or, as Clarke’s Commentary puts it, he will be “learned and skillful in all things relating to government and its intrigues.” He is very different from Germany’s current leader.

Angela Merkel has been one of the most popular and successful postwar German chancellors. For 11 years, she has been exactly the leader Germans have wanted. But Germans now want—and need—a leader with a different personality and different policies. They need someone who speaks the truth and who is willing to confront the issues.

Daniel 11 says this strongman comes into power through “flatteries” (verse 21). The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary says that “the nation shall not, by a public act, confer the kingdom on him, but he shall obtain it by artifice, ‘flattering.’” Daniel’s prophecy also says that the people “shall not give the honour of the kingdom” to this person.

All this indicates that this man will not come to power through normal democratic processes. Will the Berlin attack somehow hasten the end of Merkel’s chancellorship? Will we see a strongman, someone willing to act with power and decisiveness, made chancellor even before national elections next autumn?

Angela Merkel has been an excellent leader in many respects, and Germany has thrived under her leadership. But events like the Berlin attack show that Germany is close to the end of the Merkel era. Germany needs someone stronger, someone more confrontational, someone more decisive, and someone capable of making hard and unpopular decisions.

Watch for that man to rise.