A note of solidarity from beleaguered Berlin

A note of solidarity from beleaguered Berlin


norman lebrecht

December 23, 2016

Our diarist Anthea Kreston lives close to the market that was attacked. Here are her resolutions, as an American in Berlin.


This week, Berlin suffered a tragedy – a terrorist attack at a Christmas Market close to our home.  Similar to the attack in Nice, France, this major attack (by a truck cutting a tornado of death and destruction through a festive market) was the deadliest terrorist act on German soil in many years.   Germany now joins Brussels, France in a tragic reality of fear and unsettled sadness. This is the third, and most immediate terrorist experience for me since our move here. 

The Christmas Market which was attacked surrounds the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church – or, the “Broken Church”.  It remains, as it was at the end of World War II, a jagged tooth – a broken reminder of what befell. It is just down the street from us – on the glamorous Ku-Damm, our version of 5th Avenue. I was practising and Jason came in – he said have you looked at your phone? – and I looked down and it was going crazy with messages. He said – it happened, it happened here. I almost immediately threw up. The girls were asleep already, but on my phone are fresh photos of them on the kiddie rides at the market, just days old.

When I started this diary for Slipped Disc 10 months ago, I decided to give myself a few simple restrictions. One of these was to remain neutral politically. As a musician, we often find ourselves at a cross-road. We, as musicians, are a multi-colored, multi-oriented and multi-national band of people who make our way through life in always creative ways – looking for connection, for inspiration from one another.  We often find ourselves as a small island of entertainers, entertaining people who may not share our natural openness, our desire for inclusiveness. Conversations after concerts with patrons can be sensitive, and we more often than not steer clear of any possible conflict – innately sensing when a fundamental difference exists. 

So, with this in mind, I have been asked to share my thoughts of recent events here and in the States as a musician living abroad. Here goes – I will do my best.

I am afraid, afraid for my children, my friends, for myself, and for the earth. I am afraid of the inherent darkness of humans – and the encouragement of this darkness. I am afraid of the way people may feel they can teach their children – the newly acceptable parameters of right and wrong. 

The day after the US election, the night of which was spent in fits and starts as I continually checked the New York Times coverage, I felt powerless. Somehow, I had expected a confirmation of our belief that women were indeed equal, powerful and capable of whatever they desired. Am I fooling myself?  Are we less?  Can we not be trusted with great responsibility?  All the teeny and not-so-teeny slights I have experienced my whole life – I was ready to turn a new leaf, to kindly but firmly mark my space, to not brush aside these daily reminders of my place in the world as a woman. 

My daughter, the day before the election, told me her friend at school said that if the man became president, there would be a war. I assured her that this would not be the case – to not worry. There is a swirling darkness, something that is not right with the world now. I don’t have any answers for my daughter. 

With the attack this week in Berlin, I experienced a strange numbness. I stopped, hesitated, spoke to Jason, posted an “all is well with our family” on Facebook, then went back to practicing. I just felt, and still feel, like I am in a dream state. I have begun to accept this new reality. Angela Merkel is in trouble. The Right is attacking, and she is the last head of state who stands strongly for democracy here. With the United States at a crossroads, Europe in a struggle between right and left, I can’t shake the feeling that we are living at a juncture in history. A juncture which will become a fundamental curriculum in school for children in the future. They will ask, “why didn’t they see it coming, why didn’t they do anything?”

I regularly speak by FaceTime to my friends in the States. I feel far away and unsure of what the feeling is there on the ground.  I walk around with my safety pin on my shirt. It is a symbol of support for those in need of support – I will stand by you in any moment of injustice. I believe in equality. I know this is a small thing – to put a pin on my shirt – but I do stand up for others and will continue to do so. I have always been unafraid and quick to act in danger. I will continue to work with the refugees here. I will continue to teach my children strength of character and kindness. I will steady myself, stay focused and strong. I will do this for myself and for my family. I know you will too.



  • Andy says:

    Why does Hillary Clinton losing the election demonstrate that women aren’t equal? Maybe it just demonstrates that not enough people wanted Hillary Clinton to be president, rightly or wrongly.

    • Scott Fields says:

      It’s not that a woman wasn’t elected President. It’s that the man who was elected has a history of treating women badly, and with a profound lack of respect, and because he campaigned on a platform that strips women of some protections, such as abortion rights and workplace equality.

      • Andy says:

        That’s not how the paragraph reads though, it’s about being ‘powerful’ and ‘trusted with responsibility’, which, to me, suggests the writer is talking about Hillary (not) becoming president, not Trump’s views of women.

        • Scott Fields says:

          That’s not what I got. Guess we’d have to ask the author.

        • Bruce says:

          Andy, here’s how I understood her remarks:

          When the thing you think is right looks like it’s finally going to happen, and the only reason it hasn’t happened yet is that “people aren’t ready for it,” and it looks like your society is finally ready for it, and the candidate in question has superb qualifications, and the opposing candidate has pretty much no qualifications, and then the thing doesn’t happen — it’s natural to question whether the thing you thought was right really is right.

          Since I’m a musician, I can tell you most musicians have had at least one big disappointment/ rejection during their development that made them wonder whether they were on the right path: “maybe I’m not as talented as I thought; maybe what I have to say is actually not that important.” Or even, if you look around and realize everyone else has a tough time of it too, “Maybe there’s just no point in anyone trying to be a musician —” (see http://tinyurl.com/zlgq4b7). “What if I’m not only wrong to think I can succeed, but I’m wrong to even think success in this field would be a good thing?” It’s easy to tell someone to believe in themselves even if no one else does; but not everyone has infinite self-confidence. (Studying physical therapy, there were plenty of moments of “maybe I’m just not meant for this” doubt among my classmates; but at least they didn’t have to question whether physical therapy was a viable career in the US.)

          So: when an election like ours, with candidates like the ones we had, turns out the way ours did, it’s natural to wonder if our country will ever be ready for a female head of state. A man with her qualifications (senator, secretary of state) would have been considered eminently qualified; the ethical questions surrounding her e-mail server and ties to Wall St. would have been considered pretty uninteresting for a male candidate.

          And the worst part is to wonder “what if they’re right, in some way I don’t quite understand? If I was wrong about this — and I was so sure — what else might I be wrong about?”

          That’s what I read in that paragraph, anyway. Just my $.02 ($.016 after taxes).

          • Helen Wynn says:

            Had Hillary Clinton not soiled herself by setting up a private server to hide her personal communication and then lied about it and further had she not soiled herself by involving herself with the Clinton Foundation while Secretary of State, she might well have been elected President of the United States. It was not her femaleness but her lies and lack of attention to the middle of American that was her undoing. Personally, I could not vote for either Clinton or Trump. I choose none of the above. But please, Trump is now President. Can’t you stop for angst for a moment and give him a chance.

          • Bruce says:

            Helen —

            Notice I didn’t say that Clinton would have won if she’d been a man; but I don’t think the e-mail server, the foundation, the ties to Wall St. etc. would have been considered such a big deal with a male candidate. (Also I don’t think the Republican party would have spent so much energy for the last 24 years smearing a male candidate as they have spent on her — even if all the stuff they have said about her was true, I don’t think they would have bothered if she’d been a man.)

            I left the “angst” stage behind some weeks ago. However, I admire people’s seeming ability to ignore everything Trump has said and done before and after the election, and give him a blank slate, as if he’s a mystery candidate we know nothing about, and everyone is jumping to unfair conclusions.

            P.S. in practical terms, everyone who did not vote for Clinton, voted for Trump, whether by commission (voting for DJT or one of the 3rd-party candidates) or omission (voting for no one). I can understand despising both candidates in an election to the point where you can’t bring yourself to vote for either one; but I don’t have time for those who try to pretend that their action, or lack thereof, played no part in the result.

      • Sue says:

        Oh, is THAT what it takes to get the sclerotic American economy moving and people back into jobs? I was wondering…perhaps he should spend his time talking, preaching, entertaining rap ‘singers’ and having his wife doing the chicken dance on Ellen.



        • John says:

          Helen Wynne,


          I hope you enjoy giving Donald Trump a chance. He is the most completely unprepared and unqualified person in history to step into the office, and his numerous atrocious appointments for cabinet and other positions telegraph to the country how at odds his presidency will be with the stated will of the American people. It’s not a tribute to the US voter that he even got close to elected, let alone elected.

          I’ll just hope that he doesn’t further destroy the fabric of a once-great nation.

    • John says:

      Just for the record, Andy, Secretary Clinton received nearly three million more votes from voters than did Mr. Trump. She received more votes than any candidate in our history except for President Obama’s historic victory in 2008. So I think your statement that not enough PEOPLE (as in, not the Electoral College) wanted her to be president is completely inaccurate.

      • Anon says:

        John, surely the observation is entirely accurate, Not enough people voted for Clinton. How many voted for Trump or others is irrelevant, as is the ratio. If more had voted Clinton (in the right places, of course), then she would have won. The system is what it is, like it or not – but the statement is true. Not enough people voted Clinton for it to work out.

  • Marg says:

    Anthea, Im glad to know you and your family are safe despite being so close to the scene of the terrorist attack and having visited there recently. Like you, I feel we are at a juncture in much of the western world. Truth is becoming distorted and relative, even in the mouths of national leaders. To be living so close to the scene of a terrorist act must be unsettling indeed. I wish you and your family a peaceful Christmas.

  • Sue says:

    Damn those trucks!! Somebody needs to do something about them. Perhaps a Plan B-Double?

  • Lorna Salzman says:

    With due respect to someone who shows compassion, I was stunned to see that her focus was on two things only (and both were addressing potential future political conditions): Donald Trump’s election and the prospect of a right wing movement in Europe. Nowhere was there any acknowledgement that the world, especially Europe, is in imminent danger from neither of these but from radical Islam and the Muslim migrants who are now causing havoc in Germany, France, Netherlands and Great Britain. Her letter is typical of the liberals who refuse to speak the truth or understand the origins of the new violence in Europe. It was people like her who were rejected by Trump supporters, as well as people like me who fervently believe in Enlightenment values, freedom of speech, association and inquiry and particularly the equality and empowerment of women everywhere.That Islam and observant Muslims CATEGORICALLY REJECT ALL OF THESE VALUES has not yet penetrated the brain of the paleoliberals, who think that their own tolerance of intolerance will stop religiously inspired violence and atrocities against nonMuslims, gays, women and apostates. The liberals thus end up as willing executioners and must assume a large part of the blame for the rampaging Muslim men who think raping children and women are the norm. It is the liberals and the left (as Jonathan Pie, a/k/a Tom Walker said) who
    are responsible not only for Trump’s victory but for the surge of the right wing in Europe. Had they taken Islamist violence seriously and worked to curb Islam in society, schools, mosques and government, they would have earned support and trust. Now they have quite deservedly been taught a lesson, as have the Democrats in the U.S. who naively thought their typical election year blackmail would rouse all the independents, feminists, blacks and the poor and that social justice issues would rule the day. They deserved to be defeated. But let’s hope that the loony left and its own brand of authoritarianism, PC, social justice wars and racist ravings against whites does not establish a strong hold. If they do we will be exchanging one form of potential totalitarian ideology for another.

    • Helen Wynn says:

      Very well said. Thank you.

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      Thank you. Let’s get back to reality. You cannot make a deal, and call that deal ‘integration’ or something else, with people that see your tolerance and oppen-heartedness as a definite sign of weakness. The West’s elites multicultural dream has become a nightmare, it’s our own fault, and the price we pay is he Donald, AfD, etc.

    • M2N2K says:

      Thank you for finally providing a drop of common sense that seems to stop, if only for a short while, that sadly usual flood of nonsensical BS otherwise known as PC.

  • Nice-Berlin Solidar(t)ité says:

    Hi, Nice is here to support Berlin! On January 29, about 20 of our best artists are banding together for a fabulous show (theater, music, dance, readings and an expo) at a large Niçois theater, and ALL proceeds from ticket sales and the sale of artwork go to the victims of the Berlin attack. More infos on FB under Nice-Berlin Solidar(t)ité. Whoever is in Nice on that day, do come along!

  • Lorna Salzman says:

    This started out as an expression of horror and then tragic compassion arising from the Berlin bombing, but quickly turned into a typical liberal avoidance strategy: appealing to the innocent, good-willed people to show their tolerance towards their torturers. How can anyone in her right mind, with children and a belief in tolerance and democracy, fail to condemn those who are responsible for the violence and intolerance? She is writing for the wrong audience. She needs to examine her moral void and her reluctance to identify the criminals responsible for hate and violence: the Muslims acting in the name of Islamic law and who are determined to DESTROY the very values that this naive writer spouts with the intent of proving that she is a tolerant and loving person…so much so to the point of tolerating intolerance and hatred that is directed at HER. She is innocent of crimes but guilty of refusing to acknowledge them. She really needs a new moral compass or her children will grow up morally confused (though hopefully without experiencing the hatred being directed against them).