tv Focus on Europe PBS January 2, 2017 7:30pm-8:01pm PST
>> hello and welcome to "focus on europe." our program today is not what we had originally planned to bring you in the midst of the holiday season. but we had to change it after germany was hit by a violent act of terror. ♪ a terrorist drove a truck through the middle of a crowded christmas market in berlin. people were killed and many injured. berliners gathered, appalled and confused by the carnage. one woman remarked -- i can not understand the people who make such a thing, quite honestly. >> with the sharp rise of terrorist attacks in europe, many people in germany feared that an attack on the capital
was inevitable. security forces had even warned that christmas markets like the one in berlin would be a likely soft target for terrorists. after all, they are a symbol of an open society, gathered together in a spirit of fun to celebrate a christian festival. now with the islamic state , claiming responsibility, their worst fears have been made real. >> the kaiser wilhelm memorial church was never fully restored after the second world war to serve as a reminder of the horrors of armed conflict. but violence has sadly once again returned to this place. on the morning after the attack, berliners and tourists alike were united in their shock. >> to do something like this in a place where peaceful people are celebrating, crashing in with the truck. you just can't describe it. it's crazy. >> it hurts to know that all these people are dead sorry.
>> i went here also last night, and the atmosphere in the whole city was just like wow, what just happened? so it is so sad to be here. ,>> on monday evening, a truck rammed into the christmas market, mowing down people in its wake. in addition to those killed, more than 40 were injured, many of them seriously. people that had just wanted to enjoy a festive christmas atmosphere. >> we heard glass breaking and saw people like shouting and screaming. some people crying, and there were like people with blood on their face. obviously injured. some people were sitting on the ground. they were like fainted yeah. >> the police quickly sealed off the area in the heart of west berlin. emergency crews came from across the city to help recover the
dead and treat the wounded. >> at there were many people first, crying out for help. but others, who were in a very serious condition, weren't able to speak. so we immediately called for , reinforcements, so that everyone who needed immediate medical help could get it. it was difficult at first as we didn't have enough people. we knew we had to treat the most seriously wounded first, which isn't always those who cry out the loudest. >> for security reasons, police urged the public to stay at home for security reasons. despite talk of a possible accident, it was clear right from the start that it was probably a deliberate attack, aimed at berliners in the run-up to one of the most important christian festivals. >> since it happened, my thoughts have been with those who lost loved ones. that's the most painful thing. >> it is terrible to think that
this is probably the new normal. it's not the first attack we've seen and surely won't be the , last. >> christmas this year has been turned into a time of mourning. mourning for the victims, but also for a society that until now, has enjoyed relative safety and peace. but while sobered by the attack, many berliners say they're determined to hold onto their freedom. >> france has suffered the most deadly attacks by the islamic state in recent years of any country in europe. its citizens have had to endure and recover from loss over and over again. overcoming trauma like this is what the victims of the berlin attack must now undergo. it was about a year ago that emile's whole life changed in a matter of moments. when members of is killed 130 people when they launched attacks on restaurants, cafes and a concert hall in paris. , the young frenchman was caught
up in one of the attacks and he survived. he shared with us how he has learned to cope. >> within seconds, a person's life can change forever, or be extinguished entirely. emile witnessed that for himself on november 13, 2015. > it's also when he truly recognized how important it is to help others. >> now when i see someone on the street who's having problems with their bike, for instance, i'll stop and see what's happening. now i'll take the two minutes. ,>> on the evening of the paris attacks, emile was working at la bonne biere, as usual. suddenly he heard sounds, like , firecrackers, only louder. when the noise stopped, emile left the kitchen to see what was happening. >> it was unimaginable.
a scene of sheer horror. there were pools of blood and people with gunshot wounds all over. >> among the wounded was pauline, a young woman emile's age. >> she'd taken a bullet in her upper arm and another in the leg. i sat down next to her and thought about what i should do. >> emile remained calm. he wrapped a towel around pauline's wounded shoulder, which was bleeding heavily. and he kept talking to her. while they were waiting for help to arrive someone suddenly , shouted that the terrorist was coming back. in his fear, emile ran upstairs to get away, and left pauline downstairs. still she managed to follow him, though she could barely stand up. >> she came towards me and said, please don't leave me alone. please stay with me. and i felt really ashamed for
leaving her. >> at that moment emile realized what it means to be there for someone else. and he knew that only one thing counted that night -- making sure that pauline survived. today, he is convinced that helping pauline also helped him come to grips with the terrorist attack. it enabled him to maintain some semblance of control and kept him from being traumatized by the horrible scenes around him. but most victims of terror attacks react differently. they feel completely helpless in the situation, like martine buisson. twenty years ago, she was sitting in a commuter train on her way to work when a bomb exploded in the neighboring carriage. she suffered both physical injuries and severe psychological trauma. yet she was determined to resume , living a normal life as quickly as possible. >> my doctor wanted to write me
off sick, but i said, if i don't start riding the train to work i'll never get on one again. ,but to this day, i jump whenever i hear a sound that even vaguely resembles an explosion. and it'll likely be that way for the rest of my life. >> emile isn't traumatized by what he experienced. but in the weeks after the attack, he felt compelled to find out what had happened to pauline. >> it was great to find her alive and in a more stable condition. >> the doctors were able to save pauline's arm. but she isn't prepared to talk about her experiences on camera. still, she and emile have felt a connection to one another ever since those terrible hours when they both fought to save her life. >> berlin escaped an attack only a few months ago after authorities captured a suspected terrorist before he was able to
cause harm. jaber al-bakr was detained in a leipzig jail on suspicion of plotting to bomb an airport in berlin. three days later, the syrian refugee, who was believed to have ties to the islamic state, committed suicide. al bakr's death was viewed as a huge loss, a potentially important source of terror intelligence was gone. our correspondent followed the would-be jihadist's trail to find out what went wrong. >> i have fallen in love with jihad. and my religion demands that i protect the servants of god. >> american security agencies, german police, and three syrian refugees prevented jaber al-bakr from carrying out jihad. instead of detonating a suicide vest, he died in prison in leipzig when he managed to strangle himself with his shirt. >> this is the cell where the
prisoner al-bakr committed suicide. >> the prison psychologist and administrators did not evaluate the prisoner as being in acute danger of suicide. his cell was checked only every 30 minutes. in this residential district in chemnitz, the syrian refugee jaber al-bakr was planning a terrorist attack. the first intelligence about the plot came from the u.s. which , had detected a suspicious communication between al-bakr and a unknown person. the saxony state police bungled its operation and al-bakr escaped from his apartment just after 7:00 in the morning. the police searched his apartment all day and into the night. explosives were still there. a bomb crew destroyed it in a controlled detonation. the explosion gives an idea of what al-bakr was planning.
his path to terrorism was indirect. he came from saasaa, a town near syria's capital, damascus. his family is well-to-do and loyal to syria's president, assad. via a low-quality internet connection to syria, jaber's older brother allaa provides an interview. >> jaber had no extremist tendencies. he was normal like all of us, we -- like all of us. we pray and fast, play cards and smoke a water pipe. >> jaber is alledged to have gotten into trouble at his syrian university for criticizing president assad. he fled syria in november 2014, arriving in germany three months later. >> he told me about two imams in germany who where recruiting for jihad. i first noticed a change when he said he often went to them for friday prayers. he could have simply prayed at home. but he preferred to travel four hours to berlin.
>> it wasn't the police who captured al-bakr, but the syrians mohammed, ahmed, and sami. they don't want to show their faces. their families live in areas controlled by is and they fear revenge. we meet in an undisclosed location and they tell us how , they captured al-bakr. >> he called me up around :00 p.m. -- ana 5:00 p.m. -- he called me up around 5:00 and i p.m. asked, 'who are you?' he said he had my number from someone at the train station and he wanted to stay at my place for a few days. he'd been promised a job and would look for an apartment as soon as he started working. i told him, no problem. it's normal among us to help someone who's in trouble. >> al-bakr had contacted syrians in leipzig via a social network. he had apparently been able to take a train from chemnitz to leipzig, despite the large-scale manhunt. the syrians gave al-bakr clean clothing and took a photo of
him. meanwhile, the police had published a wanted poster of al-bakr, also in arabic. mohammed and his friends saw it. > while mohammed hurried back to his apartment with a friend, sami and ahmed went to the police. finally when an officer there , recognized the photo she alerted the sek, germany's armed response unit. meanwhile, mohammed and his friend overpowered the sleeping al-bakr. >> we captured him, and he tried to escape. he said, 'i'll give you money, but let me go." he said he'd received a first payment of 10,000 euros and would get the rest after completing the operation. >> instead mohammed and his , friend sent a photo of the tied-up fugitive to ahmed and sami at the police station. al-bakr was attempting to escape his bonds. shortly before midnight, the sek stormed mohammed's apartment. germany's most-wanted man had
been captured by his own countrymen. the sek brought al-bakr to leipzig prison. three days later, he was dead. and so al-bakr's contacts may remain unknown. islam regards suicide as a sin. for those who believe, the would-be martyr is headed for hell. >> many people are asking themselves if al-bakr could have provided key information to authorities to prevent what happened now in berlin? the attacks on berlin we likely planned as a way to disrupt christmas, a festival that for many europeans symbolises joy, peace and hope. but this can also be a difficult time for many people who barely have the means to survive. our reporters met adults and children in romania, who out of
desperation, that under the streets of bucharest and who can only dream of having a merry and magical christmas. >> when the winter sun hangs low , the historical facade seemed to shine with a warm glow, but many of its residents hardly ever feel that want. hundreds of homeless people live underground at the city possibly tunnel systems. among them are many children. they have set up housekeeping between the pipes that supply the metropolis with heat. the 40-year-old has been sleeping down here for years as well as a number of teenagers. >> this is a stuffed toy that others threw away, but the boys and girls down here don't have any like this. so i collect these things from the trash.
>> a few months ago he took in , 15-year-old daniel. the boy tells us his mother's dead, and his father's an alcoholic. he ran away when he was 10 years. -- he ran away when he was only 10 years old. down here, he's found something like a second home. >> this is my bed here. i have to clean it thoroughly every evening, because everyone who comes through here steps on it with their shoes, and it gets pretty dirty. >> he takes meticulous care of his new lodgings. but it isn't that easy for him to sweep his memory clean of what he experienced at home. i often think of my dead >> i often think of my dead brother. i think of my sister who lives somewhere far away in another country. and i think of my own dead child and the girl i had the baby with. >> many here have similar
stories to tell. they drown the memories in alcohol and other drugs. now, daniel's found something else. as often as he possibly can, he makes the long walk several kilometers across bucharesto a circus performers' school run by the parada child protection ngo. street children have been getting training here for years, learning acrobatics and juggling with rings, balls, and clubs. their instructor is flori budurushi. until a few years ago, she was touring all through europe as a trapeze artist. >> this is a wonderful opportunity for these children to prove that they're good for something in this life. and there are some who really are very talented and have already made the leap into show
business. >> but first, they have to practice for hours under her guidance. they rehearse every figure with utmost precision. it's a tough school and a challenge for daniel. but he wouldn't even think of giving up. >> i feel good here, because i forget all my cares and problems when i'm training. >> then daniel has to go out to , make some money, as he puts it. he heads for a spot close to the romanian parliament. some friends from the tunnels are already there. they hang out together to beg. >> this spot is pretty good, because it's a bit out of view, so the police don't bother us so much here. at the same time, lots of people come along and give us money or something to eat.
>> back at the school, the others keep practicing. some, like 30-year-old alina, have been here for years. she was living on the street, as well, but now she's got a job in a hotel and a room of her own. >> this is my family. i can relax here. i've found the nicest place i've ever had in my life. >> a few hours later, daniel comes back and gets an earful from alina, because he went begging instead of practising. i know what you can do, daniel. >> i know your potential. take an example from me. you can make it, too. so come on and pull yourself together. >> this evening the street , children of bucharest have something special planned. they're going to show off their skills at a christmas market. for some of them, it'll be their public debut.
many of them have been living in the shadows for years. now they're in the spotlight. just for one day, they can be heroes. >> it's so nice when i see people stop and watch us. and i really like it when i see them smile. that just feels good. >> while bucharest gets into the holiday spirit up above, daniel climbs back down into the heating tunnels. the kids have set up their own christmas tree. down here, it seems more like a plea for a normal childhood. >> i hope that this experience with the circus will give daniel the confidence that he needs to one day leave the tunnels and have a normal life. before catholic priest philipp
irmer left his home in germany to run a parish bohemia, the westernmost region in the czech republic, not only was church attendance dwindling, but many holy buildings and sites were falling into disrepair. but now, thanks to him, everything is on the up. >> philipp irmer is on his way to work. the 48-year-old catholic priest is from the western german city of munster. since 2003, he's been assigned to a parish in north bohemia. this tuesday morning, the service is sparsely attended. father philipp says that's not unusual. >> it's relatively cold in the church. it's not like in germany, with good heating systems. so, i would say that is why attendance is so meager. >> it was much worse he says the same the first time he came to north boehmia, in the 1990's. the churches then were empty and rundown. some even in ruins. still, 13 years ago, he took
over responsibility for five parishes and three large churches as the only german priest in all of the czech republic. why did he decide to come? >> where there's nothing, you can build something. it's different from administrating something that keeps shrinking. that's what makes our diaspora and missionary situation so exiting. -- situation so exciting. >> 1.03 >> helping to build something up, and to bring back faith to the region father philipp immediately made this his daily mission. this area lost part of its identity with the expulsion of sudeten germans after world war ii. it's also been ravaged by lignite open-cast mining, with hundreds of villages and towns razed after 1945. >> there's no sense of rootedness here. the former residents who might have felt at home were forced out long ago. and the people who have come here since then, who could see
this as their new home, have no real connection. >> those are challenges father philipp still has to contend with. but he's not intimidated by them . on the contrary he's inspired to , take on tasks such as restoring the pilgrimage church in bohosudov, known as mariaschein in german. though the work is underway, there are often setbacks. for instance, when the facade was repainted, there wasn't enough money for all the scaffolding, so the top of the church spire could not be renovated. >> i find that terrible. if this church were in bavaria, the work would have been finished long ago, and the rest here as well. >> how does he manage it all? the priest takes a simple approach. >> good beer, good food, good people. and trust in the lord. >> that appears to be slowly returning to north bohemia, thanks for father philipp irmer.
on sundays at least, up to 60 parishioners now attend mass each of the three churches. it helps that he has made an effort to learn czech. >> everything's different with him. he has modern ideas. when i go to church with my grandmother, it's very conservative. here, everything's very open and free. it's very nice. >> father philipp likes it here in north bohemia, and he considers it his new home. >> this is my world, plain and simple. i love the people and what i'm allowed to do here. >> and there is still plenty to do in order to give the old churches here new life. >> now, in the midst of the holiday season, there is a great sadness across germany. the attack on berlin. in an attack not just against the west but against christian values, people here are mourning. ♪
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