Photo taken on Dec. 19, 2017 shows a view of memorial crack to commemorate the 1st anniversary of the attack on a Christmas market at Breitscheidplatz of Berlin, capital of Germany. (Xinhua/Shan Yuqi)
BERLIN, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) -- The German government on Tuesday asked victims for forgiveness as Berlin commemorates the first anniversary of a deadly terrorist attack on a Christmas market in the capital.
Officials needed to "do things better, which were not done well" a year ago, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a speech.
Similarly, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier raised the question of whether "we are really doing everything that we can, within the confines of democracy and the rule of law, to prevent terrorist attacks"?
Steinmeier urged authorities to "clarify omissions" in their investigations into the attack and "learn from mistakes".
Anis Amri, a Tunisian national with radical Islamist views, killed a total of 12 people and injured around 100 others when he drove a truck into a crowd of pedestrians at the Breitscheidplatz Christmas market on Dec. 19, 2016.
A few days later, Amri was shot dead by police in Italy while seeking to escape from security forces in a Europe-wide manhunt.
Since then, many of those affected in the attack have complained about a general lack of support, difficulties in contacting responsible officials and slow decision-making processes.
Additionally, questions still remain as to whether European police forces coordinated well enough, or could have even prevented the attack, given that Amri was known by authorities to be potentially violent.
"We were not adequately prepared to deal with the implications of such an attack for those affected by it," German Justice Minister Heiko Maas told the newspaper Tagesspiegel.
Maas wrote that his government consequently "owed an apology to the victims and their surviving loved ones".
The minister voiced his support for initiatives proposed by Kurt Beck, the specially-appointed Commissioner for Victims, to improve financial assistance for individuals injured in the attack and victims' families, as well as creating a centralized coordination unit within the federal government which people could turn to in the event of future terrorist incidents.
Several events are scheduled for Tuesday in Berlin which will include the unveiling of two physical structures to mark the date.
A 17-meter golden crack in the ground has been created to symbolize the deep rupture in the lives of victims and their relatives, while the names of the 12 people left dead have been engraved on the steps of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Memorial Church overlooking the Christmas market.
In a stark reminder of the persistent threat of terrorism, memorial services throughout Berlin are being safeguarded by a large contingent of special forces armed with machine guns.
A vigil is being held in the Kaiser Wilhelm church which all citizens are invited to attend. The church bells will ring twelve times at 8:02 p.m. local time (1902 GMT), the exact time of the attack.
A year on, it appears, Amri's lethal rampage has inspired both fear and defiance in Germany.
On the one hand, the streets of Berlin are bustling with Christmas shoppers again and the re-opening of the Breitscheidplatz Christmas market may itself be seen as a powerful symbol that terrorists have failed to scare inhabitants of the German capital into submission.
On the other hand, however, the successful entry into Federal parliament of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) in September has sometimes been attributed to growing unease among voters over the arrival of more than one million predominantly Muslim refugees since 2015.
Merkel and other German politicians have also looked with worry to neighboring Austria, where the nominally-centrist new Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has formed a coalition government with the ring-wing populist Freedom Party in Vienna.
Despite emphasizing his pro-European credentials, Kurz struck a decidedly-illiberal pose on immigration by vowing to slash government benefits for foreigners in Austria during his successful campaign.
Merkel is reportedly concerned that politicians in other European countries could seek to emulate Kurz' example, unleashing a populist wave on the continent.
Further highlighting the increasing confidence of political forces which are openly xenophobic in the German public sphere, the far-right "Identitarian Movement" attempted to install plaques commemorating "the victims of Islamist terror" at Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate where the official memorial service was being held.
The movement claimed responsibility for the plaques on social media which they said constituted a "European memorial for the victims of multiculturalism and Islamist terrorism".
Berlin police subsequently removed the plaques a few hours after they were installed.