It was a moving tribute. The Brandenburg Gate, perhaps the most recognized symbol of modern Germany, which was built as a monument to world peace more than two centuries ago, was lit up Saturday and Sunday night in the blue, white and red “tricolors” of the French national flag.
Thousands of Germans and visiting international tourists in Berlin laid flowers and left messages outside the French embassy, which is located adjacent to the gate on Pariser Platz, or Paris Square.
About 500 people walked in pouring rain Saturday in a peace march through central Berlin, while a memorial service was held in French and German at an 18th century French-Huguenot dome in Gendarmen Markt square.
The messages left at the French embassy in the German capital expressed support and condolences for the French people, but also concerns over what lay ahead for Germany and Europe in the aftermath of the attacks, in which at least seven gunmen slaughtered scores of innocent people in Paris.
As of Sunday night, the death toll in the attacks still stood at 129, with more than 300 injured, including nearly a third in critical condition. According to news reports from the French capital, at least two of the attackers bore passports that suggested they came into Europe through Greece as refugees. Islamic State has claimed responsibility.
The suggestion that IS may be using Europe’s human refugee highway – most of which ends in Germany – as a transport route for its murderers was immediately seized on by right-wing politicians in Europe, including in Germany, who want the country to seal its borders to the refugees.
The political debate was displayed on many of the signs carried by demonstrators in Berlin. Some read: “We are Muslims. We are also against terror.” One message left among the flowers by the embassy stated the obvious: “This is what refugees are fleeing.”
More than 1 million refugees have poured into Germany this year, and some government estimates say Europe’s largest economy will take in 1.5 million in 2015. The flood of arrivals – the equivalent adjusted for population sizes of more than 4 million refugees entering the United States in a few months – is roiling the political debate in Germany and pressuring its chancellor, Angela Merkel, to reverse her open-door policy to the refugees.