SUE REID finds a nation in denial as a wave of horrific attacks is reported across Europe
Sue Reid — Daily Mail Jan 8, 2016
The exquisite sound of Cologne’s cathedral choir drifted out into the cool night air of the city’s main square on Wednesday evening. A Holy mass, celebrating baby Jesus’s baptism, was packed with worshippers marking the 12th day of Christmas in this fiercely Christian part of Germany.
As the service ended and families poured out onto the pavement, an 18-year-old German girl called Michelle stood under bright arc lights nearby giving an interview to a television crew.
She and a group of friends had been sexually attacked in the same cathedral square by gangs of marauding men a few days before, on New Year’s Eve. The girls were chased, cornered and intimately groped before their mobiles and wallets were stolen.
‘The men were all foreigners, and when we protested, in German, they did not understand us,’ said Michelle during the interview.
She is just one of 120 women who were abused that horrific night in the square, which is dotted with bars, nightclubs and coffee shops, and is where Cologne locals have seen in the New Year for centuries.
The men, speaking Arabic and seemingly either drunk or high on drugs, moved around in large groups among a gathering of around 1,000 male migrants and deliberately targeted women. The men easily outnumbered the 190 police officers on duty, who were quickly overwhelmed.
In other cities across Germany, including Stuttgart, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Munich and Berlin, where a tourist was sexually assaulted by five men right in front of the famous Brandenburg Gate, it was the same disturbing story.
Nearly 50 women in Hamburg complained to police about sexual harassment by ‘North African’ men, who called them ‘bitches’, shouted ‘Fikki, fikki’ to indicate they wanted to rape them, and ‘chased’ them ‘like cattle’ around the streets.
One victim there was a 19-year-old girl called Lotta, who’d gone out to celebrate in a chic dress and high heels with friends. While they were walking from one nightclub to another, they were surrounded by men of ‘foreign origin’ who separated the girls from each other.
‘I was suddenly alone,’ said Lotta. ‘Twenty to 30 men were standing round me … every time a hand went away from my body, the next one arrived. I felt helpless.’
Like her friends, the teenager was sexually assaulted, had her hair pulled and was finally thrown to the ground after the men had finished with her.
In Stuttgart, women complained of sexual attacks by ‘trouble-makers with an immigrant background’ and 15 other ‘Mediterranean men of Arabic appearance’.
When one group of young girls refused these men’s advances, their boyfriends were beaten up. One girl who fought off an attacker ended up in hospital with a broken nose and deep cuts to her face.
The attacks have sounded the alarm bell in Germany over the consequences of mass migration. A country dogged by guilt over its Nazi past, it has enjoyed its recent role as saviour of Europe, welcoming in foreigners from the war-divided Middle East and Africa’s poverty hotspots.
When the migrants began arriving in their thousands each day last summer, there were welcoming parties across the country. ‘We love refugees!’ proclaimed banners outside reception centres.
Yet that warm hospitality is now being replaced by fear, as a society renowned for its good order begins to buckle under the strain — and to worry if it has made a mistake.
Figures this week revealed that 1.1 million newcomers registered for asylum in Germany in 2015. Many more — including potential jihadists and opportunists pretending to be refugees — are suspected of slipping in under the radar since August, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel controversially announced she would welcome all Syrian migrants who knocked on the door. Mrs Merkel has since dramatically changed her tune, saying this week that she wanted to stem the flow of migrants into the European Union, while keeping all borders open.
Yet the influx into Europe since she made her grand gesture shows no sign of abating. German ministers say 3,200 migrants a day continue to enter the country.
Denmark began passport checks on its border this week, and border controls have also been imposed by other countries including Sweden and Hungary, threatening Mrs Merkel and the EU’s cherished Schengen agreement, allowing free movement between member states.
All this is raising questions from ordinary Germans, and this week provoked confessions from their political masters. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere admitted the New Year crimes against women by such large numbers of men from a migrant background were a ‘new departure’ for the country.
Mrs Merkel said: ‘Everything must be done to identify the guilty parties without regard to their background or origins. We must send clear signals to those who are not prepared to abide by our laws. Questions arise over whether some groups are subscribing to misogyny.’
Her words were clearly carefully chosen to avoid specifically linking migrants with these attacks against women. But the truth is the mass assaults have clear echoes of the sex crimes in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in Egypt in 2011, during celebrations welcoming the so-called Arab Spring, when groups of men violently harassed women.
Lara Logan, a CBS reporter, was sexually assaulted by a mob in scenes reminiscent of those in Germany. Her clothes were torn off, and between 200 and 300 men took pictures of her naked body as her attackers ‘raped her with their hands’ over and over again.
Another deeply worrying aspect of the New Year horror in Cologne also emerged this week.
Many Germans, including some of the victims themselves, have accused authorities of a conspiracy of silence over the assaults to stop criticism of the mass immigration policy pursued by Mrs Merkel and her politically-correct supporters. The mainstream media in Germany has, until recently, toed the Government line; a top public broadcaster, ZDF, recently refused to run a segment about a rape case on its prime-time ‘crime-watch’ show because the ‘dark-skinned’ suspect was a migrant.
The programme’s editor defended her decision, saying: ‘We don’t want to inflame the situation and spread a bad mood. The migrants don’t deserve it.’
Cracks only began to show just before New Year. Bild, Germany’s largest daily newspaper, broke ranks by accusing officials of conducting a campaign of deception on a ‘massive scale’ by burying bad news on migration. It reported that drug gangs involved in organised crime were actively recruiting newly-arrived migrants from the vast temporary camps where they live.
The Cologne police force has also been accused of deliberately hushing up the New Year scandal. It issued an official press release the following day describing the celebrations as ‘exuberant, but mostly peaceful’. The release has since been retracted, and last night it emerged that police chief Wolfgang Albers is to resign.
Broadcaster ZDF had to apologise for a ‘cover up’ after it failed to report the Cologne story for three days, even though it knew about it.
And until Thursday, a week after the attacks, there had been silence from Mrs Merkel’s ministers about the backgrounds of the perpetrators. Initially, they insisted there was no evidence that new migrants were involved in the violence.
A leaked police report which emerged 48 hours ago showed this was far from the truth. It revealed that one of the Cologne attackers said: ‘I am Syrian. You have to treat me kindly: Mrs Merkel invited me.’
The report by a senior officer added: ‘When we arrived [at the square] our vehicles were pelted with firecrackers. On the cathedral steps were a thousand people, mainly of immigrant background, who were indiscriminately throwing fireworks and bottles into the crowd.
‘Women literally had to run the gauntlet through the mass of drunk men in a way you can’t describe ….many came to officers shocked and crying to report sex assaults. We were unable to respond to all the offences. There were just too many.’
Another unnamed officer told a Cologne newspaper that 14 of those questioned on the night were from Syria and one from Afghanistan.
‘That’s the truth, though it hurts to say it,’ he added. ‘They had definitely only been in Germany for a few days or weeks.’
By yesterday morning, police had arrested only two of the alleged sex attackers, who said they had immigrant backgrounds. Videos of the crowds, together with the howl of fireworks and the shrieks of women they assaulted, were found on their mobile phones.
Officers also found a note on one of the men containing Arabic to German translations for phrases including ‘nice breasts’, ‘I’ll kill you’ and ‘I want to have sex with you’.
Both have now been released due to lack of evidence.