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Increased Security Following Paris Attacks Spreads Fear In Germany


There's a heightened police presence in many German cities after Friday's attacks in Paris. Air travelers face extra passport checks and baggage screenings even when they're arriving from countries with which Germany shares open borders. The extra security and the refusal by the government to explain what's going on is both scary and annoying for Germans. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Berlin.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Christmas markets like this one are a holiday tradition Germans look forward to all year. Rows of wooden huts from which vendors sell mulled wine and handicrafts usually draw thousands of people a night, but this year, Berlin resident Kirsten Henschel says she won't be going because she's too scared.

KIRSTEN HENSCHEL: (Through Interpreter) I'm trying to avoid places where there will be big crowds. It's sad, really, especially before Christmas. These markets are a pleasant diversion.

NELSON: Many Germans were already uneasy following Friday's terror attacks in Paris. Fears made worse last night by the abrupt cancellation of a much-anticipated soccer game in the city of Hanover. Police quickly evacuated the stadium and, later, a high-speed train. Officials warned residents to stay indoors, citing credible threats of bomb attacks.

VOLKER KLUWE: (Speaking German).

NELSON: Hannover police chief Volker Kluwe warned that large groups could provide a target for attackers. But he and other officials shared few details about who the would-be attackers were or whether the threat was over. German interior minister Thomas DeMaiziere spoke of the need for extra vigilance in vague and ominous terms.

THOMAS DEMAIZIERE: (Through interpreter) I ask the German public to trust that we have good reasons, bitter reasons to decide as we did.

NELSON: Others criticize what they saw as government overreaction, including Berliner Zeitung political writer Holger Schmale. He wrote canceling a soccer game that was supposed to be a symbol of defiance to terrorists turned it into a symbol of defeat. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.