Germany’s dreadful week began seven days ago on a commuter train when five people were severely injured by an axe-wielding 17-year old Afghan asylum seeker. The attacker, who reportedly yelled out what one witness called “an exclamation” and what others recalled hearing as “Allahu Akbar,” reportedly came to Europe alone as a minor. That attack was later claimed by the Islamic State and ISIS propaganda was found in the attacker’s possession, although no organizational links between the attacker and the Middle Eastern terrorist group have been established.
Two days later, an 18-year-old German-Iranian walked into a shopping center in the city of Munich and began shooting down civilians. When it was over, nine people—most of them minors—were dead. Another 35 were wounded, 10 of whom seriously. The attacker, who professed his status as a German resident and reportedly shouted obscenities about Turkish people during his attack, was a two-year resident of Munich. In this case, the murderer seemed less inspired by jihad than of the prospect of mass bloodshed. He had allegedly surrounded himself with images of European school shooters like Anders Breivik and Tim Kretschmer.
The following day, a 21-year-old refugee from Syria was reportedly engaged in a heated argument with a pregnant woman in the city of Reutlingen when he produced a machete and hacked her to death. Two others were wounded by the machete-wielding attacker before he was struck and disabled by a passing motorist. This attack, too, does not have an overtly terrorism-related motive, but the effect of it is to inspire terror nonetheless. Police have ruled that the attacker acted alone and that the episode was nothing more than a “crime of passion,” but the refugee had sought asylum in Germany.
He wasn’t the last asylum seeker to engage in terroristic violence this week. Early Monday morning, a 27-year-old Syrian refugee who had been denied asylum in Germany walked into a wine bar in the Bavarian city of Ansbach and detonated the explosive device he was wearing. The intended target of the suicide attack was a nearby music festival to which the would-be mass murderer had been denied entry. Fifteen people were injured in the blast, and four of those wounded were in serious condition. The attacker allegedly had ISIS propaganda on his phone as well as a message in which he pledged his loyalty to the terror group.
All young men; all of Middle Eastern or South Central Asian descent, with varying but generally modest levels of assimilation into Western society. Each was attracted to death cultism—be it of an Islamist or secular variety. Three of these four attackers were known to members of the psychological community and had at one point sought or received help for mental imbalances. None of it was apparently sufficient to prevent the worst.
What the effects of this new wave of terror will be on German and European political culture are not yet clear, but it is a safe bet that the kind of nationalist political backlash gathering support in France will soon materialize in Germany. And without a will to defeat the forces of radicalization abroad, Europeans will have little recourse but to bar the door and keep a watchful eye on their neighbors through lace curtains. Ultimately, that will only intensify the sense of paranoia that Europeans are already justifiably feeling today. The continent is under attack, and it’s only a matter of time before passivity is no longer an option.