Monday December 19, 2016

Witness describes 'horrifying' scene after truck crashes into Berlin Christmas market

Police stand beside a truck which ran into a crowded Christmas market and killed several people in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016.

Police stand beside a truck which ran into a crowded Christmas market and killed several people in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (Michael Sohn/AP)

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Jan Hollitzer was at the Berlin Christmas market when a truck drove through the crowd, killing 12 and leaving 48 people wounded. Hollitzer is the deputy editor-in-chief of a local news outlet, Berliner Morgenpost. He spoke with As It Happens host Carol Off late Monday night about what he witnessed. Here is part of their conversation.

Carol Off: Jan, where were you when the truck drove into the Christmas market?

Jan Hollitzer: I was on the other side of the street in which the Christmas market took place — maybe 50 metres away. I heard noise from destroyed [stalls] that were centred around the place, and some screams. Then I saw lights, many Christmas lights, that were shaking. Then the truck came out of the Christmas market again, destroyed some small [stalls] and came out on the street.

CO: Did you actually see the truck plow into the market where all these people were?

JH: No I didn't see in the moment when the truck came on the market. I was very scared by the situation. It was immediately after the accident.

CO: You are also a journalist. Tell us how you were feeling at that moment?

JH: I had to decide, should I document or because of all the injured people there, to respect the people who were injured by the truck. But then I decided to go live and show the world what happened there. I walked over to the market and described what I'd seen. I tried to put it in words but those are pictures you don't want to see in your life. The injured people on the ground and people under the truck. I don't want to go into too much detail because I've never seen this before and I hope I never have to see this again. It's really horrifying.

GERMANY-TRUCK/

A truck is seen near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany Dec. 19, 2016. (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)


CO: Did you speak with people, with witnesses?

JH: That was really complicated. I had to make a decision as a journalist to document all the brutality or not.

CO: And why did you decide that you should?

JH: Because a friend of mine, a colleague, did the same from Nice. He was there, like me today, when the chaos happened. He also decided to document the situation and we have to report about that. 

GERMANY-TRUCK/

A firefighter walks in front of a truck at the site of the Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, Dec. 19, 2016. (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)


CO: You mention Nice, France. This is of course what happened in July on Bastille Day in France, where a truck drove into a crowd and killed 86 people. 

JH: Right. That was what I first imagined when I saw that scenery — "Oh no. We have Nice, in Berlin." 

This interview was edited for length and clarity. For more on this developing story go to cbc.ca/news and listen to our full interview with Jan Hollitzer.