As It Happens

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

Twelve people are dead and 48 injured after a truck drove through a crowd at a Christmas market in Berlin. Jan Hollitzer was across the street and witnessed the 'horrifying' scene unfold.
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)

Read Story Transcript

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.

  • Click here for the latest on this story at CBC News 
    Jan Hollitzer is a journalist who witnessed the attack on the Christmas market. He recorded the aftermath of the attack, taking care to avoid showing the injured and the dead.​ (Jan Hollitzer/Twitter)
  • 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.
    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. 
    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 and listen to our full interview with Jan Hollitzer.


    To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

    By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

    Become a CBC Member

    Join the conversation  Create account

    Already have an account?