Germany's Christmas markets open under tight security a year after attack

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's Christmas markets opened on Monday at the start of the holiday season, with security staff on hand and concrete barriers to protect shoppers, nearly a year after an Islamist militant killed 12 people by driving a truck into crowds.

Some 2,600 markets, known for their sparkling Christmas trees and wooden stalls serving candied nuts, sausages, mulled wine and handicrafts, opened across Germany under tighter than usual security. The markets are beloved by Germans and a major tourist attraction for visitors this time of year.

In the city of Bochum in Western Germany, organizers decorate concrete bollards, wrapping them up as Christmas presents with bows to make them appear festive.

22 PHOTOS
Christmas season in Germany in 2017
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Christmas season in Germany in 2017
A children's merry-go-round at the Christmas market in Regensburg, Germany, November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Michael Dalder
German riot police with submachine guns patrol the Christmas market prior to its official opening in Frankfurt, Germany, November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
A police man hands out information material for market vendors how to behave in case of an emergency at the Christmas market prior to its official opening in Frankfurt, Germany, November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Security guards walk over the Christmas market at Gendarmenmarkt square in Berlin, Germany, November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
A sign reading "I stand here for your security" is seen on concrete barricades at the entrance of the Christmas market in Regensburg, Germany, November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Michael Dalder
Decorations are displayed at the Christmas market in Regensburg, Germany, November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Michael Dalder
Police patrol near the entrance of the Christmas market in Regensburg, Germany, November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Michael Dalder
People visit the Christmas Market on Alexa in Berlin, Germany November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt
People visit the Christmas market in Stuttgart, Germany, November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle
A general view shows the traditional Christmas market in Frankfurt, Germany, November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Visitors are seen under an emergency sign exit during the official opening of the traditional Christmas market in Frankfurt, Germany, November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
DORTMUND, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 27 : Germans start their Christmas preparation and shopping at the traditional Christmas market in Dortmund, Germany, on November 27, 2017. (Photo by Ina Fassbender/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DORTMUND, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 27 : An artist performs at the traditional Christmas market in Dortmund, Germany, on November 27, 2017. (Photo by Ina Fassbender/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DORTMUND, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 27 : Gingerbread hearts reading 'Greetings from Dortmund's Christmas market' are seen at the traditional Christmas market in Dortmund, Germany, on November 27, 2017. (Photo by Ina Fassbender/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DORTMUND, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 27 : Germans start their Christmas preparation and shopping at the traditional Christmas market in Dortmund, Germany, on November 27, 2017. (Photo by Ina Fassbender/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DORTMUND, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 27 : A visitor takes a photo of the giant Christmas tree at the traditional Christmas market in Dortmund, Germany, on November 27, 2017. (Photo by Ina Fassbender/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Concrete barriers decorated as presents can be seen at the opening of the Christmas market in Luebeck, northern Germany on November 27, 2017. Security was tightened as Christmas markets open almost one year after an Islamist attacker hijacked a truck and ploughed into shoppers at the market at Berlin's Breitscheidplatz in December 2016, killing 12 people. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / Jens B�ttner / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read JENS BUTTNER/AFP/Getty Images)
The Christmas market opens in Magdeburg, eastern Germany on November 27, 2017. Security was tightened as Christmas markets open almost one year after an Islamist attacker hijacked a truck and ploughed into shoppers at the market at Berlin's Breitscheidplatz in December 2016, killing 12 people. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read KLAUS-DIETMAR GABBERT/AFP/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - 2017/11/27: The Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz opens its doors for visitors for the 34th time today, around 1 year after (19 December 2016), the Islamist assassin Anis Amri drove a truck in the crowd of the market and killed eleven visitors. (Photo by Markus Heine/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 27: People walk among stalls selling mulled wine, sausages, gingerbread, candy and other delights at the annual Christmas market on its opening day at Breitscheidplatz, where approximately a year ago 11 people were killed in a terrorist attack, on November 27, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. Tunisian national Anis Amri, after hijacking a truck and killing its driver, drove the truck into the market on December 19, 2016, killing 11 more and injuring 56 in Germany's worst Islamist terror attack. Christmas markets are opening across Germany this week in a tradition that also attracts millions of foreign tourists. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 27: People carrying umbrellas stop under rain at a stall selling gingerbread and other delights at the annual Christmas market on its opening day at Breitscheidplatz, where approximately a year ago 11 people were killed in a terrorist attack, on November 27, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. Tunisian national Anis Amri, after hijacking a truck and killing its driver, drove the truck into the market on December 19, 2016, killing 11 more and injuring 56 in Germany's worst Islamist terror attack. Christmas markets are opening across Germany this week in a tradition that also attracts millions of foreign tourists. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
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In Berlin, Petra Henne, who had been at the market in December last year just half an hour before Tunisian militant Anis Amri drove a hijacked truck into the crowd, came out for the opening this year to enjoy the festivities.

The extra security was "a bit oppressive", she said. "And it is awful, this violence that you can't do anything about. But Berliners are on good form and they carry on anyway. What else can one do?"

An interior ministry spokesman said the risk of an attack in Europe and Germany is "continuously high".

Organizers and business owners had complained that the government was reluctant to share the cost of extra security measures.

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Crash at Berlin Christmas market
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Crash at Berlin Christmas market
Fire fighters stand beside a fire engine near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski
Police and emergency workers are at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
BERLIN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 19: Police take security measures after a truck plough into a crowd at a Christmas market site in Berlin, Germany on December 19, 2016. Several injuries reported. (Photo by Cuneyt Karadag/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 19: Police take security measures after a truck plough into a crowd at a Christmas market site in Berlin, Germany on December 19, 2016. Several injuries reported. (Photo by Cuneyt Karadag/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A truck is seen near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Police stand near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski
Police work near the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Police stand outside a tent near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski
Police stand near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski
A truck is surrounded by rescue vans at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Police blocks a road leading to a scene next to the Gedächniskirche church where a truck crashed into a christmas market in Berlin, on December 19, 2016 killing at least nine people and injuring at least 50 people. / AFP / Odd ANDERSEN (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Police blocks a road leading to a scene where a truck speeded into a christmas market in Berlin, on December 19, 2016 killing at least one person and injuring at least 50 people. / AFP / John MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)
A firefighter walks in front of a truck at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
A policeman stands near the scene where a truck speeded into a christmas market in Berlin, on December 19, 2016 killing nine persons and injuring at least 50 people. / AFP / John MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)
Police secures the area at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
A truck is seen near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Paramedics work at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
BREAKING: Truck crashes into crowds at Christmas Market in Berlin, reports of multiple victims
Lorry just ploughed through Christmas market in #berlin. There is no road nearby. People crushed. I am safe. I am s… https://t.co/CrBPLdHc0W
Truck drives into a crowded Christmas Market in #Germany's #Berlin. Many people injured. Many unconscious on the ground. Reports of a shot.
Breaking news - reports from Berlin say truck rams through a crowded Christmas market - unconfirmed casualties
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"What could be done was done," said Berlin's Mayor, Michael Mueller on Monday, noting that those measures still could not guarantee absolute security.

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) far-right party asked members of the public to share pictures showing extra security measures at their local markets and post them on social media in protest against Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision in 2015 to open Germany's borders to more than a million asylum seekers.

The AfD blames Merkel's immigration policy for what it says is a rise in crime and Islamist attacks.

Klaus Schultheis, an expert in German Christmas markets who collects annual national data on the subject, said he knew of only two markets that were canceled over security concerns.

"Christmas markets are a piece of the German culture that shouldn't disappear no matter what," he said. "It goes on."

(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Peter Graff)

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