AT least 12 families in Germany face Christmas lunch on Sunday with empty places at the dining table as a result of the latest terror attack in Berlin.
In an atrocity strikingly similar to the Nice terror atrocity in July in which 86 people died, an attacker deliberately drove a truck into a Christmas market packed with men, women and children.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the outrage and the German police are now hunting the killer who is possibly armed.
The horror can only be imagined, but it is a horror to which we have become accustomed, because hardly a week goes by without news of another terror attack in Europe.
In the past 13 months for example, we have seen four big ‘spectaculars’ carried out by Islamic extremists – Paris, Brussels, Nice and Berlin – that have resulted in more than 260 deaths.
And since the summer there have been in addition at least 10 ‘lone wolf’ knife and axe attacks in France and Germany, including the beheading of an elderly French priest.
Earlier this month a 12-year-old boy of Iraqi parentage was arrested in Germany for trying to detonate a nail bomb in another Christmas market in the west of the country. Kids eh?
This, ladies and gentlemen, is what jihad looks like.
And it is not as though we were not warned. Rob Wainwright, the British head of Interpol, the EU’s own security agency, in 2015 warned of an increased risk of terror atrocities as a result of the refugee crisis.
He said up to 5,000 jihadi fighters were freely able to move between terror training camps in Iraq and Syria and Western Europe to carry out further atrocities.
Those warnings were ignored. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel instead threw open Germany’s border – and therefore Europe’s borders – to more than a million migrants.
These were overwhelmingly young men of fighting age. Some sceptics asked if they were all genuine refugees, where were all the women and children? They were dismissed – inevitably – as racists.
So these men poured in from the jihadi hotspots of the Middle East without a single security check. As I said at the time: “What could possibly go wrong?”
Now let us get an important caveat out of the way. Of course, not all migrants are terrorists. There are many innocent Muslims in the Middle East who suffer appalling persecution and violence – invariably at the hands of their fellow Muslims – and they deserve the protection of Western democracies. There are also, let’s not forget, many Christians in the region who are subject to Islamist pogroms.
But helping these people is a far cry from simply throwing open the borders to anyone and everyone as Mutti Merkel did. If only a tiny proportion of migrants turn out to be violent extremists, and Wainwright’s estimate proves to be an exaggeration, the result can only be death and destruction across the continent, as we are now witnessing.
Initially, the German people were incredibly compassionate, handing out sweets to the new arrivals and holding signs saying “Refugees Welcome”. But now their hospitality has been thrown back in their faces the mood has changed. The much vaunted ‘cultural enrichment’ promised by Merkel so far consists of sex assaults, bloodshed and violence.
Merkel and the rest of the political elite seem powerless in the face of the whirlwind they have sown. They just don’t know what to do any more in the face of growing popular fury.
Instead they compose their features into sad faces and utter the familiar platitudes – but it isn’t working any more.
My feeling is that people throughout the continent have had just about enough of reacting to these attacks by clutching teddy bears and lighting candles and dreaming up mawkish hashtags, while awaiting the next atrocity like animals in an abattoir.
The best way we can honour the victims of Islamist violence in Paris, Nice, Brussels, Berlin and elsewhere is to do something concrete to improve our security – namely by properly securing our borders, expelling hate preachers and other jihadi criminals and shutting down extremist mosques.
And if Merkel and company don’t understand that, they will soon be replaced by someone who does.