Grieving Winnenden buries its dead still asking why?

16th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

Local officials paid tribute to the "heroism" of the teachers who were inside the Albertville secondary school when the killer struck, killing eight girls and one boy.

Berlin -- As the burials began in the grieving German town of Winnenden Sunday, investigators tried to piece together the events leading up to 17-year-old Tim Kretschmer shooting 15 people and himself.

With the burial of Kretschmer's first victim -- 16-year-old Nicole -- came an intensified debate over gun control in Germany, with Chancellor Angela Merkel calling already for tighter restrictions.

Local officials paid tribute Sunday to the "heroism" of the teachers who were inside the Albertville secondary school when the killer struck, killing eight girls and one boy, mostly with expert shots to the head.

"Although some were already injured, they brought the children to safety, locked doors and kept them quiet," Johannes Schmalzl, the head of the regional government of Stuttgart, told a news conference.

A decision on when to reopen the school -- now massed with flowers and candles to mark the dead -- has not yet been taken, said Wolfgang Schiele, director of schools in Stuttgart. Voluntary classes are available.

But the main question being asked throughout Germany -- why? -- is still unanswered. Why did this apparently normal product of a stable and prosperous home decide to commit cold-blooded mass murder?

After an Internet warning from the killer turned out to be an apparent hoax, authorities are trying to clear up what he did in the run-up to the bloodbath and whether he had been receiving psychological treatment.

Matthias Michel, head of the Weissenhof clinic in Weinsberg, told German television that Kretschmer received psychiatric treatment between April and September last year but the family's lawyer has repeatedly denied this.

"We are sticking to our line: There was no psychiatric treatment," Achim Baechle told the Bild am Sonntag.

According to the Tagesspiegel, the day before the killing spree was entirely unremarkable for the teenager.

He carried out his studies at his vocational school, where he was training to be a salesman, ordered a pizza for lunch and worked with a colleague on a presentation he was due to give on Thursday, the paper reported.

Kretschmer even played a few hands of poker with some friends in his favourite cafe before driving back to his tiny home village of Leutenbach.

The evening before the bloodbath, however, he spent over two hours playing "Far Cry 2," a violent shooting game, the type of which he played regularly, according to news magazine Der Spiegel.

Less than 12 hours later, he would shoot the first of his 113 shots that would change the small town of Winnenden forever.

Politicians have already begun debating the ramifications of the killings. Merkel said in an interview with public radio Sunday: "We will probably never be able to prevent (another such massacre), but one of the lessons from this horrible event is to be vigilant."

"The possession of weapons and munitions is a subject that we must strongly pay attention to -- it must be controlled, rules must be applied," she said, evoking also the possibility of having "spot checks" of weapons.

According to an Emnid poll for the Bild am Sonntag, 78 percent of Germans want a ban on guns in private homes and 41 percent want people to be searched before entering a school.

Eight percent of those polled said they knew someone they believed capable of such an atrocity.

But while politicians and leaders concentrate on the consequences, the citizens of Winnenden were still coming to terms with their grief, helped by an army of counsellors from all over Germany.

A memorial service for the dead is planned for next Saturday.

"We cannot heal the wounds of those who were affected but we can perhaps treat the scars," said Johannes Fuchs, a local official.

Richard Carter/AFP/Expatica

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