"We cannot begin to fathom the suffering that this disaster has brought to so many families. We are trying to comprehend what has happened," said Chancellor Angela Merkel to the press at the Federal Chancellery. "We have received information today that gives this tragedy a new and simply incomprehensible dimension."
The information recovered by French and German investigators from the plane’s voice recorder sheds new light on the circumstances surrounding the crash. It would appear that the co-pilot crashed the plane intentionally. The pilot appears to have left the cockpit, and on his return was prevented from re-entering it.
Since not all background information is available yet, it is important that investigations continue, said Angela Merkel. During her visit to the crash site in the south of France on Wednesday, she, the French President and the Spanish Prime Minister thanked the teams working on the ground for their tireless work under extremely difficult circumstances. "And we pledged that we and our governments will do all we can to help establish beyond any doubt the precise circumstances that led to this crash."
She promised the loved ones of the victims, their families and friends and all citizens that the German government and authorities would be doing everything conceivable to support investigations. "We owe that to all those who lost their lives on Tuesday in this horrendous disaster, and we owe it to their loved one who are now suffering so dreadfully."
Today’s news is a further appalling burden for the loved ones to bear. "In these dreadful hours and these dreadful days our thoughts are with them in particular," said the Chancellor.
Earlier in the day, Federal Minister of Transport Alexander Dobrindt said that he considered the statement of the French prosecutor regarding the crash to be plausible. It is now hoped that the flight data recorder can be found, since this would provide more detailed information about the last few minutes of the flight, he said in Berlin. The picture painted by the prosecutor was "more than shattering", said the minister.
Alexander Dobrindt added that he is in constant contact with experts at the site, his French counterpart and Lufthansa. The aim is to establish the causes of the crash and draw the appropriate conclusions.
On Thursday morning the German Bundestag observed a one-minute silence for the victims of the plane crash. The disaster has united Germany, Spain and France in shock and pain, said Bundestag President Norbert Lammert at the start of the session.
Germany has received messages of condolence and sympathy from around the world and is very grateful for these, he said. Norbert Lammert also thanked the rescue and salvage teams which are working under extremely difficult conditions.
On Wednesday the Chancellor flew to the crash site in the south of France. At a press conference with French President François Hollande and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in the nearby village of Seyne-les-Alpes, Angela Merkel paid tribute to the victims of the crash. "It is a terrible tragedy – our visit here today has shown us this very clearly." She added, "I wish the families and the loved ones of all victims strength, whether they come from Germany or from other countries."
Not only are her thoughts with the loved ones, the families and friends of the victims, said the Chancellor, "and that is what is really moving today, also the thoughts of all of the French people, and very specially of the people here in the region, who are helping with unprecedented will, incredible commitment and a big heart."
She assured the families of the victims that they would be heartily welcome at the site. "And everything possible will be done to investigate this unfathomable disaster, and establish as far as possible what happened."
The Chancellor closed with a word of thanks to the French President "And, dear François, let me say a heartfelt ‘Thank you’ on behalf of millions of Germans who appreciate what you are doing, and who realise that this is genuine Franco-German friendship."