Klaus Malte is a teacher at a secondary school in Neukölln. Malte isn't his real name -- his principal doesn't want teachers talking to the press. He is a quiet man, liberal and civic-minded.
He says that Sarrazin is "basically right," but that the way he expresses his ideas is "too drastic." Malte's students are almost all from Turkish, Lebanese and Palestinian families, and almost all attend Koran schools. Some speak German well while others don't speak it at all. Malte describes his students as "relatively uneducated" but "not completely disinterested" and "of completely normal intelligence." The boys, he says, "almost all have previous convictions."
Malte says that while he gets along with them well, their real problems begin after school. Hardly any of the boys are able to land an apprenticeship once they finish school. Most of the Turkish students end up working in their uncles' fruit and vegetable businesses, while the Lebanese work as car mechanics. The girls "get married and disappear." The school, says Malte, is basically producing laborers and housewives.
Sarrazin accurately describes many of the country's social problems in his book. It is true that a portion of immigrants have little education and poorly integrated into the German labor market. It is undeniable that some welfare recipients not only lack money, but also discipline and motivation. And it is also true that with declining birthrates, Germans are becoming older and frailer on average.
Nevertheless, the book, which uses a deluge of numbers, tables and statistics to give the impression of scholastic ardor, is highly contestable in many instances. It contains wrong conclusions and erroneous assumptions, unproven assertions and bogus correlations.
Sarrazin, for example, writes that Germany's population will be 20 million in 2100. Yet demographers estimate that there will be 46 million Germans in 2100.
Even more questionable is the model calculation with which he attempts to substantiate his theory that Germany is inexorably on the road to becoming a country dominated by foreign immigrants. He frightens his readers by claiming that in 120 years, migrants from Africa and the Middle East will make up more than 70 percent of the population.
But he bases this model calculation on assumptions that have already been outmoded. For example, the birth rate among immigrant women is significantly lower than Sarrazin assumes, and his estimate of an annual immigration figure of 100,000 people from Africa and the Middle East also hasn't been accurate in a long time. Since 2006, more Turks have been leaving the country than coming to Germany. Over 8,000 Turks left Germany in 2008 alone.
Sarrazin's conclusion that the immigration of guest workers in the 1960s and 70s was "a huge mistake" is no less preposterous. Not only does it contradict the relevant studies, but it also defies common sense. The immigrants of that era were the ones who worked in Germany's factories and on its construction sites, instead of adding to the ranks of the unemployed and recipients of welfare benefits. In fact, they worked and paid their taxes and social security contributions.
Leaping to conclusions on the basis of statistical relationships is one of Sarrazin's biggest weaknesses. For example, he concludes that because immigrants are generally not as well educated as Germans, they are also less intelligent. Oddly enough, he also points out a completely different relationship elsewhere in the book: The PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) test results were worse in Berlin than in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg, even though there were more immigrant children in Baden-Württemberg's schools.
Sarrazin frequently cites the example of crime among foreigners. He claims that "20 percent of all violent crimes in Berlin are committed by only 1,000 Turkish and Arab adolescent criminals," and that there is empirical evidence to support his contention.
When Naika Foroutan, a political scientist at Berlin's Humboldt University who has studied the Muslim population for years, contacted the office of Berlin's chief of police to verify Sarrazin's claim, she discovered that it was completely erroneous.
Some 18,899 violent crimes were committed in Berlin in 2009, including robberies, rapes, assaults and murders. According to the statistics, Turks and Arabs were suspects in 1,651 cases, or 8.7 percent. Even if all suspects whose ethnicity was unknown were included in this figure, no more than 13.3 percent of all violent crimes could be linked to suspects with Turkish, Arab or unknown origins.
Uninterested in Dialogue
Of course, the percentage of those crimes that were committed by young violent criminals is even lower. Sarrazin's claim cannot be verified "with the official police criminal statistics, even if nationalities are defined narrowly or citizen is defined broadly," says Peter-Michael Haeberer, head of Berlin's regional police office.
In the spring, Foroutan was attending a dinner in Berlin where Sarrazin, also a guest, was presenting his claims, including the incorrect figures on violent crime. A few days later, Foroutan wrote him a letter, sent him a list of Internet addresses and invited him to meet with her to discuss his figure. Sarrazin wrote a polite response but was uninterested in a dialogue.
Sarrazin essentially bases his conclusions on the information in the German microcensus, which was his first mistake. There are many studies in Germany on population and on the number of foreigners living in the country, but only one that addresses "Muslim Life in Germany" (the title) at length. The study, compiled by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, was released in the summer of 2009 and offers a far more differentiated picture.
One of Sarrazin's central assumptions is the claim that Turks represent an ever-greater share of the German population. He writes: "It is correct that birthrates are declining among Germany's second generation of women of Turkish origin. However, constant immigration from abroad ensures that the trend toward declining birthrates is broken."
Sarrazin claims that he is "mainly interested in clarity and accuracy" in his book, but in many places the facts he cites are anything but clear and accurate. For example, Sarrazin calls marital behavior a "gauge of willingness to integrate." "Things are not looking good in this respect," he writes, "because only 3 percent of young men and 8 percent of young women with Turkish immigrant backgrounds marry a German partner, as compared with 67 percent among ethnic Germans from Russia."