The Man Who Divided Germany Why Sarrazin's Integration Demagoguery Has Many Followers
Part 5: Growing Political Concern
The conservative CDU is also facing a wave of protests from members who disagree with the party leadership's critical view of Sarrazin. Letters are currently piling up on the desks of many party functionaries from members who, in contrast to the chancellor, don't think that Sarrazin should be censured. "Nine out of 10 letters that I currently receive say that Thilo Sarrazin is right," says Peter Hauk, the state parliamentary floor leader for the Christian Democrats in Baden-Württemberg. "In my opinion, it's not enough to simply criticize Mr. Sarrazin."
Hauk feels that the CDU leadership in Berlin needs to more clearly address the problems associated with immigrants. The party has to "take a tougher stance" on integration policies and clearly speak out on the issue. "Back when Wolfgang Schäuble was the interior minister, he didn't hesitate to speak his mind on the issue of integration," says Hauk. "I hardly see anyone in the CDU today who is making a comparable effort."
Among members of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Angela Merkel's CDU, there is also a growing sense of unease with the course that the chancellor has taken. "It would be wrong to condemn every statement made by Sarrazin," says Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann. Some of his ideas are unspeakable, he says. "But where there are problems, we have to clearly address them. And there's no doubt that our biggest problems are with some of the Muslims from Turkey."
Hans-Peter Friedrich, the head of the CSU group in the German parliament, had this to say: "When the population is up in arms, there's no reason to pat each other on the back just because we've dealt with the Sarrazin issue."
Former CSU leader Edmund Stoiber reminded Merkel that politicians had been punished once before, back in the 1990s, when they ignored the fears of the population. At the time, says Stoiber, people experienced on a daily basis how the constitutionally guaranteed right to asylum was "abused hundreds of thousands of times" in Germany. This resulted in the rise of a far-right party, Die Republikaner (The Republicans), Stoiber argued. "This should serve as a lesson to the entire political class."
Members of the right wing of the CDU are increasingly afraid that the Sarrazin debate could further widen the rift between its conservative core voters and the party. They say that Sarrazin could easily become a symbol for how the Berlin political establishment is out of touch with reality.
Wolfgang Bosbach, for example, a long-serving CDU politician who chairs the domestic affairs committee in parliament, couldn't believe his eyes when he opened his local newspaper last week and read that German Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen had announced at a party conference in Münster that "80 percent" of CDU supporters reject Sarrazin's ideas.
Bosbach could only shake his head at such an alarming ignorance of the party's own voters. "It's probably just the case that the remaining 20 percent all live in my constituency," he jokingly remarked to a fellow party member.
Chancellor Merkel reacted by giving an interview to the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet, in which she described Sarrazin's anti-Muslim remarks as "absurd" and said that she could not accept such statements. The topic of integration is also on the agenda for a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. No consensus has been reached, though, on how a modern country of immigration should look. Germany has largely ignored the issue for decades, and it won't be able to make up for all the missed opportunities anytime soon.
'He Wants to Be a Martyr'
Hence the big question for the near future is actually a small one: How will Germany's central bank, the Bundesbank, get rid of Sarrazin?
Last Tuesday, Sarrazin was summoned before the executive board of the Bundesbank. He cited his right to freedom of speech. His colleagues, particularly Bundesbank President Axel Weber, suggested that he resign and made it clear that under no circumstances could they continue to work with him. Sarrazin wanted until the weekend to think it over, but Weber was only willing to give him until Thursday afternoon.
On Wednesday, his colleagues called him in for another serious talk. They said that he would get a few perks if he agreed to go. If he refused to resign, they would initiate proceedings to relieve him of his position. Sarrazin remained firm. "He wants to be a martyr," says one man who witnessed how he behaved in Frankfurt. He says that Sarrazin repeatedly bragged about all the people who share his opinions. And he doesn't care about the Bundesbank, says the bank insider.
On Thursday at 2 p.m. his colleagues asked him once again: "Do you have any statement to make?"
"No," Sarrazin calmly responded.
He was asked to leave the room and, afterwards, his colleagues decided to apply for his dismissal -- the first such event in the history of the Bundesbank.