The bank's justification, which the German president received on Friday afternoon, is a document consisting of approximately 20 pages. The president's office sent a copy to the Chancellery, which in turn forwarded a copy to the Finance Ministry. There, it will be analyzed based solely on its legal merit -- and not its substance -- to determine if the bank's stated reasons are watertight.
The key question is whether, after everything that has transpired, the Bundesbank can still have confidence in Sarrazin. To find the answer, his entire term in office will be examined, going back to 2009.
The 20-page report painstakingly lists all interview statements by Sarrazin that are deemed at odds with the policies of the central bank in Frankfurt. Furthermore, the legal experts at the Bundesbank have listed a wide range of quotes concerning Sarrazin, from Germany and abroad, including comments by Chancellor Merkel, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and other members of the cabinet, and even by European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet. The collection of quotes is intended to serve as proof that the financial institution's reputation has already been tarnished.
The report comes to the conclusion that, for the remainder of his term of office -- in other words, until the year 2014 -- Sarrazin will be unable to come to the realization that his current behavior is having a detrimental effect on the Bundesbank.
In their accompanying letter, Weber and his deputy Franz-Christoph Zeitler make reference to Sarrazin's employment contract. According to this document, Sarrazin is obliged "to exercise restraint and moderation, in accordance with his position, towards the general public and out of consideration for the duties of his office." It states that he has to carry out his assignments "impartially and fairly," and that he has an obligation "to behave at all times in a way that upholds and enhances the reputation of the German Bundesbank."
According to the letter, Sarrazin's "behavior in public constitutes a grave breach" of these obligations, with the result that the "necessary mutual trust no longer exists." As a result, the Bundesbank sees "no alternative but to apply for Mr. Sarrazin to be relieved of his duties."
The president's office is now waiting for the German government's statement, which is being drawn up by the Finance Ministry and which will be evaluated by the Chancellery. This is important because Sarrazin's position with the Bundesbank is based on a cabinet decision.
This will be the first big test for German President Christian Wulff, but he's actually already botched it. During his first official visit last Wednesday to Dresden, the capital of the state of Saxony, Wulff had only briefly mentioned the topic of immigration in his speech to the state parliament, when Holger Apfel, a senior politician with the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD), and his fellow party members held up placards. "Sarrazin is right!" was written on the signs. The orderlies had trouble pulling them out of the hands of the NPD members of the state parliament.
Later, a reporter from the German news channel N24 fired so many questions at Wulff in front of the camera that he finally said: "I think that the Bundesbank board is in a position to take action to make sure that the debate does not damage Germany."
There it was -- the German president was taking sides, just as the German chancellor had unabashedly done earlier.
If Wulff sacks Sarrazin, there will most likely be a court case. He is not the kind of man who backs down.
If it goes to court, it could turn out to be of interest that Sarrazin apparently used the staff of his Bundesbank office to conduct research for his book. On three occasions last November, for instance, he had requests for informational materials submitted to the Berlin office of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The OECD has made a number of studies available on the topic, including a comparative study of the integration of immigrants into the labor market. In two cases, the OECD sent materials to Sarrazin, while the third request went unanswered. "We did actually wonder why the Bundesbank wanted material on immigration, of all topics," recalls a staff member. OECD documents, such as the studies "Education at a Glance" and "Pisa 2006," are constantly referred to in Sarrazin's book.
Sarrazin isn't too worried about all that. He has considered resigning, but that would make it look as if he was admitting to a mistake. And he doesn't see his book as a mistake.
He says that he made his "greatest mistake," as he calls it, because he didn't say no at the right moment. He is referring to the interview with the Welt am Sonntag newspaper, in which he referred to a "Jewish gene." "Every individual has a performance limit," says Sarrazin, "and I had reached it when I proofread the parts of the interview that could prove problematic. I didn't recognize the explosiveness of that sentence, which would prove to be my undoing." But he had said the sentence.
Now his schedule is filled with a series of readings that are all already sold out. And after that? Does he have any idea what comes next? "No," says Sarrazin. "And if I did, I wouldn't announce it now."
KIM BODE, JÖRG BLECH, KATRIN ELGER, MARKUS FELDENKIRCHEN, JAN FLEISCHHAUER, CHRISTOPH HICKMANN, GUIDO KLEINHUBBERT, DIRK KURBJUWEIT, PETER MÜLLER, CHRISTOPH PAULY, RENÉ PFISTER, MICHAEL SAUGA, CHRISTOPH SCHWENNICKE, HOLGER STARK, PETER WENSIERSKI, ANTJE WINDMANN