Thilo Sarrazin's controversial new book on Muslims in Germany has not only generated opprobrium from the political elite, it has also generated a mass following from the population at large. The tome may be full of inaccuracies, but it has struck a nerve. By SPIEGEL Staff
The man who is has cleaved Germany in two isn't sleeping well at night. Thilo Sarrazin normally needs five to six hours of sleep, but these days he's getting only two or three. He describes his frame of mind as that of someone whose adrenalin levels are constantly elevated and who has trouble finding peace of mind.
It's a Friday afternoon and Sarrazin, the German central bank board member whose controversial book about integration and Muslim immigration in Germany has dominated the headlines for the last 10 days, is back home in Berlin. On the previous evening in Frankfurt, Sarrazin met with his attorney to discuss his challenge against the Bundesbank, which is currently seeking to oust him.
He also made a brief appearance in his office, but his secretary tells anyone who asks that he isn't in. All the calls, letters and e-mails Sarrazin has been receiving at the Bundesbank are simply too much to process. "It's 99 percent support and letters of congratulation," he says proudly.
Following two recent appearances on German talk shows, Sarrazin has decided to keep a lower profile for awhile. He still communicates with friends and acquaintances -- and had a technician come by to fix a problem with his Internet at home -- but aside from that he has imposed a "media blackout" on himself.
Many people would like to speak to him and offer their support. He claims that he has yet to have a negative encounter as a result of his book. He was even greeted with smiles and nods in the elevator at the Bundesbank as he was on his way to discuss the crisis with his fellow board members on the 13th floor. "Naturally, I hoped that my book would attract attention. But the intensity surprised me," he says.
Bordering on Revulsion
Rarely has a man influenced the German public discourse as much as Sarrazin has done with his book "Deutschland schafft sich ab" ("Germany Does Itself In"). In just two weeks, Germany has been hit by three waves of debate stemming from the tome.
Criticism bordering on revulsion dominated the first wave of the reaction. Politicians and opinion leaders condemned Sarrazin almost unanimously.
But then it slowly became apparent that many citizens agreed with Sarrazin. The publisher announced that, due to high demand, it was going to increase the book's initial printing to 250,000 copies. Furthermore, Internet forums and political events made it clear that Sarrazin -- a member of the center-left Social Democrats, which has initiated proceedings to throw him out of the party -- had broad public support. Many are saying he is right; or, even if he does make a mistake here and there, he isn't being treated fairly.
The following e-mail, for example, was received at Social Democratic Party (SPD) headquarters: "Sometimes I'm frustrated and even furious about the fact that, in today's Germany, it's no longer possible to speak your mind and call a spade a spade! This is the sort of thing I'm used to seeing in totalitarian countries." Suddenly Sarrazin seemed like a popular hero.
The third wave arrived in the middle of last week. Politicians have begun demanding that the political elite cease ignoring the fact that many in Germany support Sarrazin. Peter Hauk, head of the Christian Democratic Union's parliamentary group in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg, says: "Even if I don't share some of his views, he does address issues that our citizens are concerned about."
Out of Control
The procedure to dismiss Sarrazin from the Bundesbank board is taking place in parallel with the public debate. The Bundesbank has officially requested that German President Christian Wulff remove Sarrazin from his position. Wulff will hardly be able to deny the request, even if it turns Sarrazin into a martyr for some. Indeed, the case is making it clear that German political leaders will have their hands full this autumn reconciling Germans with integration.
To be sure, the subject of immigration should be up for discussion, but the current debate has gotten out of control. From the very beginning, Sarrazin's choice of language has been unfortunate. He described problems with integration, which are indeed deplorable, but he introduced an element of biological determinism. He reflected on the inheritability of intelligence and speculated over a "specific gene" that "all Jews share."
This placed him squarely in the disgusting realm of race theory -- and has called forth uncomfortable memories of the Nazi scourge. Sarrazin, too, sensed that he had gone too far and apologized for his statement about the Jewish gene. But he almost certainly has enjoyed the provocative nature of his statements, as have, no doubt, some of his supporters.
It would seem, in short, that Germany has been cleaved in two, between those horrified by Sarrazin's choice of words and those who support such a forthright assessment of integration. That, in fact, is the first of three big questions the book has raised: In what country are we living? After the 2006 World Cup, it seemed that Germany had become cheerful and cosmopolitan. But the popular approval of Sarrazin leads us to question whether there isn't an underlying xenophobia after all. "There are many Sarrazins," says Aylin Selçuk, a university student and co-founder of a group called "Deukische Generation" (or "German-Turkish Generation").
The second question the debate raises concerns the current state of affairs. Is Sarrazin right when he claims that the integration of Turks and Arabs has largely been a failure?
New Copies on Wednesday
The third question has to do with the relationship between the political and journalistic class with the rest of the country. Do citizens feel abandoned on the question of integration? Or, asked another way, does Germany have a fertile breeding ground for the kind of populist right-wing party that is already par for the course in many European countries?
Sarrazin's theories meet with widespread approval in large segments of the German population. His book quickly sold out and is currently difficult to obtain. "We hope to have new copies on Wednesday," says Wilfried Weber, 69, manager of the Felix Jud bookstore in Hamburg. "There are diehards who show up every day, hoping that I might just have a copy left."
There is a weekly market in Hamburg's Eppendorf neighborhood. The customers arrive in large SUVs and push their babies around in expensive strollers. Rainer Schaefer, 67, and his wife Barbara are regulars. When asked how he feels about Sarrazin's theories, Schaefer promptly replies: "I agree with him completely. He was just went too far on the genetic issue. Nevertheless, we shouldn't stifle the man. Rather, we should address the problems of integration instead." In general, says Schaefer, "those who come to this country ought to like us and be willing to integrate." Then, his wife Barbara chimes in: "But if we're honest, we too have sometimes said that it was getting to be a bit much with the foreigners."
Sarrazin even has some supporters among immigrants in Germany. On the third floor of the Emil Krause Gymnasium in Hamburg, German teacher Manfred Jäger is asking the class to quiet down. His students are between 17 and 19 and hope to graduate this year. Most of them support Sarrazin and his ideas. "He's right about many of the things he says," says Depak, who is from Afghanistan, noting that many immigrants are criminals and take advantage of the social welfare system.
Could Sarrazin Be Right?"It isn't exactly a secret." Karina, a German of Russian descent, says she lives in Allermöhe, a residential neighborhood with a large immigrant community in Hamburg. Many of her neighbors, she adds, only came to Germany because they believed that "money would be handed to them on a silver platter."
Support for Sarrazin is even more widespread on the Internet. Only a week after it was published, there were already more than 200 customer comments on his controversial book on Amazon's German site, most of them awarding the author the highest possible rating of five stars for his work.
In one comment, Michael Dienstbier from Bochum in western Germany writes: "We truly want to be tolerant, from the bottom of our hearts, and we want everyone to be able to express his culture. But you also get the sense that there could be a high price to pay for this tolerance, that foreign cultures are not always interested in living together peacefully, and that, sooner or later, you sometimes have to have the courage to be intolerant to preserve your own cultural identity. For many people, this it the brutal truth that court jester Sarrazin is screaming into their faces."
On Sunday evening, that court jester was having dinner with a friend at a Chinese restaurant in Berlin's Wilmersdorf neighborhood. About once every five minutes, one of the other guests approached Sarrazin to congratulate him.
Sarrazin was surprised, and sometimes even a little worried, by the scope of the approval and outrage over his theories. He had expected it to cause a stir, but he felt a little queasy when Chancellor Angela Merkel felt compelled to sharply criticize the book even before it was published. Although being an outsider had never troubled Sarrazin, he is too bourgeois to not care about being ostracized.
He began his career as a civil servant, then served as Berlin's finance senator and, finally, as a member of the executive board of the Bundesbank. He has long been known for pushing boundaries. He has derided government officials for having poor physical hygiene and has characterized the unemployed as lazy. In response to repeated claims that a person couldn't live on the 347 ($440) German welfare recipients receive, he designed a diet intended to prove that the opposite was the case.
Last October, the cultural magazine Lettre International asked Sarrazin whether he was interested in a lengthy discussion about his native Berlin. When the interview was published, it included controversial statements like: "The Turks are conquering Germany the way the Kosovars conquered Kosovo: with a higher birth rate." He also said that "a large number of Arabs and Turks in (Berlin) ... have no productive function other than in the fruit and vegetable trade."
The interview set off a storm of outrage. His name was mentioned in the same breath as Göring, Goebbels and Hitler, and a number of Social Democrats called for his ejection from the party. But the letters and emails he received revealed to Sarrazin that he had addressed a subject that has many people worried. He decided to continue pursuing the issue.
Those in Germany who feel misunderstood, and who are now taking a stand against the elites, have selected as their hero a man who thinks and feels in more elitist ways that most people in the political world, and who is quick to reveal the superiority he feels over less intelligent people. Many fail to recognize his arrogance, which is softened by his quirky behavior as an outsider.
Treating Admirers with Contempt
What most people see as a cranky pose -- the outstretched chin and the arms crossed across his chest -- does in fact reveal the worldview of someone who peers down from high above at the turmoil and teeming crowds at the base of his mountain.
Sarrazin's way of thinking is based on resentment. It isn't directed against those who own less or come from less privileged families. Money and parentage are irrelevant to Sarrazin, and in that sense he is a democrat through and through. The most important standard of valuation for Sarrazin, an avid reader who studied Latin, Hebrew and Greek in high school, is the desire for education. But what his fans fail to realize is that Sarrazin himself would probably treat many of his admirers with contempt.
It is a large group, but it doesn't include all Germans by far. In an public opinion poll conducted for German public broadcaster ARD last week, the majority of respondents said that they were in favor of Sarrazin leaving the executive board of the Bundesbank. Still, the view that there are serious problems with immigrants is also widespread -- even though Mesut Özil was one of the German national team's stars in the last World Cup and Sibel Kekilli is a television star. Instead of such celebrities with Turkish backgrounds, many Germans are apparently more likely to think first of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who, in 2008, told Turks living in Germany: "No one can expect you to subject yourselves to assimilation, because assimilation is a crime against humanity."
Assimilation certainly hasn't taken hold in Neukölln, the Berlin district Sarrazin mentions most often in connection with his theories. He spoke with Heinz Buschkowsky, the district mayor and a fellow Social Democrat. The northern section of Neukölln is home to about 81,000 people with an immigration background. They come from about 160 countries and their children make up 90 percent of elementary school students. Depending on the block, two-thirds to three-quarters of residents live on welfare benefits.
Buschkowsky is angry. "He didn't include in his book many of the things that I had explained to him in detail," like the differences among Muslims, for example. "Among the Alawites, gender equality, the condemnation of violence and education are important principles of life," he says, noting that Sarrazin "proved to be resistant to advice."
On the other hand, says Buschkowsky, Sarrazin accurately describes some of the everyday problems. In some cities there are parallel societies, although many refuse to believe that they exist. "It's the usual refusal to acknowledge reality, the whitewashing, that I even find among integration officials. The biggest enemy of a reasonable integration policy is ignorance."
Kazim Erdogan, a psychologist, is among those who address the desolate conditions in Berlin's troubled Neukölln neighborhood every day: violent fathers, drug-addicted sons, children who can barely read at the age of 10. "We've all known for a long time that the problems are massive," he says. "And now, when I read that Sarrazin has triggered a long overdue debate, I feel mocked."
Erdogan has been trying to bring about change in Neukölln for years. "It's an arduous path, but there are a growing number of successes" -- a child who makes it into high school or an adolescent who finds a job. "You can't simply behave as if none of this existed."
Unproven Assertions and Bogus CorrelationsKlaus 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."
The Genetic ArgumentWhat Sarrazin fails to mention is that these numbers only apply to the first generation of Turkish immigrants. According to the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), 8.9 percent of second-generation men with Turkish backgrounds marry German women, a percentage that increases in future generations.
To stir up anxiety over Muslim immigrants, Sarrazin also discusses congenital diseases in his book. On page 316, he writes: "Entire clans have a long tradition of inbreeding and a correspondingly high rate of disability. It is known that the percentage of congenital disabilities among Turkish and Kurdish immigrants is well above average. But the subject is usually hushed up. Perish the thought that genetic factors could be partially responsible for the failure of parts of the Turkish populations in the German school system."
This supposedly hushed-up phenomenon is common knowledge in the field of human genetics, and is discussed, for example, in a 2008 report by the Robert Koch Institute, "Migration and Health." According to the report, genetic diseases are "seen with greater frequency among children of Turkish descent, but also among children from the Middle and Near East, and from North Africa (Morocco)."
The probability of serious hereditary diseases among the children of marriages within extended families increases to 8 percent when they are the product of unions between cousins. The risk is 4 percent in marriages between unrelated partners. However, the absolute prevalence of ailments is low, as evidenced by the example of phenylketonuria, a disease in which a specific amino acid is not properly metabolized. In Turkey, one in 2,500 people is born with the disease, whereas the ratio among ethnic Germans is 1:10,000.
The Jewish Gene
Sarrazin's attempt to cite these cases as examples of "hereditary factors" that supposedly lead to poor performance among ethnic Turkish students is bizarre. "It's nonsense," says Bernhard Hortshemke of the Institute of Human Genetics at the University Hospital of Essen in western Germany. "One cannot use cases of extremely rare hereditary diseases to draw conclusions regarding the intelligence of an entire group."
Sarrazin's comments in an interview with the national Sunday newspaper Welt am Sonntag illustrate his propensity to assume that there are relevant genetic differences among ethnic groups: "All Jews share a certain gene, all Basques have certain genes that make them different from other people." This statement is scientifically untenable, because the genetic makeup of all human beings is based on an original population of about 10,000 individuals. "All human genes already existed in this population, and these genes are found in all of today's ethnic groups," says Diethard Tautz, president of the German Life Sciences Association (VBIO).
For this reason, all human beings share the genes -- presumably hundreds, if not thousands -- that are responsible for cognitive abilities. "This is why it can be assumed," says Tautz, "that every ethnic group has fundamentally the same genetic potential for intelligence."
Sarrazin's assessment of the genetic differences among ethnic groups is incorrect, as is his main thesis on intelligence. "Fifty to 80 percent of human intelligence is hereditary," he writes, suggesting that it is illusory to believe that intellectual stimulation can significantly alter cognitive abilities.
By No Means Born Stupid
But this statement makes no scientific sense, because conclusions on heredity do not relate to the intelligence of an individual but to differences in intelligence among individuals. When children in upper socioeconomic groups are tested, genes are responsible for about 50 percent of differences in intelligence. The situation changes considerably when children from lower socioeconomic groups are tested: Differences in IQ levels are almost completely attributable to socioeconomic factors, whereas there is virtually no measurable genetic effect. This finding, which Sarrazin neglects to mention, shows that genetic potential is suppressed by family conditions informed by poverty and stress. In other words, the weaker of these children are by no means born stupid. In fact, they are precisely the ones who would stand to benefit more from support programs.
Klaus Bade, a leading German expert in the field of migration studies, actually paints a rather upbeat picture of the overall situation. The process of integration has "by no means failed," he says. "A rational analysis shows us that the situation is significantly better than the way it is portrayed in the public debate," he argues. "In fact, in many empirically measurable areas, it is quite satisfactory or even highly successful."
In short, Sarrazin's book is unconvincing, and yet it has managed to convince many people. That fact has now become a problem for Germany's two main political parties, the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD).
Listening to the Voice of the People
When SPD party leaders met on Monday of last week, it didn't take them long to decide that Sarrazin should be expelled from the party. But even throwing him out could prove to be a headache for the Social Democrats.
By Friday afternoon, the party headquarters had received nearly 4,000 e-mails and hundreds of phone calls about the issue, according to officials at SPD headquarters in Berlin. Party members and non-members alike had expressed outrage at the way Sarrazin was being treated.
"It's about time that you listened to the voice of the people," urged one writer. "If far more than 80 percent of Germans agree with the arguments presented by Mr. Sarrazin, but the politicians reject them, then either you are acting against the will of the people or you feel that they are immature and deranged." In another e-mail, someone wrote: "If you just regularly watch the TV show "Aktenzeichen XY … ungelöst" (a German show similar to Britain's "Crimewatch" or "America's Most Wanted"), you can't deny that in the majority of the cases foreigners are somehow involved in the crimes depicted." The "Turks living among us" in many cases "do not adhere to German law" and do not shy away from "killing young women or 'disfiguring' them so that they are no longer 'women' (female circumcision)."
Gerd Andres, a former member of parliament for the SPD and the President of the German-Turkish Society, said that many SPD members in his home electoral district of Hanover "tell me that Sarrazin is right." Andres feels that the SPD "has no choice but to expel him, but I'm very unhappy about it. You can't replace factual debates with expulsion proceedings." Such a move would give many people the impression that Sarrazin has been "gagged," he says.
The party leadership felt compelled to react to the mood among the rank and file. In an e-mail to party members, SPD general secretary Andrea Nahles wrote that the expulsion proceedings are "not a rejection of an intensive debate on integration policies in our country." Rather it is also necessary "to address and tackle uncomfortable truths." One of these is that "there are at times significant educational and linguistic deficits" among young immigrants.
Growing Political ConcernThe 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.
Examining Sarrazin's Track RecordThe 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
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan and Paul Cohen
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