The Man Who Divided Germany: Why Sarrazin's Integration Demagoguery Has Many Followers

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

Photo Gallery: Sarrazin's Book Divides Germany Photos
AFP

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.

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1. Sarrazin's genetic claims have truth
eric99 09/06/2010
This was an interesting article and it's about time that the debate on unassimilable immigrants is taking place. Although I haven't read Sarrazin's book, and am only commenting on the article, I generally agree with what he says and found the article seemingly objective. However, the comments by Diethard Tautz appeared absurd to me. He either has no knowledge of genetics or else is using his knowledge in the name of an ideology. Anyone with the slightest interest in genetics would know that each race and cultural group can be generally identified to a large extent by their genetic haplogroup. One can easily search the web and look up sites such as the National Geographics Genographic Project, DNATribes, FamilyTreeDNA, and others and order a kit and test one's own haplogroup. Groups such as Jews (who want to know if they are Levites, Israelite, Ashkenazi, Sephardim, Mizrahim, Cohens, etc) and Mongolians (who want to see if they are related to Genghiz Khan) are great users of these types of services. And yes, Basques have their own genetic identity. Apparently the author of this article had no knowledge of this or else would have either challenged Tautz's claims during the interview, or else provided explanations to the readers about the errors of his claims.
2.
josepht 09/10/2010
I concur with those who scrutinize his statistical claims. Germans have always been a hard working, studious bunch. It’s part of their culture. It will take more than a generation or two to assimilate foreigners. The family learning environment is key. If you can pluck a child out of a poor learning environment and give them something better…that works. I’ve seen it firsthand time and again. The problem is the parents of the child immigrants. They are likely more lazy and uneducated...because that's how they were raised in their home countries. That mind set is transferred to the kids. The only fix is to ramp up education for migrant adults. They should be taught to learn both German & English, and to learn a skilled trade or earn a professional degree. Do Germans care? Do the migrants care? In the end it’s up to them. Any notion of genetic inferiority is a cop out. People will learn…if they’re provided an environment to do so. People will work…if they see the fruits of their labor. A major problem with the German mind set is intolerance and lack of patience. This in and of itself is a behavior disorder that can be destructible to not only to the family structure, but also to immigrants who live in Germany. Germans need to realize they are not the only smart people in the world. For example, it is widely known they excel in mechanical engineering. On the other hand, Germany lags significantly in the field of electrical engineering. In today's world one without the other is not acceptable. The same could be said about social interaction with foreigners. For example, America is a melting pot. Every flavor of world citizen calls that country home. The benefits of such an environment cannot be denied. Granted there are intermittent problems, but they are openly discussed and worked out in the vast majority of cases. This brings me to my next point: Many Germans lack this sense of openness and simply do not assimilate well with others who are not like them. This is a cultural problem not an intellectual problem. As an employee in an American software company, we strongly rely on our development teams from around the world. Simply put, we seek out the brightest minds. We know first hand that intelligence and learning determined by how an individual is raised and educated, not simply by the shade of their skin. For Germany to progress it must overcome the backward notion of isolating those who are different. Rather, they should embrace the best that humanity has to offer and work on continuously improving their fellow citizens. Anything less is lazy policy at the national level.
3. Another disconnect
verbatim128 09/11/2010
---Quote (Originally by sysop)--- 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 http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,715876,00.html ---End Quote--- The Man Who Divided Germany? Thilo Sarrazin has, at worst, pointed at the existing division. He is blamed for a bit too much, something he dared reveal, a critical view from many in the population at large of what the political class decided to ignore: Multiculturalism taken too far and left unattended by the political class and pundits alike. Sarrazin's so called "integration demagoguery" may have just found the so called "followers", never noticed or dismissed outright before. He seems to be just as surprised as those who lament (envy?) that he, Sarrazin, is not alone in the great schism against political correctness. The Spiegel Staff who wrote this piece failed to explain the most important question of their own by-line, the WHY. Why, all of a sudden so many followers? Perhaps some "gene" shared by so many people who are tired of being taken for fools? Sorry, I could not resist that cheap shot. And that brings me to the sad lament of my own. The writers went into disputing, perhaps some not-so-scientific aspects of Sarrazin's claims, with bogus arguments--as eric99 pointed out aptly before me. But for good measure, and this disappoints me from Spiegel, they failed to provide the context of their quotes from Sarrazin's statements, namely the interview in which he mentioned the genes, indeed failing to provide the full quote which mentioned the Basques not only the Jews as said to have unique genes. And there are more examples of the same out of context use of Sarrazins words. I will not venture to speculate whether this was done on purpose or out of lack of intellectual fairness and curiosity. Just another disconnect. But without being dramatic about it, ignore the so-called followers at your peril: they will be harder and harder to dismiss than poor Thilo Sarrazin.
4.
BTraven 09/15/2010
---Quote (Originally by eric99)--- This was an interesting article and it's about time that the debate on unassimilable immigrants is taking place. Although I haven't read Sarrazin's book, and am only commenting on the article, I generally agree with what he says and found the article seemingly objective. However, the comments by Diethard Tautz appeared absurd to me. He either has no knowledge of genetics or else is using his knowledge in the name of an ideology. Anyone with the slightest interest in genetics would know that each race and cultural group can be generally identified to a large extent by their genetic haplogroup. One can easily search the web and look up sites such as the National Geographics Genographic Project, DNATribes, FamilyTreeDNA, and others and order a kit and test one's own haplogroup. Groups such as Jews (who want to know if they are Levites, Israelite, Ashkenazi, Sephardim, Mizrahim, Cohens, etc) and Mongolians (who want to see if they are related to Genghiz Khan) are great users of these types of services. And yes, Basques have their own genetic identity. Apparently the author of this article had no knowledge of this or else would have either challenged Tautz's claims during the interview, or else provided explanations to the readers about the errors of his claims. ---End Quote--- Perhaps you are right with your statement that ethnics can be distinguished by genetic material because every group has a special feature which makes it possible to indicate where someone belongs to. The problem is Sarrazin concludes from it that ethnics have different IQ. According to an organisation which represents all scientists who work in that field it is a wrong conclusion. http://idw-online.de/pages/en/news384817
5. Lets examine basic assumptions.
distantdrummer 10/06/2010
In Canada we have "multiculturalism", in Germany "integration". Why are these things simply taken for granted? Are they somehow inevitable? Is there some law of nature that states that every country must absorb the surplus population of other countries? Political refugees is one thing but allowing a flood of immigrants from war-torn countries into the society your forefathers spent their lives building up seems illogical. Why don't they fix the problems in their own country instead of just jumping ship? Is it safe to assume that as soon as the host country begins to resemble their native country too much, they will move on?
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Graphic: Muslims in Germany Zoom
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Graphic: Muslims in Germany


A Brief History of Integration in Germany
1949 -- The Constitution
The German constitution comes into force. Cognizant of Germany's Nazi past, the "Basic Law" provides for far-reaching asylum rights that include constitutionally guaranteed individual rights to sue for asylum.
1960 -- Recruiting Abroad
Some 280,000 workers from abroad are already employed in Germany. But more are needed. Recruitment agreements are signed in 1960 with both Greece and Spain.
1961 -- The Berlin Wall
The construction of the Berlin Wall puts an immediate stop to the flood of people flowing into West Germany from East Germany, meaning that new sources of labor must be found. Germany signs a recruitment agreement with Turkey.
1964 -- One Million Guest Workers
Armando Rodrigues from Portugal becomes the 1 millionth guest worker in Germany. He is given a moped as a welcoming gift.
1966 -- East German Recruitment
East Germany too needs to recruit workers from abroad to help with reconstruction. Between 1966 and 1989, some 500,000 people are brought in, mostly from Vietnam, Poland, Mozambique and other countries.
1971 -- Residency Made Easy
The West German government eases rules for residency permit applications. The change makes it easier for immigrants to stay in the country and leads to many of them bringing their families to Germany.
1973 -- The Oil Crisis
Due to the oil crisis and the concurrent economic slowdown, Germany ceases recruiting new guest workers from abroad. The German labor market is saturated with 2.6 million guest workers.
1983 -- Going Home?
The government of Chancellor Helmut Kohl passes a law that provides financial assistance to those guest workers who want to return to their home countries. But the law does not result in the wave of returns the government had hoped for.
1990 -- Fall of the Iron Curtain
With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of communism in Eastern Germany, tens of thousands of ethnic Germans from the former Soviet bloc stream into newly reunified Germany and dominate immigration for a time.
1993 -- Xenophobic Attacks
Five people with Turkish backgrounds die in Solingen, Germany following an arson attack on the house they were living in. It was one of several xenophobic attacks in the early 1990s, including ones in Hoyerswerda, Rostock-Lichtenhagen and Mölln.
1999 -- Petition against Dual Citizenship
During the runup to a state election in Hesse, conservative politician Roland Koch -- who would go on to win the vote and become state governor -- caused controversy with a petition campaign against allowing immigrants in Germany to hold dual citizenship. The campaign was criticized for being xenophobic.
2000 -- Launch of Green Card Program
Then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder announced a "green card" program, which was aimed at recruiting 20,000 IT specialists from outside the European Union. The move sparked a new debate on immigration.
2001 -- 9/11 Attacks
After the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the issue of security came to dominate the immigration debate. Immigrants were increasingly presented as being a risk rather than an opportunity for Germany.
2005 -- New Immigration Law
The so-called Immigration Law came into effect. It laid down new rules for immigration and included measures to promote integration within German society, such as the right to attend an "integration course."
2006 -- First Islamic Conference
Then-Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble held the first Islamic Conference. It led to the founding of a new umbrella group representing Muslims, the Coordination Council of Muslims in Germany. Previously, Muslims living in Germany had not had a unified lobby group to represent their interests.
2006 -- Citizenship Tests
The states of Baden-Württemberg and Hesse introduced so-called "citizenship tests." Foreigners living in those states who wanted to become German citizens were obliged to correctly answer a series of questions about Germany.
2010 -- Diverse World Cup Team
Eleven of 23 players on Germany's national football team at the World Cup in South Africa came from immigrant families, including Mesut Özil, Marko Marin and Miroslav Klose. The diverse team was hailed as a symbol of multiculturalism in German society.
Thilo Sarrazin's Urge to Provoke

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