A FEW months ago Germans were basking in the positive glow cast by their multicultural football team. They did not quite win the World Cup but did pretty well with a part-Ghanaian defender, a midfielder with Turkish roots and a striker from Poland. What a great advertisement for a Germany “open to the world”. Now suddenly the talk is of an immigrant-bashing, Islam-hating Germany nostalgic for the firm leadership of the 1940s. Why? And which is the real Germany?
The person responsible for spoiling the mood is Thilo Sarrazin, an obscure member of the Bundesbank’s board, who in August published a controversial book, Deutschland schafft sich ab (“Germany does away with itself”). The dour economist reached this conclusion–surprising in light of Germany’s splendid economic performance–from his reading of the demographic future: with the country’s population shrinking overall, immigrants and the underclass are having too many children, well-educated native Germans too few. Biologically, culturally and professionally Germany is dumbing down, Mr Sarrazin argued (and was then forced out of his job).