Germans helpless against immigrants

Demonstrations of thousands of people, clashes with the police and increased social unrest - this is not an image from a disaster movie but the track record of the last month in the country beyond our western border. Security is currently one of the most burning issues in Germany.

– According to the latest survey by the German public opinion research institute Ipsos, Germans rank immigration second on their list of concerns and fears (44 percent of respondents). The first one is inflation (45%), but in the case of immigration, there has been an increase of as much as 11 percentage points compared to the previous study, says Piotr Semka, a publicist and expert on Germany. This shows that the distance between the current allies of Willkommenskultur and the Alternative for Germany (AfD) supporters - a party that has clearly indicated from the beginning that Germany's open-door policy may have tragic consequences - is slowly shortening.

SIGN UP TO OUR PAGE The terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7, which led to the retaliatory bombing of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli army and the escalation of the conflict, added fuel to the fire. A wave of pro-Palestinian protests swept through Germany - some of them had a turbulent course of events.

– There is a thesis regarding those anti-Israel protests and signs of support for Hamas. The environment responsible for the "events" on New Year's Eve in Cologne (on the night of 2015/2016, when women were harassed on a massive scale - editor's note) has been highly politicised. We are talking about young Muslims who have not managed to integrate with the rest of the community and sometimes have a criminal past. Now they have become politically involved, anti-Israel and anti-Western activists, says Prof. Bogdan Musiał, a historian who has been living in Germany for many years.

The migration problem, he points out, had been mounting for years, but for the German media and political class, it was a taboo topic.

Tomasz Gabiś, a publicist, Germanist, translator and author of the bi-monthly Arcana Journal, also notices social unrest. – The issue of migration from the Middle East and Africa is undoubtedly one of Germany's main problems. Although Angela Merkel assured in the course of her government office that "we can handle it", it turns out that the asylum crisis has not been resolved or stopped. There are still problems, for example, with the deportation of those who have not received asylum. At the same time, there is a constant influx of new migrants to Germany, and the authorities of individual cities and municipalities are making dramatic appeals that they are stretched too thin and on the verge of exhaustion from trying hard to support the foreigners. Their limits have already been exceeded, and the situation is causing increasingly worse moods and unrest in German society, boosting growing opposition, says Gabiś.

Some demonstrate, others set fire to synagogues

As a result of the war in the Middle East, anti-Semitic incidents were intensified in Germany. There are acts of aggression and harassment; Israeli flags, displayed in solidarity, are torn down and defiled; In Berlin, a synagogue was pelted with Molotov cocktails and a Jewish hospital was showered with stones; buildings of the Jewish community are marked with stars of David and on top of this, offensive slogans appear on them; the public security services also detained a man who was planning an attack on a pro-Israel demonstration.
The anti-Israel sentiment was evident long before fighting resumed in the Gaza Strip. In spring, during the visit of the Israeli Prime Minister, a pro-Palestinian demonstration took place in Berlin. Photo HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/EPA/PAP
Last month in Germany, this atmosphere evoked memories of the "Kristallnacht", i.e. violence against the Jewish population, the 85th anniversary of which fell last week.

Prof. Bogdan Musiał reminds us that anti-Semitic incidents have been happening for a long time. – This is nothing new. There had already been frequent attacks on the Jewish community in the streets. In German cities, synagogues have long been protected by members of the police force equipped with machine guns and sometimes (depending on the situation) even armoured vehicles, says the historian. At the same time, he emphasises that the media and politicians previously disregarded the anti-Semitic incidents.

Statistics were falsified. – If the perpetrator of the attack was not found, one was automatically classified as a right-wing extremist – he explains. He adds: "It was common knowledge that most of the anti-Semitic crimes had their roots in the immigrant community." – However, when the culprit of the attack was known, and he was a Muslim, his surname and even his name were not given away because when Muhammad Z. was mentioned, it was clear that he was a Muslim. Still, the data was obviously provided when the offender was of German or Polish origin.

Piotr Semka adds: – When it comes to the anti-Israel behaviour, there is a whole range of them to be mentioned. Some people take part in the pro-Palestine demonstrations, and others set fire to synagogues. Of course, those who participate in the demonstrations claim that they are not anti-Semites, but they fight against Israeli aggression.

Prof. Bogdan Musiał believes that until recently, the German authorities and media diverted attention from internal problems by looking for substitute topics. – For years, German correspondents and publicists have written that anti-Semitism on a huge scale is widespread in Poland. It seemed to them that some terrible things must be happening in Poland. I knew it was a load of rubbish. While they wrote this nonsense, at the same time in Germany, police officers with machine guns had to protect Jewish schools, institutions and synagogues... - he says.

After a while, he adds: - People were running away from their own problems. It's over now because the situation has become so serious that attention cannot be diverted from it any more.

"Knife culture"

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Aggressive behaviour is directed not only at the Jewish community. – Without any doubt, there has been an increased violence and a multiplying number of various types of crime. From time to time, Germany is shaken by gang animosity, settling accounts between different immigrant groups; murders over this background are also popular. The number of attacks has enlarged, especially those with the use of a knife, says Tomasz Gabiś.

– I know statements of the police officers who use the term "knife culture" when referring to this community - echoes Prof. Bogdan Musiał.

Foreigners often conflict with each other. Moreover, in places where there are large congregations of migrants from the Middle East, they try to introduce strict rules towards their own community. – Young Muslims create the so-called Sharia police, which ensures that Sharia rules are conducted within their environment. They want to implement their declared order, says the historian.

During the summer and spring in Germany, there were numerous reports of threats, fights and sexual assaults in swimming areas. In June, after a fight in which approximately 40 young people participated, the Columbiabad swimming pool in Berlin's Neukölln district was closed. The swimming pool remained closed longer because staff, fearing acts of violence, collectively submitted sick notes to their employers. In a letter to the supervisor of Berlin swimming pools, the employees explained that the customers psychologically terrorised them. The personnel were spat at and intimidated.

A lifeguard from one of the swimming pools told "Bild" - he requested anonymity for safety reasons, but also for fear of losing his job - that 80 percent of perpetrators of attacks and aggressive behaviour at bathing areas "have Arab origin."

The asylum crisis translates into tensions in schools. CDU leader Friedrich Merz recently pointed out that the education system is overloaded; students often do not know the language well, and classes are overcrowded. Moreover, there are many reports of acts of violence against peers and teachers. In some German lands, there is an increase in the number of neo-Nazi incidents, such as drawing swastikas or shouting "Heil Hitler".

According to Prof. Bogdan Musiał, tensions in schools are not related to neo-Nazi attitudes. – Of course, this problem exists, but above all, I see connections with the current social situation and the lack of response from politicians – says the researcher.

In his opinion, school tensions most often occur in the immigrant neighbourhoods. – In cities such as Berlin, the middle class can afford boarding schools and private schools for children. Therefore, public schools are attended by large numbers of immigrant minors, who often do not know the German language well and are behind in terms of the school curriculum – says the historian.

Also, according to Piotr Semka, the asylum crisis results in aggression at schools. – There are institutions where Muslims constitute the majority or a significant percentage. They impose their customs, for example, by protesting against pork in school canteens or by refusing disrespectfully to shake hands with women. In turn, during history classes about World War II, Muslim children often say that the knowledge taught is a "Zionist lie," says the columnist.

Awakening ?

A survey conducted by ARD-Deutschland Trend - published at the turn of September and October, i.e. before the intensification of social tensions in Germany related to the situation in the Middle East - showed that 71 percent of Germans believe that a good solution would be to set an annual limit on the admission of migrants. In turn, 61 percent of respondents said they had negative associations with immigration (an increase of 10 percentage points compared to the same survey from May). Only one in four respondents believed that Germany had gained some benefits thanks to immigration.
Some German cities have districts almost entirely dominated by Muslim newcomers. You can also find such streets in Leipzig. Photo Sebastian Willnow/DPA/PAP
Prof. Musial comments that usually Germans are not fond of open discussions, but that is changing now. – This can be seen in private conversations. Most Germans I talk to reject the current migration policy, he admits.

He says there used to be a hotel and a restaurant near the town where he lives. During the pandemic, the owner went bankrupt. The local borough was assigned migrants who were placed in this hotel. Then, the residents formed a company, raised money and bought the building. – They said they had nothing against migrants, but they wanted to have control over this process because the situation could become dangerous – says the researcher.

German authorities realised that the country needed immigrants who were skilled workers. Still, foreigners from Africa and the Middle East were usually "unsuitable for work". There is a huge shortage of specialists on the market, but they are not specialists in this case. Often, they cannot even be trained because they are illiterate. Therefore, the historian notes that it is not labour but social migration.

There are also traumas that these people bring along with them, for example, natives from Afghanistan, which was recently plunged into war. – On top of all of this, we have to consider Islam, which de facto is a chauvinistic religion. It must be stated openly: people from Africa and the Middle East who come here bring in their "baggage" the anti-Semitism, contempt for women and hard work. Germans are starting to realise this, says Professor Musiał.

Or maybe the Danish model?

The question arises whether this problem can still be solved or whether it is too late. It is estimated that approximately 200 new migrants arrive in Berlin every day. In addition, according to statistics, in some German lands, Muslim names are among the most popular names given to newborns. Piotr Semka also points out that "surveys show that ¼ of German society are citizens who have the »fresh migration« roots; they arrived in Germany after 1950".
In the opinion of Prof. Bogdan Musiał, it is not too late to take effective action. He believes that including the Danish model would be an opportunity to tackle the problem. – The authorities in Denmark have noticed that if the number of Muslims in a designated district exceeds 30 percent, the social situation changes; immigrants begin to introduce their Islamic orders. That's why it was decided that firstly, the Muslim communities should be fragmented and separated, then secondly, illegal immigrants should be deported, he says.

Other commentators are more pessimistic. – Some people believe, looking for example at demographic data, that it is too late – admits Tomasz Gabiś. He adds that the authorities already know that large congregations of migrants lead to forming parallel societies. However, they are unable to cope with this problem, especially in large cities such as Berlin, Hamburg or Frankfurt. – In some districts, e.g. Hamburg, as much as 90 percent of the inhabitants are not native Germans. The columnist points out that there are schools in some cities where only a few or several percent of students are German by birth and speak German,

In the past, he notes, "they talked about assimilation" of newcomers, which was rejected, and then they talked about integration. – It is still mentioned sometimes, but we actually talk about giving up on the idea of including immigrants in the German community life. To be quite realistic, this is no longer possible. Research shows that many of those incomers do not want to integrate at all, articulates Tomasz Gabiś.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has announced restrictions on illegal migration, which is probably a reaction to the growing support of the AfD (the question is whether this will not end up with declarations). Tomasz Gabiś notes that "the quasi-opposition CDU is apparently trying to do something" in this matter. – Deliberations are ongoing. There are attempts to change the law, but it is moving very slowly because the Left (i.e. SPD and the Greens), whose ranks include many multiculturalism supporters, are unwilling to take more decisive steps. So there are ongoing discussions about laws in this area, but little comes of it, says the Germanist.

There are ideas to limit migrants' access to social benefits. – A significant part of this community lives off the welfare state. This is the factor that attracts many foreigners to come to Germany - explains Gabiś.

– – Helplessness is visible. There are no reasonable and feasible ideas, concludes Tomasz Gabiś.

Piotr Semka echoes his statement: - Germans are helpless against the problem of illegal immigration. They don't really know what to do about it.

Tomasz Gabiś draws attention to another dangerous phenomenon: the emigration of native Germans from the country: - They migrate to Canada, the United States or Switzerland. They are often qualified people. This means that people who paid more into the state budget than they benefited from are replaced by people who barely know the language and use social benefits to a large extent. He notes that, to some extent, Germany has become an emigration country.

– Łukasz Lubański

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists

– Translated by Katarzyna Chocian
Main photo: Approximately 200 new migrants arrive in Berlin every day. In the photo: a queue to the registration office in the capital's Reinickendorf district. Photo FABRIZIO BENSCH / Reuters / Forum
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