Book describes Germany without foreigners
Published: 20 Jun 12 08:30 CET | Print version
There are seven million foreigners living in Germany. What if the dreams of xenophobes came true and they all left? A new book examines the vision – as James Gheerbrant discovers, no aspect of life would remain untouched.
Gomez. Podolski. Khedira. Boateng. If a symbol was needed of Germany’s increasing cultural and national diversity, few could be more potent or public than the exotic names that adorn the shirts of the German national football team, currently competing at Euro 2012.
On the pitch, this model of modern-day diversity seems to work so well, as players of Spanish, Polish, Tunisian and Ghanaian heritage link harmoniously and work for a common cause.
But in schools, streets, offices, where the mechanics of co-operative society are not greased by fame and fortune, the multinational Bundesrepublik is not such an unqualified success.
That was the verdict of a survey commissioned by the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper in the wake of SPD politician and former Bundesbank executive Thilo Sarrazin’s controversial 2010 bestseller Deutschland schafft sich ab "Germany abolishes itself".
The survey found that more than half of Germans supported Sarrazin’s ideas – that immigrants were guilty of a widespread refusal to integrate (people estimated that "70 percent of the Turkish and 90 percent of the Arab population in Berlin" were not trying); that they presented an increasingly intolerable burden on the state, relying more on social services than their own productivity; and that a highly restrictive immigration policy was the solution.
As many as 18 percent of Germans told the paper they would vote for Sarrazin if he started a political party. But what if that figure doubled, prompted, say, by the increasingly tight grip of austerity, which in other European nations has seen a pronounced shift towards the right? Chancellor Angela Merkel won the 2009 election with just 33.8 percent of the vote.
Imagining expulsion of all foreigners
The possibility of an extreme right-wing administration might seem outlandish, but two authors have decided to imagine just such an event – and its consequences for German society.
In their book Deutschland ohne Ausländer “Germany without Foreigners”, Matthias Thieme and Pitt von Bebenburg imagine a Germany where a right-wing populist government has taken expelled all residents without a German passport. That’s seven million people – accounting for one in ten residents of North-Rhine Westphalia, one in eight Berliners, and one in four of Frankfurt residents.
Certain extreme sections of public opinion might be placated, argued Thieme and von Bebenburg, but the disastrous effects of such an exodus would quickly become apparent. Overall tax revenue would be shorn of €50 billion, and the federal budget would be denuded of €25 billion – which equates to the current allocations for the ministries of family, education, economy and research put together, say the authors.
Moreover, the idea that German residents of foreign heritage are a drain on state finances is wide of the mark, according to the book. True enough, people of non-German descent pay less tax than their "native" counterparts (€7,400 per year per head to €10,800), but they also receive less in pensions and benefits. What’s more, the authors say, "As a proportion, more migrants are productive than native Germans."
Entire industries driven to verge of collapse
Entire industries would be driven to the verge of collapse. Interviewed in the book, ergonomist Gerard Bosch says that the care, craft and catering industries would be decimated, with the latter losing over a fifth of its employees.
Worse still, Bosch says, the "dramatic workforce shortage" could only be solved by an autocratic labour policy, where "the unemployed would be forced under almighty pressure into the cleaning services."
Manfred Schmidt, president of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, told the authors that the dwindling economy would have dire ramifications for the individual lives of Germany’s population. "The Gross Domestic Product would immediately sink by about eight percent, or €150 billion to €200 billion a year."
According to Schmidt, that would mean the remaining native Germans would have to accept impoverished living conditions, a reduction of Germany’s future prospects in a competitive global economy, and a heightened retirement age, probably to 67.
One myth the authors are particularly keen to dispel is that the exodus of foreigners living in Germany would reduce crime. On the contrary, they argue, crimes of prejudice would simply be directed at new targets, possibly the elderly and handicapped.
’There would be a civil war’
MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit – as a French-born German who represents France in the European Parliament himself a perfect example of integration – said second- and third-generation migrants who would be allowed to stay in this scenario, would not accept the eviction of their families. "There would be a civil war," he predicted.
Germany's international standing would be irreparably damaged, according to Cohn-Bendit. "Germany would immediately be excluded from the EU for violating the terms of the Lisbon treaty," he said. "There would be a great isolation of Germany from the whole world ... there would be economic sanctions – no more German exports. Germany would be as isolated as Iran is today."
Thieme and von Bebenburg acknowledge that such a sequence of events is highly unlikely. In a concluding section entitled "Is such a scenario possible?" experts from politics, law and science explain that the ascent to power of such a right-wing regime is, for the foreseeable future, extremely improbable. Among other factors, the institutional hurdles are too high and the right’s political identity too fractured.
But, they argue, that doesn't mean that Deutschland ohne Ausländer is a pointless book - not when people like Sarrazin can induce more than half the population to question the very value of immigrants in German society.
This is particularly true in a time of economic decline, so often seen as the slippery slope on which xenophobic ideas gather popular momentum. Greece’s neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, which has said it would drag immigrants from kindergartens and hospitals to free up space for native Greeks, has been gaining support in a horrendous economic environment.
The book concludes with an interview with the author Günter Wallraff. "It’s a horrendous conception," he says. "A gruesome science fiction scenario, which we would have to save ourselves from. Daily routine and public life would be unbearable. And the worst part? The Sarrazins would be among us. I’d rather blow my brains out."
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