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Sunday, 15 July 2012

Book describes Germany without foreigners

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.

In their book Deutschland ohne Ausl√§nder “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 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." 

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