Well it’s been a busy week for would-be terrorists and murderers. Over the past seven days there have been four separate attacks in Germany – all of them by migrants. Donald Trump has helpfully noted that Germany let them in and so should expect no less. The details and motives of all the attacks are becoming clearer every day but they were a mixed bag. It started a week ago in Wurzburg – a 17-year old Afghan refugee injured four people with an axe before being corned and shot dead by police. Then we had the Iranian youth in Munich, who was actually born in Germany, shooting nine dead. A day later a young Syrian refugee killed his girlfriend with a kebab-knife (the UK press insists on calling it a machete) and injured a couple more before being arrested. And later that day another Syrian refugee blew himself up and injured others in Ansbach.
So, how do we feel living in Southern Germany after these attacks? When the news broke of each attack, the immediate conclusion is “these must be ISIS terrorists”. The attacks in Munich and Reutlingen, the only lethal attacks, now seemed to have nothing to do with islamic terrorism. The other two certainly look like they were. But on the whole things feel just the same here and even though we have 100 Syrian refugees living in Schönaich.
Last summer when tens of thousands were arriving in Munich on a daily basis and Angela Merkel made her “Wir schaffen das” (we’ll cope) comment there was a sense of solidarity in the country. Germany of course always feels that it has something to prove and this was a tall order but a good opportunity to show the rest of Europe how open and tolerant the country was. And by and large Germany has coped remarkably well. Meanwhile in the background, Merkel was working feverishly with Turkey to stem the flow of migrants coming into the country. She was also criticising the building of fences on the so-called Balkan Route but at the same time probably breathing a sigh of relief that the flow would slow down and it wouldn’t be Angie’s fault. The policy has worked and the number of migrants now arriving is about 15,000 per month compared to ten times that amount just a year ago. Interestingly about 5,000 are returning to their country of origin each month – and a further 2,000 are being deported.
I feel that the high level of optimism and the will to prove that it can be done was at a peak last year. There was a national sense of rolling up your sleeves and getting things done. I don’t think the “terror” attacks have changed this but I do believe the events in Cologne at New Year did take the sheen off things. In case you can’t remember, a group of about a thousand young men from North Africa and the Middle East gathered in the square in front of the main station and intimidated and abused several hundred young women. The clash of sexist traditions with an open and liberated society was a shock. The police and local politicians then fed the fire by apparently trying to play down the situation – possibly for fear of being labelled intolerant or racist.
In a similar vein there have been isolated incidents where an Imam has refused to shake the hand of female politicians or teachers “for religious reasons”. These incidents have led to a slightly tougher attitude. It shouldn’t be a problem to insist that treating men and women equally is “non-negotiable”. Anyone who is not prepared to accept that can’t realistically expect a future in Germany. Such statements are becoming more common and politicians from all parties feel like they are on safe ground.
In my home town with a population of roughly 10,000 there are over 100 refugees. Apart from seeing a few of them get the bus every now and then, most people will not have noticed any difference. The ratio is one per every hundred residents which is roughly equivalent to that of the country as a whole. For the time being it all seems to be less dramatic than the press would have us believe – I’ll keep you posted.