Germans, More or Less

Deutschland Schafft Sich Ab: Wie wir unser Land aufs Spiel setzen (Germany Abolishes Itself: How We Are Putting Our Country at Risk)

by Thilo Sarrazin
Munich: DVA, 463 pp., €22.99
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Boris Roessler/epa/Corbis
Thilo Sarrazin, left, a former finance ministry official who resigned as a director of the Bundesbank after the publication of his controversial book Germany Abolishes Itself, at a ceremony in Mainz to honor the comedian Lars Reichow, January 2011

Like a neurotic student, united Germany celebrated its twentieth birthday by contemplating its own extinction. Published in the summer of 2010, Germany Abolishes Itself topped the best-seller lists throughout the autumn—straddling the twentieth anniversary of German unification on October 3—with 1.2 million copies delivered to bookshops by the end of the year. The author, Thilo Sarrazin, is a former finance ministry official and finance senator (in effect, finance minister) of the city of Berlin. He was until recently a director of the Bundesbank, a post from which he was persuaded to resign following the controversy around this book. He is, at this writing, still a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, although steps have been taken to propose his expulsion from it.

Sarrazin proceeds from two familiar observations—that Germany’s native-born population has a very low birthrate, and that the country has a lot of poorly integrated Muslim immigrants with (currently) a higher birthrate—to conjure a nightmare scenario in which, by the year 2100, a dwindling puddle of perhaps as few as twenty million true German Germans are dominated and pushed around by the descendants of Turkish and other Muslim immigrants, who build mosques and “Koran schools” while the country’s “churches, castles and museums” fall into decay.

Oswald Spengler, thou shouldst be living at this hour! Der Untergang des Abendlandes! 1 Finis Germaniae! The people Tacitus incompletely described around the year 100 AD in his Germania, all those manly Hermanns wandering the Teutonic forest, turning aside from their reading of Goethe and Schiller only to sire upon stout, fecund blond maidens many hearty, cultured little Sarrazins, will be no more. Germania, 100–2100, RIP. Unless, that is, Germania pulls itself together and takes the medicine prescribed by Dr. Sarrazin.

Concern about the fact that Germany’s native-born population, along with that of several other West European countries, has a very low birthrate is not new. Some thirty years ago, a British postgraduate teaching at a West German university shared with his class a magazine article suggesting that according to current trends—the birthrate having plummeted from the mid-1960s on—there would eventually be no Germans left at all. He asked his students what they thought of this. After a long silence, one of them said, “Find’ ich gut!” (“I think that’s good!”) The remark was gloriously, ridiculously expressive of a now defunct West German attitude of self-abasement, after the horror and shame of Nazism.

Sarrazin does not find this prospect good. He is horrified by statistical projections that do indeed suggest that the German population would drop to 24 million by 2100—though only at current birthrates and assuming no further immigration.2 He is even more horrified …

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  1. 1

    Spengler’s title is conventionally translated as The Decline of the West, but the conservative flavor of the word Abendland is perhaps better captured by the now archaic “Occident.” 

  2. 2

    See Steffen Kroehnert et al., The Demographic State of the Nation (Berlin-Institute for Population and Development, 2006).