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Germans, More or Less

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Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Angela Merkel with delegates representing immigrant groups at the Chancellery in Berlin for a summit on the integration of foreigners in Germany, November 2010

Sarrazin himself obviously wants highly qualified migrants—especially East European Jews, and other congenital geniuses—to come and stay. But his book, and the popular mood music around it, will hardly have made Germany a more attractive place for skilled migrants. In this sense, one might say that Sarrazin is the disease for which he claims to be the cure.

Germany is going to change, of course. According to one scholarly demographic projection, by 2050 something like one in every four Germans will probably have a “migration background”21 But if it is true to the best of its own traditions, Germany will also remain Germany. It will not abolish itself but recreate itself. That’s what nations do. They change, and they remain the same. If they are wise, they change in order to remain the same.

Nations can do this because they are made not by genes but by language, history, and geography, by myths, values, shared ways of life and thought. Thus, for example, it is somehow deeply characteristic of Germany that it feels a strange compulsion, every now and then, to contemplate its own extinction in turgid prose. In that sense, I suppose one could say that Sarrazin has contributed to Germany’s survival after all.

  1. 21

    As reported in a valuable survey article by the Oxford University demographer David Coleman, “Immigration and Ethnic Change in Low-Fertility Countries: A Third Demographic Transition,” Population and Development Review, Vol. 32, No. 3 (September 2006), pp. 401–446, this on p. 431. 

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