The Berlin Wall is still intact!

Daily: Daily Times
Date: 17.12.14

On November 9 this year, Germany celebrated the 25th anniversary of (the beginning of)
the demolition of the Berlin Wall. The wall was constructed in 1961 to divide Germany into
two halves: East Germany, allied to the former Soviet Union, and West Germany, in the
western Allied camp. The wall began to fall in 1989 because of the collapse of East
Germany and not owing to any West German effort. Nevertheless, the fall of the wall also
marked the unification of Germany in recent history.   

Germany was also unified in 1871. At that time, it propounded a political slogan,
“Lebensraum” (i.e. living space), an expression of its need to find more living space. Not
many people in Pakistan know that in 1884, Germany had colonised a portion of Africa and
a few islands in the Pacific Ocean, which it lost later on during World War I. The desire to
colonise did not die and the same was exploited by Adolf Hitler when he described the
rationale for his expansionist agenda in his book
Mein Kampf (my struggle). He argued that
Germany was overpopulated and, hence, it needed more land (or territory) and soil (or
resources) for the survival of those who were considered to have belonged to a superior
German race. The concept was not only supported by his German Nazi party but also by
Germans in general, as expressed through the electoral vote. However, this time, the
German quest to conquer more territory and grab more resources could not come out of
Europe; though the desire and effort were there, the opportunities were either absent or
lost. This time the mass settlement of Germans took place in the areas (or countries)
surrounding Germany only. Hence, the study of German history refutes two arguments:
first, Germans in general were not the followers of Hitler and, second, Germans were anti-
colonial.

In recent history, the story of the fall of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder of the Social
Democratic Party (SPD), a centre-left party in which the ideology was progressivism, is also
revealing of society’s inner state of affairs. After winning the 1998 elections, Schroder
invited to Germany skilled labour under various schemes from other countries, including
those of the subcontinent, to contribute to its economy. Schroder not only wanted to show
the world the liberal and progressive face of Germany but also wanted Germany to
compete with other developed countries that had introduced similar schemes. In 2000,
Angela Merkel became the head of the centre-right political party, Christian Democratic
Union (CDU), which made an alliance with another right-wing party, Christian Social Union
(CSU). The CDU-CSU coalition, or the Union, had ruled Germany from 1982 to 1998 with
the famous slogan
Deutschland ist kein Einwanderungsland (Germany is not a land of
immigration). This time, both parties, for whom the ideology is conservatism and right-wing
populism, started raising slogans such as German jobs for Germans, foreigners are bread
snatchers, say ‘no’ to immigration, children instead of Indians, foreigners are criminals and
Germany is not a country of immigration. Consequently, hate crimes and racial offences
against foreigners increased and other right wing parties were emboldened to protect
“German competitiveness”.

Schroder won the 2002 elections but with a narrow margin. His popularity plunged further
and, in the 2005 elections, Merkel was able to replace Schroder and has been ruling over
Germany ever since. Under the pressure of honouring her electoral pledges, Merkel has
tactlessly exposed her anti-Muslim sentiments. For instance, while Muslims in Germany
were protesting against a book by Thilo Sarrazin (a Senator of Berlin), who had expressed
his anger on the immigration of Muslims to Germany, Merkel decided to attend an awards
ceremony arranged in 2010 in favour of Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist who had
hurt the sentiments of Muslims in 2006.

It is interesting to note that at the time when foreigners, especially those from the
subcontinent, were being despised and ridiculed in Germany, Germans themselves were
eager to emigrate to other countries. For instance, as per the census done in the US in
2000, the number of ethnic Germans was 46.5 million, which was 17 percent of its total
population. Similarly, as per the census done in Canada in 2006, the number of ethnic
Germans was three million. This trend brings the reader to three simple questions: if
Germans are so keen to preserve their racial oneness in their country, why do they tend to
make other countries pluralistic? Secondly, if Germans are so keen to discourage the
people of the subcontinent from entering their country and living and working with them,
how do they live side by side and work together with people from the subcontinent who
have emigrated to the US and Canada? Thirdly, if the effort to find better work and living is
such a bad idea, why are Germans emigrating to other countries?

Under Schroder (1998 to 2005), Germany was the largest economy within Europe. Under
Merkel (2005 to date), Germany has been enjoying the same status. What difference has
Germany made to enhance its competitiveness? Undoubtedly, Germany might have
produced some impact regionally; in contrast, since 2005, China has emerged as an
international economic giant. German workers might be good mechanics of bicycles,
motorcars, rail engines and airplanes but Chinese workers have proved their expertise in
almost all branches of science, be it mechanics, electronics or space technology.

Germany was unified in 1871, the political slogan ‘living space’ was propounded and later
Hitler banked on it to forward his right wing agenda to construct the Third Reich (1933 to
1945). Germany has been unified again in 1989, the political slogan “Germany is not a land
of immigration” has been raised and Merkel has predicated on it to enter the power
corridors to renovate Germany. What will be the future of this Germany is still unknown.
Certainly, the Berlin Wall between Germany and the world is still intact.

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