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  • Die neuen Deutschen. Ein Land vor seiner Zukunft by Herfried Münkler and Marina Münkler
  • Nurettin Ucar
Die neuen Deutschen. Ein Land vor seiner Zukunft. By Herfried Münkler and Marina Münkler. Berlin: Rowohlt, 2016. Pp. 334. Cloth €19.95. ISBN 978-3871341670.

The title of Herfried and Marina Münkler's book would seem to imply that migrants who have settled in the Federal Republic are the new Germans. Yet the Münklers insist [End Page 675] that not only those who have recently arrived in Germany, but indeed all Germans, must assume new roles in the face of the so-called "refugee crisis." They investigate various kinds of responses to the refugee issue in Germany by also providing a historical trajectory of the notion of migration and its perception in many countries. They argue that there are two possible camps with respect to refugees: those who willingly help the unfortunate and those who feel disturbed by the unwanted guests. The latter hope that these new people will disappear as soon as possible because they are intruders (7). Hence, the Münklers claim, Germany has been a divided country since 2015. These divisions have inevitably had an effect on politics and will likely last for a long time, and so it is only by confronting the refugee crisis that Germany will be able to determine its future and the kind of country it wants to be.

Instead of making assumptions, the Münklers try to find answers by asking the following questions: Will the newcomers settle in Germany, find jobs, and adapt basic German values as their own? Will they seal themselves off from the majority in Germany and retreat into Parallelgesellschaften? Will Germans see refugees as a change or as burden and threat? (8–9). In light of such questions, one thing is obvious: if it is going to be successful, the process of integration will continue for years.

Less clear is what will happen if the optimistic projections of the country's future and the place of refugees fails to be realized. The authors warn that there is no need to be pessimistic, but they refuse to examine the complaints of the antirefugee camp and their demands in detail. One reason for this could be their claim that Germany has actually passed the Stresstest of 2015 (12), when the "old Germans," who remain attached to a vision of ethnic exclusivity, lost out to the "new Germans," who subscribe to a more open and diverse Germany. Yet there has been quite a divide between the two parties, and the authors think that it needs to be bridged, if Germany is to overcome the looming problems.

Social and political opposition to the newcomers are the major issues. The fear of the "old Germans" arises from the belief that migrants significantly change the culture, and they regard migrants as a threat to security and a danger to national identity, rather than as a means of strengthening society. Hence the terms so beloved of anti-immigration campaigners, like Umvolkung and Überfremdung.

What makes Germany so appealing a destination for refugees? Among the factors given are employment, education, and security. But the 2015 arson attacks on refugee shelters created a particularly negative image of Germany, which many "new Germans" chose to reject and, in retaliation, they organized demonstrations welcoming refugees. For the authors, these demonstrations had a twofold function: they extended a hand of friendship to refugees, to be sure, but they were also designed to show other Germans, and the world, that Germany would not tolerate acts of violence against the refugee population. Of course, there were also those who opposed the admission of refugees by claiming it was part of a conspiracy to seize control of [End Page 676] Germany and the German people. However, with the support and encouragement coming from politicians and especially Chancellor Merkel, Germany established its Willkommenskultur (136).

The Münklers view a good immigration policy as an antidote for a number of the problems faced in European countries. Some rich societies, despite their economic strength, are in need of structural renewal, and the successful integration of refugees can would reverse the...


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