Right-wing agitators are heating up the discussion about immigration in Germany and filling it with hate. Last week’s resignation of national football player Mesut Özil over concerns about racism is spurring a necessary and emotional debate about social cohesion in the country.
Geisenhausen is a village in Bavaria, a bastion of support for the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) party. It’s also the place where retiree Karl Meyer boarded a train to Munich with anger in the pit of his stomach. He had painted a sign with a Bavarian swear word and a boat on which it said “Christian Social Inhumanity” with stick figures clinging to its sides.
Meyer, 67, a trained heating installer, wanted to protest in the state capital against “the nationalism that has brought so much calamity into the world” and against the representatives of the CSU, whom he feels no longer represent him. “I favor a different kind of country,” says Meyer. His dialect betrays the fact that he lives in Bavaria, but he is trying to hide his origins. “I’m ashamed to be Bavarian,” he says.
Just over a week has passed since the protest, and the country has quickly moved on to a different topic, with the resignation of Mesut Özil from the national football team dominating the headlines. But Karl Meyer can’t forget the protest, attended by several tens of thousands of people, so quickly, because it was only the second in his life. He had only gone to a protest once before, against a nuclear power plant located near his village.
Now, he once again finds himself sitting in Geisenhausen and looking to Munich and Berlin with a mixture of astonishment and anger: He has read in his local newspaper that the economy grew by 2.2 percent in 2017 and that the unemployment figures in June are lower than at any other time since German reunification. And still all this hate. He doesn’t understand where it’s coming from.