Germany: A “Latent Sense Of Insecurity”
“At least since the events at the Cologne cathedral square on New Year’s Eve in 2015 people apparently feel more and more unsafe,” said Oliver Malchow, the chairman of one of Germany’s two largest police unions. He was referring to the mass sexual assaults committed mainly by Arab and North African men at the Cologne cathedral square on New Year’s Eve more than four years ago. Malchow was also referring to new statistics, which show that approximately 640,000 Germans now have licenses for gas pistols — a large increase since 2014, when around 260,000 people had such a license. A gas pistol fires loud blanks or tear gas cartridges and is only potentially lethal at extremely close range.
The new statistics, according to Malchow, showed a “latent sense of insecurity” in the population. The number of real firearms owned privately also reportedly increased in 2018 — by 27,000 over the previous year. In Germany now, 5.4 million firearms are privately owned, most of them rifles.
A recent annual poll, conducted in September, confirms Malchow’s estimate: Every year since 1992, R+V, Germany’s largest insurance firm, has been asking Germans what they fear most.“This year, for the first time,” according to a report in Deutsche Welle, “a majority said they were most afraid that the country would be unable to deal with the aftermath of the migrant influx of 2015”. Fifty-six percent of those polled said they were scared that the country would not be able to deal with the number of migrants. This September marked exactly four years since Chancellor Angela Merkel opened Germany’s borders and allowed in almost a million migrants. However, Ulrich Wagner, professor of social psychology at the University of Marburg told Deutsche Welle:
“It’s really got more to do with the fact that politicians and media discuss this issue a great deal — which triggers fear… For example, in the latest study, fear of terrorism has clearly gone down. We simply don’t discuss this issue as much as we used to, and that means that people feel safer.”
What the professor appears to imply is that you can solve a crucial societal issue, not by debating its ramifications and publicly seeking to find solutions to it, but by not talking about it, thereby lulling the public into a false sense of security by pretending that the problem does not exist.
The terror threat in Germany has not, in fact, disappeared. Just this March, 11 men were arrested on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack in Germany. Police told the media that the goal of the attack had been “to kill as many infidels as possible” by using firearms and vehicles. According to police, the Islamist group had already organized the rental of a large vehicle: money had been raised and weapons dealers had been approached. “The terror threat in Germany remains high,” the media reported in April. “According to security authorities, there is currently no concrete risk of an attack. But officials are prepared for any development”.
German media also reported in April that German authorities have prevented 13 terrorist attacks in Germany since 2010 and that, according to the Federal Criminal Police Office, all of them were “linked to Islamic extremism”. As recently as October, a Syrian man plowed a stolen truck into the back of a line of traffic, ramming eight cars together and injuring seven people.
Professor Wagner does have a point, however — people do talk a lot less publicly about crucial societal issues: As previously reported by Gatestone Institute, a May 2019 survey, conducted by Institut für Demoskopie Allensbach for the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, showed that discussing certain issues in Germany has become taboo. While the survey did not specifically mention terrorism, it concluded that “The refugee issue is one of the most sensitive topics for the vast majority of respondents, followed by statements of opinion on Muslims and Islam”. As an example, 71% of Germans say, according to the survey, that one can only comment on the refugee issue “with caution”.
Also, according to the annual poll on what Germans fear most, mentioned above, the level of fear in the former East Germany is more than 10% higher than in the West. According to Deutsche Welle:
The paradox is that fewer migrants and fewer refugees actually live in the east than in the west, and yet the levels of fear are higher,” says psychologist Ulrich Wagner. He explains that people who have had personal interactions with foreigners are less likely to believe unfounded horror stories about criminal refugees. “And in the east of Germany, people simply have fewer opportunities to meet refugees and debunk those myths.”
As for that hypothesis, it may be more likely, not that fear is higher, but that people in the former East Germany are less afraid of telling pollsters how they really feel. As the survey on German self-censorship has shown, 57 % of Germans say that “increasingly being told what to say and how to behave” is getting on their nerves. Germans from the formerly communist East complain more about this than the average German, as they have “fresh historical memories of regulation and constriction”.
August Hanning, a former president of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service, recently confirmed that the “latent sense of insecurity” is not due to public fear-mongering. During a visit to the UK, Hanning said that Chancellor Angela Merkel had endangered security in Germany with her historic decision to allow virtually unrestricted immigration into the country by creating a “security crisis” for Germany and the other member states of the European Union.
“We have seen the consequences of this decision in terms of German public opinion and internal security – we experience problems every day.
“We have criminals, terrorist suspects and people who use multiple identities…
“While things are tighter today, we still have 300,000 people in Germany of whose identities we cannot be sure. That’s a massive security risk.
“Moreover, that decision led to the rise of the extremist right, and that’s another security risk, too…”
While Germans are afraid to speak publicly about migrants, refugees and Islam, a recent study conducted by Bertelsmann Stiftung showed that roughly every second German considers Islam to be a threat. Professor Wagner’s theory above, that not talking about certain issues makes fears go away, is, apparently, false. According to the study:
“Overall, about half of those surveyed perceive Islam as a threat. This proportion is higher in eastern Germany, at 57 percent, than in western Germany (50 percent). These findings, recorded in spring 2019, are largely similar to the results of previous Religion Monitor surveys taken in 2013, 2015, and 2017.”
According to Yasemin El-Menouar, Bertelsmann Stiftung’s expert on religion, according to the organization’s website, “Evidently, many people nowadays view Islam more as a political ideology and less as a religion and therefore not deserving of religious tolerance.”