Survey findings on far-right views give Germany its latest Führer furore

 

After almost a decade of decline, a poll indicates that views in favour of dictatorship, xenophobia and anti-Semitism are rising

GERMANY IS undergoing its annual Führer furore, this time over a new survey suggesting that extreme-right views are on the rise.

Some 13 per cent of Germans in a new survey said they felt “Germany needs to be ruled with a firm hand by a strong leader or "Führer” – a term exclusively associated with Adolf Hitler.

Over a third of those surveyed agreed – either largely or whole-heartedly – with the statement that Germany was “endangered” by its non-German population.

Some 58 per cent supported limiting the religious rights of Muslims, while 15 per cent agreed that Jews “work with tricks to achieve their ends” and “are a particular people who aren’t a good fit with us”.

The Friedrich Ebert Foundation, which commissioned the representative survey based on 2,411 personal interviews, said the results showed “no societal group is immune” from extremist views.

One in four surveyed supported the survey’s xenophobic statements, of which easterners approved more than westerners (35 per cent against 22 per cent).

When sorted by political preference, Social Democrat (SPD) respondents were the most xenophobic (24 per cent) and Christian Democrat (CDU) voters the most anti-Semitic (12 per cent) of all the main political party members quizzed.

Among non-voters, nearly one in four could be identified as xenophobic.

Researchers said a clear trend was visible: after almost a decade of decline, the survey indicates that views in favour of dictatorship, xenophobia and anti-Semitism are increasing in popularity. “In the past the base for extreme-right views in Germany, though present, was more latent in nature. Now these views are being expressed more frequently,” said Oliver Decker, one of the authors of the study.

He suggested that the views in the survey were coloured by the recent economic crisis, even though Germany is heading back to 3 per cent growth this year.

“The economic crisis seems to have allowed aggression come to the surface. Among those looking for a valve, foreigners in general and Muslims in particular fill that role.”

The survey results have poured oil on a fiery debate about integration sparked by the claim in a recent book that the religious beliefs of Muslim immigrants made them unwilling or unable to integrate into German society.

Politicians of all hues condemned author Thilo Sarazzin for his views, but surveys showed that 60 per cent of Germans agree with him – and 1.5 million have bought his book.

Leading right-wing politicians were caught off guard by the popularity of Sarrazin’s views and, after first attacking him, some are now playing catch-up.

Earlier this week Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer, head of the socially conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), said Germany had “no need” for migrants from “alien cultures” such as Turkey and Arab countries because of their “integration difficulties”.

“We have to deal with the people who already live here,” said Mr Seehofer. “We must get tougher on those who refuse to integrate.” His remarks provoked widespread condemnation, with even the Bildtabloid, no stranger to populism, accusing him of “targeted provocation”.

Unlike most of its continental neighbours, Germany has no extreme right party in its political mainstream. Leading political analysts see in Mr Seehofer’s remarks a calculated attempt to keep it that way. “One-time CSU leader Franz Josef Strauss famously remarked that the only thing to the right of the CSU should be the wall,” said political scientist Heinrich Oberreuter on national radio.

“Seehofer wants to make the hard right incontestably CSU territory and increase the barrier for voters to drift further right to extremist parties.”

Extreme statements and the percentage who agreed

23.6%

Germany needs a single strong party that embodies the people as a whole

35.6%

Germany is dangerously swamped by too many foreigners

8.8%

In certain circumstances, a dictatorship is the best form of government

13.2%

We should have a Führer who rules Germany with a strong hand in the national interest

10.7%

If it hadn’t been for the extermination of the Jews, Hitler would be viewed as a great statesman