How can Germans be so generous vis a vis taking refugees in Europe? Germany will probably take around a million refugees, especially Syrians. Syrians, people who mostly speak no German, and whose culture is so different. People who have never lived in a democracy and who are absolutely destitute and desperate. Taking one million refugees is like taking one million unemployed people who are not educated in your country and whose skills most likely do not match those of your labor market. So what could make Germans want to take these refugees? Because from what I have seen it is not that anyone is putting tremendous pressure on them to take them. It is actually a popular measure in Germany to accept Syrian refugees. This while British and others are chasing them away and other than the Swedes, nobody else wants them. So here’s my theory.

I am not German but my qualifications are having a German family, many German friends and being on two German company boards, Axel Springer and Arago.

The Holocaust is a horrible trauma for the current generation of German leaders. Just like the current leadership of Israel is horrified by the fact that Jews did not violently fight their way out of the Holocaust and as a result are unreasonably violent as soon as they are attacked by Hamas or Hezbollah, the German leadership is also inspired by the Holocaust but in the exact opposite way. Germans react with extraordinary kindness.  How could our parents and grandparents massively kill innocent people, mostly Jews, by the millions, they wonder. It is not only Jews, the victims, who are traumatized by the Holocaust, Germans are as well!   For Germans today it is impossible to understand how their ancestors could have perpetrated the Holocaust. Given this situation, I think that in the German psyche, when they read about IS and their behavior they immediately relate IS to the Nazi party.  And this is not far fetched, IS is so brutal, dictatorial, that it is like a Nazi version of Islam.  So paradoxically for them, and forgetting how many Syrians feel about the Jews, (I know, I went to Syria and was arrested on suspicion of being Jewish and had to lie my way out of detention), for many in Germany, the Syrians are the “new Jews”.  And they have more sympathy for their plight than other European nations.  This time they will save them from their Holocaust.  The current generation of Germans grew up sympathizing with victims, so with Syrian people they are given an opportunity to stop the massive killing of innocents and they are taking it.  And while this decision will undoubtedly cause problems, because Germans are true romantics (I know I am married to one), they are going for this without thinking much about the pros and cons. They are driven by emotions more than by reason. Sort of how they took East Germany and gave them a 1 to 1 conversion, a move that depressed the German economy for a decade, and yet nobody regretted. Now paradoxically, the East Germans, who have benefited from  West German generosity themselves, are the ones who are rejecting the refugees. It’s the “I am in, now close the door syndrome.” But some East Germans aside, I like to see a powerful nation that is sensitive to the sorrows of others. And while from a policy point of view it’s an invitation to tension, I still admire Germany for taking those refugees. And what’s more, I think that in the end, kindness will work.  Germany has very low unemployment and an incredibly low birth rate. Education is free in Germany and young people can learn. I am optimistic that Germany will both help and in the end prosper as a result of their decision.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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