Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose

December 30, 2010

In News

The attacks by Thilo Sarrazin (see  against Turkish and Arab immigrants unleashed a huge discussion about Muslims, Islam and integration. A few commentators pointed out how similar the present-day anti-Muslim rhetoric is to 19th century anti-Semitism. In 1879 the infamous saying was coined: “The Jews are our misfortune.”

“In a November 1879 article on future trends, published in the national-liberal periodical Preußische Jahrbücher, famous Berlin University historian Heinrich von Treitschke discussed, among other things, the ‘passionate anti-Jewish movement,’ which considered the immigration of Jews who seemed determined to cling to their religious law a danger to the nation state’s integration defined by the common rule of civil law. The historian, who in his Deutsche Geschichte im neunzehnten Jahrhundert had described ‘public opinion’ as a revolutionary force, reports from the upper levels of society: ‘Even in the most educated circles, men who would reject each and every notion of religious intolerance or national arrogance now declare unanimously: the Jews are our misfortune.’ (…)

Not unanimously, but louder and louder, we hear today: Islam is the problem. What is the aim of those, who propagate this slogan?”

(Patrick Bahners, “Fanatismus der Aufklärung,” in Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik, September 2010).


 The arguments are similar: “they” are governed by antiquated and anti-democratic religious laws, “they” refuse to integrate, live in ghettos, do not want to contribute to society but only to benefit, “they” have innumerable children and will take over our society. Compare the following:

“(…) year after year, out of the inexhaustible Polish cradle, a mass of industrious young men, selling trousers, pushes over our Eastern border; their children and grandchildren are meant to one day control Germany’s stock exchanges and newspapers. Immigration continues to increase, and the question how we can assimilate these people with their foreign customs and traditions into our own nation becomes more and more serious.”
(Heinrich von Treitschke, “Unsere Aussichten” (1879), in Der “Berliner Antisemitismusstreit” 1879-1881, edited by Karsten Krieger, 2004)
“A large number of Arabs and Turks in this city [Berlin], whose number has increased due to wrong politics, do not make any productive contribution apart from the sale of fruit and vegetables, and this state of affairs is not likely to change. (…) I do not have to accept somebody who lives from state hand-outs but rejects the state, doesn’t provide for the education of his children and constantly produces new little girls with headscarves. This is true for seventy percent of the Turkish and ninety percent of the Arab population of Berlin. Many of them want no integration, but to live according to their own ways. In addition, they cultivate a mentality which is, overall, aggressive and atavistic. (…) The Turks are conquering Europe in the same way that the Kosovars have conquered Kosovo: by their higher birth rate. I would like that if we were dealing with Eastern European Jews whose IQ is about 15 percent higher than that of the German population. But I don’t like it at all with respect to population groups who don’t accept that they have to contribute to integration, and also because it costs an enormous amount of money and we are facing a lot of other big challenges in the next decades.”
(Interview with Thilo Sarrazin, Lettre International 86, 10/2009,
For more commentary on the topic, see, e.g., Erich Follath, “The Sarrazin Debate: Germany is Becoming Islamophobic,” Spiegel Online International, 31 August 2010 (,1518,714643,00.html); “Sarrazin vs the Saracens,” Economist, 1 September 2010 (;  Kirsten Grieshaber, “Thilo Sarrazin, German Banker, Under Fire For ‘Racist’ Jewish Remark,” Huffington Post, 29 August 2010 (