Thilo Sarrazin Whips the Wrath of the Pharisees
One and one half years after “Deutschland schafft sich ab (Germany is abolishing itself)”: a Sarrazin conversation about integration, mistake with the “Jewish gene” and his non-relationship with the SPD Party chief.
Welt Online: Mr. Sarrazin, your book “Germany is abolishing itself” was a super-seller with 1.5 million copies sold; now a paperback edition with a new foreword is coming out…
Thilo Sarrazin: … one and one-half million is incorrect, it was only 1.3 million.
Welt Online: Not bad either. Do you want to compete against Marx, Mao and the Bible?
Sarrazin: Ah, you know, there are books that sell themselves better. I never looked at the bestseller lists in the “Spiegel,” until my own vanity drove me to, and when I consider that I was on the list for months together with two books from Margot Käßmann, I don’t feel to flattered in this neighborhood.
Welt Online: Don’t forget Richard David Precht.
Sarrazin: Yes, I had the feeling there that I was in the wrong party.
Welt Online: What would the right party be?
Sarrazin: I would love to be on a list together with Heinrich-August Winkler. But the truly importan books only seldom make it to the bestseller list. Or only 50 years after the death of the author.
Welt Online: You apparently didn’t count on your success. The first printing was 25,000 copies.
Sarrazin: And the publisher thought that was very generous because the book was too thick, even though it had already been shortened in the editorial office. Some basic considerations fell away against the will of the author who thinks every sentence that is struck is indispensible. But I have processed so many texts from other authors that in the meantime I have gotten a completely pragmatic attitude about shortening things.
Welt Online: The book was released one and a half years ago. What have you learned since then?
Sarrazin: For starters, a lot about how the media tick. I already knew some things, but learning about oneself is quite a bit more intensive. The media act according to Pavlovian reflexes. One inflammatory term is enough and they all storm in the same direction. It was also interesting to experience that certain public processes escaped the management. That doesn’t mean that they are good or bad, it’s just that way. They do so independently. We are now experiencing a different process that is making itself independently, but for the moment I will not say anything about it. Those aren’t prognosticable courses that escape planning ability. Afterwards one knows who the good and evil were, the heroes and the villians, the structure becomes clear only in hindsight.
Welt Online: And what was the inflammatory term in your case that unleashed the reactions?
Sarrazin: I have the ideas that there are people groups, that there are congenital characteristics, that it does matter who receives children and who doesn’t in a society, that it also does matter who immigrates into a society, that immigration always changes the society, and not always for the better – I have tied all of this together systematically. That anyone could have such ideas is perceived as provocation.
Therefore, the debate was characterized as a discrepancy: on one side outrage and on the other no discussion of the facts I mentioned. The facts were indeed known on what I said about intelligence and the inheritance of intelligence; you can read this in any psychological textbook. Dieter E. Zimmer is publishing a book on this very subject next week.
Welt Online: We hazard the prognosis that the book by Zimmer won’t be the irritant that your book was. On what does that lie? On your personality?
Sarrazin: My personality was not the deciding factor. We have 16 states and around 100 serving and former finance ministers; we have a total lot of 60-year-old experts for economy in Germany…
Welt Online: … but we have only one financial politician who has recommended to the people that they put on a pullover when it’s too cold in the apartment and demonstrated to the people how a person can live a whole day on 4.60 euros.
Sarrazin: I have always tried to tie the abstract with the concrete. And that has irritated many, above all when it has led to unexpected results. I’ll give you an example. Everyone speaks about the German economy needing to be more flexible. We must place ourselves in the international competition. We must reduce the additional costs in the salaries.
Then I come and say: OK, we’ll limit the protection against termination of employment, 30 days notice for everyone, we’ll reduce the unemployment money to 50 percent and pay it for six months. Retirement at 70. And the health insurance will become the basic insurance for everyone, the rest is voluntary with cost-covering contributions.
Do we understand each other correctly? With one version, you’ll make it through the Evangelical Church Congress, with the other one you won’t survive a local chapter meeting of the SPD. Please don’t write that I have demanded such a thing, I have only translated the official version. And that is the all-pervading lie of modern society that it indulges in principles whose translation into reality it cannot bear.
Welt Online: Victor Klemperer has written a whole book on that very thing. Lingua Tertii Imperii, how facts are veiled with language. That that which you have kicked off rest on the clarity of language?
Sarrazin: Yes, even that. If one follows the ideas, one cannot escape the consequences of my abstract reasoning. And that unleashed the rage. If I would say now that the earth is a ball and it turns around the sun, we both know that those are facts. If you, however, had not known that until now, then I can do nothing else; I must prove it.
Had I left out the factual part of my book, I would have received great hassle for the rest as a collection of obnoxious rants at the regulars’ table. If one wishes to present a way of thought, he has to designate the facts that lie in the way. And when I say, for example, that intelligence is inherited and indicate that the birth rate is also dependent upon intelligence, then both have been empirically proven. Without empirical proof it all would hang in the air.
Welt Online: Over what then do so many get upset?
Sarrazin: That is the wrath of the Pharisees. I express something that many think but don’t dare to say. The Pharisee is a person who already knows something, but thinks in fixed structures and doesn’t want to endanger them. He doesn’t want to ask questions because they could lead to undesired conclusions. That way he can continue to lead his life as a Pharisee.
Welt Online: Have you ever thought about whether and what you have done wrong?
Sarrazin: The only mistake I have made was the answer to a question regarding the genetic identity of the Jews…
Welt Online:… in a conversation with Die Welt am Sonntag (The World on Sunday)…
Sarrazin:… but I had occupied myself so much with genetic questions that I didn’t perceive the issue at all as being explosive as it turned out to be.
Welt Online: Nothing else?
Sarrazin: No. I looked at the critical passages quite often for myself and found nothing wrong or offensive.
Welt Online: Do you feel deserted, left alone?
Sarrazin: Ah, don’t you know, in politics and everywhere where competition takes place, few friends can be found. At the edge of the happening perhaps, but not in the center. When the opportunists have turned away from me, then that hasn’t affected me in my private area. I didn’t have to leave my post at the Bundesbank. My position was legally secured at least as Christian Wulff’s. I employed a cool consideration: After the debate went like it did, will I be hindered from further participation in the debate through my position at the Bundesbank? That was the only point that interested me.
Welt Online: The federal president suggested then that the Bundesbank should consider what it can do to prevent damage to Germany’s image. After you had stepped down, a newspaper wrote that you saved the president’s head. Do you see it that way?
Sarrazin: Yes, I see it that way, too. If not also long term, but I can’t do anything for that. There was no legal foundation to fire me. There are two organs in the Federal Republic, where one must commit considerable misconduct in order to justify being fired. The Supreme Court and the board of the Bundesbank. Perhaps the office of the federal president as well.
I had also examined beforehand, after all I am an educated official. The publisher promoted the book after May; everyone at the Bundesbank knew about it. Then, 14 days before the appearance of the book, I sent all the colleagues in the committee a mail that my book was about to be released. And nobody reacted.
Welt Online: After everything that occured: Do you still trust in your local SPD affiliate?
Sarrazin: The party’s regulation procedure has not gone according to my dislikes…
Welt Online: … it is being run by Sigmar Gabriel who before said something different to you…
Sarrazin: … Gabriel has to deal with that, not I.
Welt Online: It appears that everything has repelled off of you. Is that really so?
Sarrazin: It helps me that 80 to 90 percent of the people I meet speak positively either of me or the book. I know it is a selective perception, Wulff likewise, as far as this is concerned, perceptions are never the truth, and the rest has to be dealt with. And when one has analyzed the rest in its entire stupidity and dullness, then he can live with it.
Again, there are the Pharisees that try to crucify the one who asks the wrong questions.
Welt Online: You are a “splitter” …
Sarrazin: … that is pure and simple Nazi terminology! Only the “corrosive critique” is missing, and right after that comes the “healthy public feeling,” represented through the agent of the Turkisch Alliance.
Welt Online: Or Margot Käßmann.
Sarrazin: That is also a German ailment: the desire for a fictitious oneness. At times it is an ethnical oneness, at times the association of the good people, the association of friends of peace or the pro-Europeans. And then a villain comes along and places the fundamental rules of this association in question! And then they’re all upset.
Welt Online: But such a harmless director as Christoph Schlingensief was always lauded for his provocations.
Sarrazin: The provocations that were recognizably inconsequential were the ones praised.
Welt Online: Has Germany further developed in the immigration debate, thanks to your book? Immigration researcher Klaus Bade, with whom you also dueled, even attests to you that you have “revived” the debate.
Sarrazin: That’s hard to say because so much happens at the same time. I believe my book has contributed to the news that reaches us daily being interpreted differently today than was previously the case. Whatever comes of that, I don’t know. I know only one thing: The problems will not become less; they are intensifying. And the longer the problems I have addressed remain unsolved, the more the people will be cognizant that everything has already been stated and nothing has happend.
Welt Online: The clock can’t be turned back. With the problems you describe as well. Immigration can’t be reversed. Could that possibly explain the desperate rage that you encounter?
Sarrazin: Could be. More than anything, though, I have turned something into a problem that was no problem for the political matadors. Or that they have defined away. The made immigration into a question of [social] strata, of socialization, of foreignness; that is to say, they have vaporized the integration problem in to the problem of the Spaniard or the Russian German who comes to us, and they have not recognized that qualitatively it is a totally different issue with a considerable part of our immigrants.
The former minister of integration from NRW (Northrhine-Westphalia), Armin Laschet, accuse me of distinguishing between the individual immigrant groups. But they are varied! Of the roughly 16 million people with immigation background, around 12 million have no problem with integration.
Welt Online: Do you have friends with immigrant background?
Sarrazin: Yes, English, French, Finnish, Ghanaan; Swiss and Austrian, I don’t include now, that is really not a proper immigrant background.
Welt Online: Is someone from Lebanon among them? Or at least from Bavaria?
Sarrazin: Lebanon no, Bavaria yes,
Welt Online: Are there any other polticians for whom you have respect?
Sarrazin: For character or intellectual capabilities respectively,
Steinmeier, Steinbrück or Trittin. Both are not always congruent.
Welt Online: Have you ever thought of emigrating?
Sarrazin: No, when I was young, I always said that when I’m old then I will live on a sunny coast where English is spoken. Therefore, either Florida or California. I’m no longer young. And I now think differently.
Welt Online: You say in your book that Germany has already lived for a while on capital. Does it still?
Sarrazin: More and more. Qualitatively as well as quantitatively. There is not enough aftergrowth of brain power [for the future]; and as for the socialists, the attitude toward work, toward performance, we contribute being even less satisfied with it all.
Welt Online: Do you still have some kind of relationship with Sigmar Gabriel?
Sarrazin: No. Absolutely not. Zero. Don’t you know, when one is finished with a person… He gave me the impression as if he were on my side. And one and a half hours later, he wants to throw me out of the Party.
Then the attempt, with help from Gerhard Schröder, to come to a compromise with me. After the failed process of ejection by the party the communicated request, I wouldn’t comment anymore, then he is asked in an interview what he regretted most, and he says: “That I wasn’t able to throw Thilo Sarrazin out of the party.” That was the plug-puller for me.
And where the plug was pulled, there flowed neither positive nor negative energy.
Welt Online: You still remain in the SPD in spite of that?
Sarrazin: Yes, it is like among a club membership. Either you are a Schalke fan or a fan of Borussia Dortmund. One is that way and remains that way. One can’t run around one day in blue and the next in yellow.
Welt Online: Thank you, Mr. Sarrazin, that clears it up for us.