The “migrant crisis.” You hear it on the radio, see it on the news, and feel a bit bad that you don’t know as much about it as you feel you should. It’s a loose term for an event most of us somewhat understand: the migrants in question are Syrian refugees fleeing a brutal three way war involving the dictator Bashar al-Assad, rebels fighting against Assad, and ISIS.
So far, however, the most common conversations about this crisis regard the aid— or lack thereof— that countries, mostly European, provide to Syrian refugees. Migrants throughout Europe have been handed off to various nations, blatantly refused entrance in some countries, and have even been attacked by journalists. Many nations feel threatened by a difference of culture and religion, or that they lack the ability to accommodate new individuals.
Immigrants are not treated any better in this nation than they are in Europe for many of the same reasons. Yet, layered upon this is the common distrust of Muslims, especially after the publicized growth of terrorist activities in the twenty-first century. This refusal of aid and the blatant anti-Muslim attitude is reminiscent of the anti-Semitism present in pre-World War II Europe. Therefore, to many, it is surprising that the foremost acceptor of Syrian refugees is Germany.
The nation that caused arguably the largest conflict in human history has quite understandably displayed a tendency to veer away from nationalism. Even today, Germans frown upon hanging a German flag out the window because it acts as a reminder of the nationalism of the Nazi party during the Holocaust. It is perhaps difficult for an American to understand the sense of shame that is present throughout Germany and to be told that your nation executed the largest genocide in recorded history. That sense of responsibility for the actions of the past is definitively a motivator in the actions of Germans in the migrant crisis to act now to help the persecuted, rather than precipitate the persecution itself.
In speaking with my grandparents who live in Germany, there is a decided note of pride at the actions of their nation in this global issue, but also anger towards other nations. While my grandfather worries about the effects of accepting over 800,000 migrants into Germany, he does not oppose the idea. Indeed, when he talks of the issues bringing in migrants may produce, he speaks of them inevitable facts to be resolved without blame. In fact, the only time he speaks with anger is when discussing other nations’ lack of aid. “10,000?” he exclaims, referring to the number of migrants being accepted to United States; “Hamburg alone is taking 25,000.” To put this into perspective, the city of Hamburg has 1.7 million occupants while the United States has 318.9 million.
Amidst the annoyance at the inaction of other nations, there is a sense of pride among Germans that their is the nation is the one that is accepting these people in need of aid. Even as some Germans fear simple logistical consequences, the taking of jobs, or the difference of religion, there are few who would voice these opinions which so resemble the arguments of Hitler for the persecution of the Jews. In this crisis, one sees a renewal of German pride; perhaps this is a sign that the long ago events of the second world war are beginning to fade from the minds of Germany’s citizens, replaced with new pride for their policies today.
Feature Photo Photographer: Mstyslav Chernov
Middle Photo Photorapher: Unknown