Friday, November 28, 2014


Gunter Grass is an intellectual German writer who is fairly respected around Germany.  He won the 1999 Noble Prize for Literature, and is an occasional guest on various talk shows.  So, when he speaks....he adds weight to the conversation.  I won't say it's always positive weight, but it's in one direction or another.

Yesterday, Grass had a public speaking and talked up the dismal situation on refugees in Germany.  The government operation simply isn't running well, and has made some of the refugees frustrated.  So Grass's solution to this is: Zwangseinquartierung.


Around 1943, as the allies finally starting bombing German industrial cities....various neighborhoods were destroyed.  Families would return from the shelter to find their apartment building heavily damaged and no place to live.  Friends, neighbors, and relatives did the Christian thing, and invited this family to move in with them.  That's what Zwangseinquartierung relates to.

Across Germany.....Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Mannheim, etc....Zwangseinquartierung became a reality of life.  In the beginning, it wasn't a big issue.  By the spring of 1945....especially if you lived in Berlin or Frankfurt....a lot of people were living in this type of situation.  Going through all of 1945 and's wasn't until 1947 and in some cases 1948.....that Germans started to see new housing construction efforts and a chance to leave the cramped quarters they'd been stuck into.

Sit and imagine yourself in a comfortable ninety-square meter apartment (maybe three tiny bedrooms), and deciding that you'd take in a family of four.  You move your kids around, and the family gets one bedroom to themselves.  You settle back, and try to exist in this fashion for three to five years.  Stressful?  Yes.  Frustrating?  Yes.  But you did it because it was the right thing to do.

In this case, Gunter Grass is asking something that goes beyond the acceptance level of most Germans.  The refugees in question don't speak German.....and likely have various personal practices (from culture to religion) that make them significantly different from the 1940's crowd.   Imagine a new house partner who has problems with you smoking, or booze in the house, or wine being used with cooking a dinner.  Imagine a new house partner who likes to get up at 5AM, or watch soccer games nightly, or whines about your cats roaming the apartment.

Oddly enough, this topic that Gunter Grass raised got a minute or two of national news coverage last night, and got onto the front page of most big name German newspapers.  By next week....some chat forums will use the topic to discuss integration and refugee treatment. The public?  You could probably walk around urban and rural areas.....bringing this up.  If a neighbor's house blew up from a gas-leak....a dozen folks would offer up some temp situation in their house.  If you had some three-member refugee family show up from some faraway land.....from a hundred houses in the might not find more than one single family to accept them, and that offer would be limited to one month max.

So, I'd kindly like to out-think Gunter Grass on this particular topic.  Across Germany today....way out in the rural areas far away from Frankfurt and Mannheim.....are villages with dozens of empty houses and apartments.  They've been unoccupied for five to ten years.  These are villages without industry nearby or business opportunities.  You could flip the electricity and water on within hours.  Throw in 2,000 Euro of cheap furniture, and you got an apartment for a three-member family today.  Why not shuffle these folks into these rural regions and utilize the assets you already have.  Pay the landlord some rental amount fair for the region, and signal the issue as solved.

Oh, the refugee wanted a job and a more urban environment? didn't mention that requirement.  Look, you just can't be picky about this sort of stuff.  These refugees made a decision not to stay in their old land, because of a dozen-odd problems.  Well.....if you come to kinda have to accept what the deal of being a refugee involves.  Maybe you have to accept a rural village in the middle of nowhere, along with neighbors who drink booze daily, and be pleasant with people who aren't of your religion.  If it bothers you...move on.  Maybe there is a perfect place for refugees in Europe.  Maybe not.

All of this brings me to this conclusion.  There never was a plan "A" in Germany to handle refugees.  Plan "B" is marginally working and an embarrassment to most German intellectuals. The average German on the street....frankly doesn't care for the refugee mess, plan "B", or the discussions that intellectuals bring up.  Refugees can't be too picky about the mess they are in.  And if anyone says there's not a cost passed down to the local German taxpayer.....they are a fraud and aren't respectful of the truth.

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