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Germany Turns Its Back on the World?

Here’s some worrying news: A new German public opinion survey shows an uptick in “right-wing extremist” attitudes, especially in the East and especially among the young. Up to 15 percent express Xenophobia, anti-Semitism and longing for a right-wing authoritarian ruler (dare we say Leader?).

As a point of reference, that’s a little less than half the percentage that Hitler got in his best performance in a free election. Der Spiegel has more:

According to their estimation, the region’s weak economy is largely to blame. When it comes to anti-foreigner sentiment, the study found that some 20 percent of western Germans hold such attitudes, compared to 39 percent of people in the east. Since 2004, that figure has fallen from about 25 percent in the west, but risen from one-quarter of all people in the east.

Unlike the results of previous surveys, this time young people from eastern Germany aged 14 to 30 showed a higher level of approval for things like a right-wing authoritarian dictatorship, chauvinism, social Darwinism and the trivialization of National Socialism, than those over the age of 60. And while on a national average every eleventh German has anti-Semitic attitudes, levels were higher in eastern Germany than in the west for the first time.

The fear here is not of some kind of Nazi comeback, but of an increasingly inward-looking, grumpy electorate that feels put upon and used. At a time when Germany’s international responsibilities and commitments are growing, a significant slice of German opinion appears to be turning its back on the world.

Slightly more alarming is this thought: Up until now Germany has largely escaped the bad times that other European countries have been having. What will German poll numbers start to look like if the German economy weakens?

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