They’re still numb. And if they’re honest, they’ll admit it. Germany’s Willkommenskultur has always been a myth.
We asked Germans what they really felt after Angela Merkel opened the borders to refugees in 2015.
German chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision in 2015 to keep her country’s borders open and give shelter to hundreds of thousands of refugees was praised by commentators and leaders around the world. Her decision was also approved of by thousands of German citizens who welcomed refugees and provided clothes, food, and other support.
The term welcome culture, or Willkommenskultur, was frequently used in political debates and the media to describe the events of autumn 2015.
But a year later, the picture had changed dramatically. By the end of 2016, the public debate had shifted to focus on the so-called refugee crisis, or Flüchtlingskrise, alongside the religion of refugees and migrants, and limits to Germany’s capacity to integrate them. The change of perspective was reflected in discussions about upper limits – Obergrenzen — of the numbers of refugees that should be allowed to enter the country.
Our recently published research suggests that welcome culture has never been as widely embedded in German society as public debates in 2015 would make us believe.