In late January, Germany watched warily as the Pegida, otherwise known as the Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West, became a force to be reckoned with. Anti-immigration feelings had been rising through the end of 2014, but with the attacks of Charlie Hebdo, suspicion of immigrants rose to a fever pitch. Pegida rallies were held around Germany, with tens of thousands protesting Germany’s immigration policies—a heady experience for an organization that had been founded in the fall of 2014 .
Germany has seen its population shift, since it is the most popular destination for immigration after the United States. It can no longer be a homogenous nation—Germany’s government has come to accept its status as a nation of immigrants, with Angela Merkel coming out and saying that the leaders of Pegida are merely using people’s anger and are feeding racism.
Pegida’s leader has resigned in late January over photos of him dressing as Hitler; the leadership of Pegida is crumbling under increased scrutiny. But even if one labels Pegida as some group that aspires to Nazism, one cannot discount the thousands that went to the rallies. In a country where children are raised from a young age on how Germany’s Nazi government had terrorized Europe, it’s probably not likely that these thousands were all Nazi wannabes.
Germany’s economy is the most successful in the EU and it has benefited so far from its immigrants. However, the leaders of Pegida were threatened by violence for their views, raising real security concerns. While all of Europe faces the same influx of immigrants that may pose a security concern simultaneously, Germany is in a unique situation where no major terrorist attack has happened, the economy is at its peak, and the country knows all too well the terrible ending that may occur when one group is blamed for all of the country’s problems. Merkel’s administration may be the leader and tempering force on other European countries as they attempt to resolve the issue of immigrants’ social and economic isolation.