MUNICH, GERMANY —
Germany, the destination of choice for many of the migrants entering Europe, is facing questions on how it will deal with the influx. Refugees have been entering at a rate of 1,800 per day from the Austrian border, despite border restrictions enforced since Sunday.
The face of Germany has been changing for decades and in few places is it more obvious than in this neighborhood around Munich’s main train station.
Hundreds of migrants keep arriving at the station each day. Local officials are proud of how they’re coping.
“During 14 days we’ve got about 70,000 refugees coming and arriving here in Munich. To give them shelter within hours, to give them medical care, it’s an extreme task and I think we did it quite well," Christoph Hillenbrand, president of the Upper Bavaria government told VOA.
But with the classic face of Germany giving way to a multicultural Germany, there is some unease, along with the urge to help.
“We already have a lot of unemployed people here. And how should they all be able to find a job? They hardly speak any German. I really wonder,” one Munich resident remarked.
That skepticism feeds the arguments of far-right politicians who say it is national guilt that is driving Germany's current welcoming attitude toward people of a culture very different, and one that some believe could one day become a majority.
Michael Stuerzenberger has received death threats and sharp media criticism for his outspoken opposition to immigration by Muslims.
“It’s our past. Many people are aware of the Holocaust, the mass murder of Jews, the Second World War, and so they think now we want to be good to the world," he said. "We want to show Germany is a friendly country, with friendly people. We welcome everybody and we want to show now Germany is a good country.”
At Munich’s iconic central square, pedicab drivers are donating their proceeds to aid the refugees.
“We decided to do even more. I don’t know why. It’s wonderful," a driver and volunteer told VOA. "Even the Chancellor changed her mind, and it’s like a big wave of humanity. I wish every country in Europe would do this.”
But not all of Europe wants to give the same welcome that Germany is giving, and German leaders are having to juggle realities here at home.
“On one hand, they know they have to find ways of decreasing these really high numbers of refugees because at some point the attitudes might also change, when people have the feeling now it’s too much, but, on the other hand, it’s still the feeling of we are obliged to do something about this refugee crisis,” Matthias Kortmann of the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich said.
As they prepare for Oktoberfest, local authorities want to avoid a more immediate culture clash. They are arranging separate trains to ensure beer-drinking revelers don’t arrive together or mix.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany is a strong country and will master this problem. As thousands continue to come into the country, there will be more questions on how it will do so now and in the future.