Thilo Sarrazin

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Thilo Sarrazin on 3 July 2009. Credit: Nina Gerlach

Thilo Sarrazin is a German politician and writer. He is a former SPD senator of finance for the State of Berlin (2002-2009) and served on the executive board of the Deutsche Bundesbank (2009 - 2010), until his controversial remarks on Jewish genetics and alleged lack of integration of Muslim immigrants in Germany in an interview [1] led to a media backlash that resulted in his resignation. [2]

On his political stance, Der Spiegel wrote that, despite his official 'center-left' affiliation, he 'appears to be aiming to push the highly divisive debate over immigration and integration closer to that of right-wing populists elsewhere in Europe, like Geert Wilders in the Netherlands.' [3]


Sarrazin was born in February 1945, three months before the surrender of the Nazi regime, in the small Western German city of Recklinghausen. The son of a doctor, he graduated from the local elite high school before going on to study economics at the University of Bonn. He earned his Ph.D. in 1973 and joined the German civil service.

He arrived in Berlin in 2002 as the German Social Democratic Party’s finance minister for the city. Before that, he held high-level posts as an adviser in the federal finance ministry and as an economist at the International Monetary Fund in Washington. [4]


Finance minister

As finance minister, Sarrazin fired thousands of state employees and began means-testing state benefits. He also initiated the sale of Berlin’s only city-owned bank, in a deal valued at €5.35 billion. His agenda faced much resistance, and in an interview with Bloomberg Sarrazin revealed that his strategy against all of it was to portray a Berlin on the brink of disaster. 'Once I have created an acute perception of a problem, then I can start a discussion about the appropriate measures to combat that problem,' he now says of his method. 'You have to find the right rhetorical formula—and if you exaggerate somewhat, then it works very well.' [4]

He applied a similar sense of urgency to education, welfare, and immigration. In 2008 and 2009 he sparked more outrage by making 'disparaging comments about German welfare recipients' and immigrants of Turkish descent. [2]

In August 2009, Berlin's public prosecutor conducted an investigation of Sarrazin for embezzlement. According to the office of the prosecutor, he favored the Berlin-Wannsee Golf and Country Club, leasing a golf course to them at a reduced rate. [5]

While senator of finance in Berlin, he had repeatedly commented on non-white immigration:

'I did not make up my opinion about Kreuzberg by going there and saying, ah, another headscarf or another pram. I looked at the Berlin statistics. As senator of finance, of course I thought to myself: how are we to pay for all this?' [6]

Within the SPD

After the release of his 2010 book, the party leadership of the SPD announced in August 2010 that it would consider whether to terminate Sarrazin's membership, after a demand from several members. The chairman of the Social Democrats supported this attempt, but backtracked when he believed a large proportion of party members sympathized with his arguments. [4] Sarrazin was henceforth not excluded from the Party. [7]


Sarrazin at the presentation of his book Deutschland schafft sich ab, 30 August 2010. Credit: Richard Hebstreit

Germany abolishes itself

In his 2010 book Deutschland schafft such ab (Germany abolishes itself), he denounces the failure of Germany's post-war immigration policy, sparking a nationwide controversy about immigration coming from non-white and Muslim countries. Der Spiegel writes that in his book, 'Sarrazin makes abundantly clear, that [German] demise comes as a result of immigration.' [3]

Bloomberg commented that, while 'plenty of populists in Europe had attacked Muslims for disrupting traditional European culture', Sarrazin’s contribution 'was to argue that the available IQ data proved that Muslims are actually incapable of integrating into Western society.' [4]


  • Der Spiegel writes:
'Criticism bordering on revulsion dominated the first wave of the reaction. Politicians and opinion leaders condemned Sarrazin almost unanimously. But then it slowly became apparent that many citizens agreed with Sarrazin. The publisher announced that, due to high demand, it was going to increase the book's initial printing to 250,000 copies. Furthermore, Internet forums and political events made it clear that Sarrazin [...] had broad public support.'

And later in the article, describing the 'third wave' of reactions:

'Politicians have begun demanding that the political elite cease ignoring the fact that many in Germany support Sarrazin. Peter Hauk, head of the Christian Democratic Union's parliamentary group in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg, says: "Even if I don't share some of his views, he does address issues that our citizens are concerned about." ' [8]
'Sarrazin's findings on the failed integration of Turkish and Arab immigrants are beyond any doubt. [...] [W]hat all these technicians of exclusion fail to see is that you cannot cast away the very thing that Sarrazin embodies: the anger of people who are sick and tired — after putting a long and arduous process of Enlightenment behind them — of being confronted with pre-Enlightenment elements that are returning to the center of our society. They are sick of being cursed or laughed at when they offer assistance with integration. And they are tired about reading about Islamist associations that have one degree of separation from terrorism, of honor killings, of death threats against cartoonists and filmmakers.' [9]

Sarrazin has sold over 1.5 million copies of this book. [10]

Europe doesn't need the euro

In 2012 another book by Sarrazin was published, Europa braucht den Euro niche (Europe doesn't need the euro). The book argues that the introduction of a single currency in Europe was a bad idea and should be overturned. In it, he controversially argues that Germany is being pressured to bail out the euro zone because it perpetrated the Holocaust. For him, supporters of euro bonds in Germany 'are driven by that very German reflex, that we can only finally atone for the Holocaust and World War II when we have put all our interests and money into European hands'. Der Spiegel claims 'his phrasing chimes with the line of argument often cited by far-right politicians of the National Democratic Party -- that Germany is being cowed by its Holocaust guilt, and that it has done enough atoning'.

He writes it was a mistake to launch the currency before Europe had a common fiscal policy, and that it was wrong to let countries like Greece join because their economies weren't ready. He particularly uses terms such as 'culture' and 'mentality' to explain the lack of budget discipline and economic weakness in southern member states of the euro zone. Sarazzin's book concludes that Europe can only get out of its mess if if transforms into a looser formation. [10]

Such ideas around the Euro and the EU are close to the German, British and French far-right parties, respectively AfD, UKIP and the Front National.


  • The leader of the opposition Greens, Jürgen Trittin, told Die Welt that Sarrazin was engaging in 'deutsche mark chauvinism', and Carsten Schneider, a budget policy spokesman for the SPD, said: 'Sarrazin is once again trying out the usual provocation. His criticism of the euro is nationalist and reactionary.'
  • The NPD issued a statement praising Sarrazin and criticizing Germany's 'psychopathological guilt complex that makes it fulfil almost every wish of self-interested foreign countries even 67 years after the end of the war.' [10]

Wishful Thinking

Sarrazin's newest book (April 2016) titled Wunschdenken (Wishful Thinking), builds on the controversy surrounding his 2010 book, Deutschland schafft sich ab. He dedicated the book to a list of reasons why Germany's government is failing to address key issues, alleging that 'Germany's future is highly contingent upon hot topics like immigration, demographic changes and education - but not equality, gender politics or any debate on climate change.'

Sarrazin points to Chancellor Angela Merkel as the main perpetrator behind the 'waste' of German wealth and education. He is opposed to the increasing number of Muslim migrants arriving in Germany, and refers to Merkel's 'crude refugee and immigration policy' as the 'biggest mistake in German politics since the end of World War II'.

He argues that most asylum seekers from the Middle East and Africa arrive with a low standard of education, and adds:

'Their cultural and cognitive profiles are similar to those of the Muslims who already are in Europe. Therefore, it is to be expected that their development in terms of education, integration into the work force, dependency on government assistance, criminality and susceptibility to fundamentalism will follow similar patterns as those who are already here.'

And so, for him, 'gaining back full control over our borders (…) will become an existential issue for our culture and the survival of our society'.

Sarrazin tries to apply scientific methods to defend his position: his introduction counts 160 pages, explaining his theoretical approach. [11]


Der Spiegel accused Sarrazin of being egocentric and spreading 'cold aggression with a scientific veneer'. [11]


On his political stance, Der Spiegel wrote that, despite his official 'center-left' affiliation, he 'appears to be aiming to push the highly divisive debate over immigration and integration closer to that of right-wing populists elsewhere in Europe, like Geert Wilders in the Netherlands.' [3]

In the same vein, the Central Council of Jews in Germany suggested that Sarrazin join the extreme right-wing party, the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD). 'That would at least make it clearer where he stands in the debate and would unburden the SPD'. Indeed Jürgen Gansel, an NPD parliamentarian in the eastern German state of Saxony, praised Sarrazin in a press release on the party's website, saying his 'comments on foreigners thoroughly breathes the spirit of national democratic concerns about being overrun by foreigners.' [3]

On Immigration

  • He was interviewed by the tabloid Bild and, in reference to the relative lack of success that immigrants have had in German schools and the country's low birth rates, claimed: 'we are simply accepting that Germany is becoming smaller and dumber.' Months before, Sarrazin had made headlines by saying 'we are becoming ... on average dumber' and by linking that claim with immigration 'from Turkey, the Middle East and Africa.' [3]
  • For him, the only solution against the 'downfall' of the German nation is putting a stop to immigration and dissolving 'foreign' cultures, making them disappear in order for immigrant populations to 'assimilate'. [12]

Interview with Lettre International

The interview he held with the culture magazine Lettre International was the one that sparked the media frenzy which eventually led to his resignation from the Bundesbank. In it, he claimed that Turks with low IQs and high birthrates were 'conquering Germany in the same way the Kosovars conquered Kosovo: by using higher birth-rates' [13]:

'Forty per cent of all births occur in the underclasses. Our educated population is becoming stupider from generation to generation. What's more, they cultivate an aggressive and atavistic mentality. It's a scandal that Turkish boys won't listen to female teachers because that is what their culture tells them'

He also castigated such populations for their alleged lack of economic productivity:

'Integration requires effort from those that are to be integrated. I will not show respect for anyone that is not making that effort. I do not have to acknowledge anyone who lives by welfare, denies the legitimacy of the very state that provides that welfare, refuses to care for the education of his children and constantly produces new little headscarf-girls. This holds true for 70 percent of the Turkish and 90 percent of the Arab population in Berlin.' He later told the newspaper Die Zeit, 'I believe that sentence was one of my masterpieces. It started a discussion. That was its function.' [4]

He added during the interview:

'A large number of Arabs and Turks in [Berlin] [...] have no productive function other than in the fruit and vegetable trade' [3] [1]

He even added :'I'd rather have East European Jews with an IQ that is 15pc higher than the German population', later clarifying his statement by claiming 'Jews' all have a similar gene dictating their intelligence levels. [14]

On Islam and Muslims

As a general statement, Sarrazin said regarding Islam, 'No other religion in Europe makes so many demands. No immigrant group other than Muslims is so strongly connected with claims on the welfare state and crime. No group emphasizes their differences so strongly in public, especially through women’s clothing. In no other religion is the transition to violence, dictatorship and terrorism so fluid.' [15]

  • In excerpts of his 2010 book Sarrazin writes that Germany's Muslim immigrant families have profited from social welfare payments to a far greater degree than they have contributed to German prosperity. He also has raised the spectre of the country's Muslim population, due to what he claims are much higher birth rates among immigrants, soon overtaking that of the country's 'autochthonous' population.
'If the fertility rate of German autochthons remains at the level it has been at for the past 40 years, then in the course of the next three or four generations, the number of the Germans will sink to 20 million. And, incidentally, it is absolutely realistic that the Muslim population, through a combination of a higher birth rate and continuation of immigration, could grow by 2100 to 35 million.'
'I don't want the country of my grandchildren and great grandchildren to be largely Muslim, or that Turkish or Arabic will be spoken in large areas, that women will wear headscarves and the daily rhythm is set by the call of the muezzin. If I want to experience that, I can just take a vacation in the Orient.' [3]
  • Christian Geyer from Courrier International claims that all of Sarrazin's appreciations of 'culture' stem from biology and genetics. When speaking of immigrant and Muslim populations, he attributes their 'lesser intelligence' to genetic features, especially that caused by 'more numerous intra-family weddings' and subsequent 'hereditary diseases'. For Geyer, his entire 2010 book is an attempt to mount a 'biological and genetic case' against immigrant, Turkish, Arab and Muslim populations. [12] Sarrazin's full quote goes as such:
'Intelligence is 50 to 80 percent hereditary and thanks to the class-related reproductive rate, this unfortunately means that the hereditary intellectual potential of the population is continually shrinking.' [13]

On welfare recipients

In 2008, he suggested that Germany's welfare recipients could live healthily on just €3.76 per day and suggested that benefits providing €4.25 per day for food were too high, comments which caused controversy.[2]

In 2009 he said of unemployed persons' management of energy: 'First, [welfare] receivers are more at home, second, they like it warm, and thirdly, many regulate the temperature with the window' in light of the fact that in Germany, the unemployed do not pay for rent and heating themselves, then proceeded to advising welfare recipients on how to reduce their energy bills by putting on a sweater. In the same interview, he called pension increases a 'completely senseless action', instead recommending that the government prepare older citizens for a 'long term decline to their level of subsistence.' [16]


In mid-March of 2013, Sarrazin went to Linz to deliver a speech on the euro crisis at the invitation of the far-right Austrian Freedom Party. [4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Bundesbank official under police investigation after blasting Turks for 'conquering Germany', The Telegraph, 04 October 2009. Accessed 03 October 2016.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 'Massive Pressure' : Islam Critic Sarrazin Resigns from Bundesbank Board, Der Spiegel, September 10 2010. Accessed 3 October 2016.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 'Injurious, defamatory and polemical': new book plunges Germany into immigration debate, Der Spiegel, 25 August 2010. Accessed 3 October 2016. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "plungesGermany" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "plungesGermany" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "plungesGermany" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "plungesGermany" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "plungesGermany" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "plungesGermany" defined multiple times with different content
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Cameron Abadi, anti-immigrant and anti-Euro, Germany's Thilo Sarrazin is not sorry, Bloomberg, 23 May 2013. Accessed October 3 2016. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "notsorry" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "notsorry" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "notsorry" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "notsorry" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "notsorry" defined multiple times with different content
  5. Thilo Sarrazin - der Unerschütterliche, Berliner Morgenpost, 30 August 2010. Accessed 3 October 2016.
  6. Thilo Sarrazin - "Ich bin kein Rassist", Berliner Morgenpost, 29 August 2010. Accessed 3 October 2010.
  7. Sarrazin remains SPD member, The Local, 22 April 2011, Accessed 3 October 2016.
  8. The Man Who Divided Germany: Why Sarrazin's Integration Demagoguery Has Many Followers, Der Spiegel, September 06 2010. Accessed 03 October 2016.
  9. Matthias Matussek, Sarrazin's Truths: Political Correctness Is Silencing an Important Debate, Der Spiegel, September 10 2010. Accessed 3 October 2016.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Sarrazin Strikes Again : German Author Says Berlin Is Hostage to Holocaust in Euro Crisis, Der Spiegel, May 22 2012. Accessed October 3 2016.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Stefan Dege, Thilo Sarrazin's new book: a case of wishful thinking, Die Welt, 28 April 2016. Accessed 3 October 2016.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Christian Geyer, Polémique. Thilo Sarrazin rend l’Allemagne plus bête, Courrier International, 5 November 2010. Accessed 3 October 2016.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Debates: Thilo Sarrazin, European Stability Initiative, November 2010. Accessed 3 October 2016.
  14. A. Seibel, H. Schuhmacher u. J. Fahrun, "Mögen Sie keine Türken, Herr Sarrazin?", Die Welt, 29 August 2010. Accessed 03 October 2016.
  15. 'Bei keiner anderen Religion ist der Übergang zur Gewalt, Diktatur und Terrorismus so fließend', Der Bild, 26 August 2010. Accessed 3 October 2016.
  16. Andreas Hoffmann, "Kinder kann kriegen, wer damit fertig wird", Stern, 13 May 2009. Accessed 3 October 2016.