At the start of the Syrian migration crisis, an Israeli security official warned of a coming “European intifada.” Few noticed it at the time. But after a series of attacks on largely Jewish targets in France and Belgium, the new reality finally hit home in January 2015, when armed men opened fire at the Paris offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Since then, terrorist atrocities have escalated through Paris, Nice, Belgium, Sweden, Berlin, and London. They include the murder of a priest by two Islamists in Normandy as he was saying Mass.
Charlie Hebdo is a tedious and tasteless publication that makes fun of dead children and has predictable 1968 views on almost everything, except one of the most sacred: criticism of Islam. The day of the massacre Hebdo featured as its front page a caricature of Michel Houellebecq, whose controversial new novel was published that week. Soumission is set in a France in the near future in which an Islamist party has come to power with the connivance of both the Left and Right in order to defeat the nativist National Front. Houellebecq, already in trouble for criticising France's second largest religion in a previous work, has since moved to Ireland, seeing France as no longer safe. Soumission became a mega-bestseller. Also topping the charts that week was a polemic by Éric Zemmour, a journalist of Jewish-North African descent who has criticised mass immigration and the “demographic tsunami” it has brought.
The recent attacks in Manchester and London came as another important book was selling in vast numbers, The Strange Death of Europe by Douglas Murray, which has spent weeks at the top of the Sunday Times charts despite this subject being not the sort of thing one talks about in polite company. Murray's book follows James Kirchick's equally bleak-sounding The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Ages. In his book, Kirchick warns:
A Europe unmoored from the Enlightenment values it brought to the world, ignorant of and unwilling to protect its civilizational achievements, captive to chauvinist demagogues, indisposed to defend itself, bereft of its Jews, estranged from America, cowed before Russia, and reverted to its traditional state of nature with nations pursuing mercenary self-interest at the expense of unity would not only spell the end of Europe as we know it. Such a collapse would usher in nothing less than a new dark age.
Despite this, Kirchick is more optimistic than the title suggests. He concludes that the continent may get out of its current mess, if it can pool its resources and enjoy closer integration.
Others are not so optimistic. In Germany, historian Rolf Peter Sieferle has made even more of a splash. His account of German political psychology and its effects, Finis Germania, has enjoyed good sales just as it has been roundly condemned by the prestige press. Die Zeit called it a book of “brazen obscenity.” (He has not been able to enjoy his surprise bestseller, having taken his own life last September.)
A former socialist who grew disillusioned with his generation's naivety, Sieferle wrote that “[a] society that can no longer distinguish between itself and the forces that would dissolve it is living morally beyond its means.” In fact, he argued, Germans actually want to disappear because of a belief that Germans are uniquely guilty due to the Holocaust – that they carry a blood guilt as “the absolute enemies of our common humanity,” becoming “a scapegoat people.”
This was perhaps why in 2015 German Chancellor Angela Merkel made the momentous decision to open her nation’s borders. The numbers involved, and the future implications for our continent, are staggering; the reasons for her decision remain a mystery. Earlier that year the chancellor had told Reem Sahwil, a 14-year-old Palestinian girl who wanted to stay in Germany, that if she allowed Sahwil’s family to stay in Germany, all Africans would want to join them. Germany “cannot cope with that,” she said.
Many in the German media criticised the coldness of Chancellor Merkel's response and so when in late August migration pressure looked like overwhelming Greece and Italy, the Germans snapped. In August 2015, Merkel announced her open door policy, cloaking it in moral terms. “Universal civil rights were so far tied together with Europe and its history,” she said. “If Europe fails on the question of refugees, its close connection with universal civil rights will be destroyed. It won't be the Europe we imagine.” As she told them, “Wir Schaffen das” – “We can do this.” What followed were scenes of jubilation among Germans as they welcomed refugees into their towns, as Murray writes:
As the trains came into the stations and the migrants got off and went through the crowds some locals wolf-whistled and gave them high-fives. Human chains of volunteers handed out food and gifts, including sweets and teddy bears for the children. It was not just an expression of the Willkommenskultur ("welcoming culture") that Germany says it likes to practise. These migrants were not merely being welcomed. They were being celebrated, as though they were the local football team returning triumphant, or heroes returning from a war.
In just a year Germany accepted a total of 1.1 million migrants. Most were not Syrian, and most were not refugees as defined by the UN. Most were young men, and most intended to bring their family with them; once those relatives are taken into account, Germany will have experienced nothing short of a demographic revolution. At a time when low-skilled jobs are disappearing this is a potential explosive cocktail.