Thilo Sarrazin

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Thilo Sarrazin

Thilo Sarrazin (2010)

Berlin Senator of Finance
In office
17 January 2002 – 30 April 2009
Preceded by Christiane Krajewski
Succeeded by Ulrich Nußbaum

Born 12 February 1945 (1945-02-12) (age 72)
Gera, Germany
Nationality Germany
Political party SPD
Spouse(s) Ursula (née Breit)
Alma mater University of Bonn
Profession Economist

Thilo Sarrazin (born 12 February 1945) is a German politician (SPD) and former member of the Executive Board of the Deutsche Bundesbank (until 30 September 2010).[1][2] He previously served as senator of finance for the State of Berlin from January 2002 until April 2009, when he was appointed to his position at Bundesbank.

In his 2010 book Deutschland schafft sich ab ("Germany Does Away With Itself" or "Germany Abolishes Itself"), the most popular but also widely criticised book on politics by a German-language author in a decade,[3] he denounces the failure of Germany's post-war immigration policy, sparking a nation-wide controversy about the costs and benefits of the ideology of multiculturalism.


Life and career

Early life

Sarrazin was born in Gera, Germany to a doctor and the daughter of a West Prussian landowner. His paternal family, a French Huguenot family, originates in Burgundy, while his grandmother was English-Italian.[4] He has explained that his name means saracen (i.e. Muslim) and is common in Southern France: "It is derived from the Arab pirates that were called “Saracens” in the Middle Ages". He has referred to himself as "a European mongrel".[5]

He grew up in Recklinghausen and at age seven he was sent to an orphanage in Bavaria. He graduated from the local gymnasium and then served in the military from 1967 to 1971 after which he studied Economics at the University of Bonn, earning his doctorate. From November 1973 to December 1974 he worked for the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and became active in the SPD.

In 1975 Sarrazin began working in the Federal Ministry of Finance. Until 1981 he served as Head of Unit in the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and from 1981 he returned to the Federal Ministry of Finance. From October 1981 he served as bureau chief and was a close collaborator of Federal Finance Minister Hans Matthöfer and his successor Manfred Lahnstein. Even after the end of the socialist-liberal coalition in October 1982, Sarrazin remained in the Finance Ministry, where he was director of several units, including (from 1989 to 1990) the "Innerdeutsche Beziehungen," which prepared the German monetary, economic and social union. During his time as Head of the Federal Ministry of Finance, he was partly responsible for German railways.[6]

From 1990 to 1991 Sarrazin worked for the Treuhand. Up to 1997, he was State Secretary in the Ministry of Finance in Rhineland-Palatinate. Subsequently, he was chief executive of TLG Immobilien (TLG).

Sarrazin is married to Ursula Sarrazin (née Breit) and has two sons.[7] His apparent characteristic smirk is due to an operation he had in 2004 to remove a tumour on an inner ear nerve, resulting in an impairment of the right side of his face.[8]

Deutsche Bahn

Between spring 2000 and December 2001 he was employed by the Deutsche Bahn, the German national railway. During his first four months he served as head of internal auditing; from 1 September 2000 he was on the board of DB Netz, responsible for planning and investment.

Sarrazin is considered a key developer of the people's share model of the German railway, which provides for the issue of non-voting preferred stock to limit the influence of private investors. He claims to have made this proposal to thwart the model of capital privatization of Deutsche Bahn. He is regarded as an explicit supporter of orienting the Deutsche Bahn on the principles of efficiency under a cost-effectiveness analysis. His relationship with the former CEO of Deutsche Bahn AG, Hartmut Mehdorn, is characterized as hostile.

Sarrazin's dismissal from the board of DB Netz AG was followed by legal disputes. He drew his salary for a transitional period during which the details of the separation procedures were regulated. According to Hartmut Mehdorn, Sarrazin broke his contract with the company, which stated that secondary activities are not allowed. The employment contract was subsequently terminated without notice by the DB. Sarrazin sued, but the case was dismissed by the Federal Court.

Finance Senator

Sarrazin was appointed Finance Senator to the Senate of Berlin in January 2002. He adhered to financial policy based on strict savings and a single-entry bookkeeping system for the management of local authorities.

As a result of his remarks on Berlin's social and educational reputation some consider Sarrazin being an agitator. His proposals for cutting social benefits were often accompanied by protests. In 2008 he made suggestions, such as that a beneficiary of ALG II could eat for less than € 4 per day. In 2009 he said of unemployed persons' management of energy: "First, Hartz IV 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. Sarrazin called pension increases "completely senseless action", but instead recommended that the government prepare older citizens for a "long term decline to the level of subsistence."[9]

As of June 2008 Sarrazin held 46 secondary positions in addition to his Senate post.[citation needed] In the political controversy surrounding the Berlin event center Tempodrom he was accused of having awarded state funds irregularly. The preliminary investigation was also against two other SPD-CDU politicians, three companies and two accountants. The investigating prosecutor filed an informal appeal against Sarrazin, but in December 2004 the Berlin district court rejected a trial because the prosecution was seen as ineffective.[10]

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.[11] Sarrazin dismissed the accusations on the grounds that he saw no financial loss for the city.[12][dead link]

Deutsche Bundesbank

On 30 April 2009, Sarrazin resigned from his position as senator as he was appointed to join the executive board of the Bundesbank.[13] From May 1, 2010 until September 1, 2010, his responsibilities at Bundesbank included information technology, risk monitoring and review.[14] On 2 September 2010, he was released from specific responsibilities in a move by the remaining board members to have him removed as executive board member following a series of controversial statements made by Sarrazin.[15] Whether Sarrazin will keep his job at Bundesbank or will be dismissed is under review by Federal President Christian Wulff as of September 2010. On 9 September 2010 Dr. Sarrazin has asked the president to relieve him of his duties as board member.[16]

Party membership

The party leadership of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) announced in August 2010 that it will investigate whether to terminate Sarrazin's membership, because allegedly his theses are diametrical to basic social-democratic values.[17] An arbitration committee, meeting in Berlin on 21 April 2011, decided that Sarrazin can remain a member of the party. The formal accusation that he had damaged the party with his theories could not be upheld, in particular because Sarrazin read a statement in which he said he had never intended to depart from social democratic values and that he had never intended to suggest that social-Darwinist theories should be implemented in political practice.[18] This in turn lead to dissatisfaction among many SPD party leaders.[19] SPD Secretary-General Andrea Nahles had the difficult task of explaining the decision then.[20]

Immigration, Islam and social welfare controversy

Sarrazin's controversial book Deutschland schafft sich ab.

Within two months, Sarrazin's book Deutschland schafft sich ab ("Germany Does Away With Itself" or "Germany Abolishes Itself"), published end of August 2010, became the highest sold book on politics by a German-language author in a decade, with overall sales hitting 1.1 million copies[3] and the first editions sold out within a matter of hours or days. In the 13th edition Sarrazin added a brief foreword commenting on the nation-wide debate his book has sparked.[21] As of May 2011, 1.5 million copies were sold.[22]

Sarrazin's views and criticism of it

Sarrazin advocates a restrictive immigration policy (with the exception of the highly skilled) and the reduction of state welfare benefits. There were severe reactions to his statements on economic and immigration policy in Berlin, which were published in September 2009 in Lettre International, a German cultural quarterly. In it he described many Arab and Turkish immigrants as unwilling to integrate. He said, among other things:

"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."[23][24][25]

He has also 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.”[26]

Sarrazin's statements were criticized by the chairman of the Interior Committee of the German Bundestag, Sebastian Edathy (SPD), the ver.di union and the political scientist Gerd Wiegel.

Sarrazin's book Deutschland schafft sich ab "Germany Does Away With Itself" or "Germany Abolishes Itself", released in August 2010, came under criticism for claiming that Germany's immigrant Muslim population is reluctant to integrate and tends to rely more on social services than to be productive. Furthermore, he calculates that their population growth may well overwhelm the German population within a couple of generations at the current rate, and that their intelligence is lower as well. He proposes stringent reforms for the welfare system to rectify the problems.[27][28] The first edition of his book sold out within a few days. By the end of the year, the book had become Germany's number 1 hard-cover non-fiction bestseller for the year and was still at the top of the lists.[29]

An uproar was caused at the same time by an interview with Welt am Sonntag in which he claimed that "all Jews share a certain gene like all Basques share a certain gene that distinguishes these from other people."[30][31][32] He subsequently offered his regrets for the irritation caused[25] and explained his source, for instance, in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung,[33] referring to international media reports on a recent study by Gil Atzmon et al. that appeared in the American Journal of Human Genetics.[34][35]

Statements of support

Polls suggest that almost half of the German population (including SPD members) agree with Sarrazin's political views and even 18 percent would vote for his party if he started one.[36] In a survey conducted for the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper among 10,000 Sarrazin readers, an overwhelming majority was shown to be male, middle-class, middle-aged to elderly, conservatives.[37]

With a view of the strong and sometimes polemical reactions against Sarrazin, some have argued that in Germany freedom of speech is being lost, as pressure to conform to political correctness is suppressing and silencing diverging opinions. Sarrazin's views were echoed to a varying degree by notable figures of the German public sphere including German-Jewish author Ralph Giordano, industrialist Hans-Olaf Henkel, journalist and Islam critic Udo Ulfkotte and FAZ publisher Berthold Kohler.

While Turkish and Islamic organizations have accused Sarrazin of "racism" and damaging Germany’s reputation abroad, the prominent German-Turkish sociologist and best-selling author Necla Kelek, who has defended Sarrazin, introduced him at a Berlin press conference in late August 2010 attended by roughly 300 journalists, as big a turn out as for the Chancellor Angela Merkel’s rare press appearances. Kelek said Sarrazin addressed “bitter truths” in his new book and the chattering classes have judged it without reading it.[38]

Henryk Broder, the Spiegel newsweekly commentator, offered an explanation for attacks on Sarrazin’s statements. “And there’s a second trick that’s being used now: he’s being accused of anti-Semitism. If you could accuse him of anything, it’s philo-Semitism, because he wrongly thinks Jews are more intelligent than others,” Broder said. He added, “But of course, with an anti-Semitism accusation you can really go after someone, because anti-Semitism of course is no longer acceptable in Germany, and rightly so. There is no substantive debate here at all – the issue is that a nation gets up, as it were, they all agree and they take it all out on a scapegoat who they’d like to send into the desert. It’s very disturbing.”[39]

"Political correctness is silencing an important debate" said Matthias Matussek of Der Spiegel magazine. "Sarrazin's findings on the failed integration of Turkish and Arab immigrants are beyond any doubt. He has been forced out of the Bundesbank. The SPD wanted to expel him from the party, too. Invitations previously extended to Sarrazin are being withdrawn. The culture page editors at the German weekly Die Zeit are crying foul and the editors at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung are damning Sarrazin for passages he didn't even write. But what 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.[40]

Klaus von Dohnanyi, who offered to defend Sarrazin as the SPD sought to expel him, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper how Germany was overshadowed by its Holocaust history and how a culture had developed whereby anyone saying the words "gene" or "Jew" is automatically considered suspect. He complains that we shy away from debates that "are commonplace in other countries." Among those is the discussion that "specific ethnic groups" share specific characteristics.[41]


  1. Press release of the Executive Board of the Deutsche Bundesbank 9 September 2010
  2. Bundesbank Says Sarrazin Will Resign on Sept. 30 After Jewish Gene Remark
  3. 3.0 3.1 Sarrazin bricht Verkaufsrekord. Der Spiegel (2010-10-29). Retrieved on 2011-02-19.
  4. Koch, Tanit (11 October 2009). "Thilo Sarrazin ist ein großer Integrationserfolg" (in German). Die Welt. Retrieved 5 September 2010. 
  5. Rosenthal, John (1 September 2010). "The Saracen and the Jews". Weekly Standard. Retrieved 5 September 2010. 
  6. Alexander Neubacher. Der Spiegel, Der Weichen-Steller. In: Der Spiegel Nr. 39, 2007, S. 74–76.
  7. Personen A-Z: Dr. Thilo Sarrazin (German). SPD Berlin. Retrieved on 5 September 2010.
  8. "Thilo Sarrazin - der Unerschütterliche" (in German). Berliner Morgenpost online. Retrieved 6 September 2010. 
  9. Hoffmann, Andreas (13 May 2009). "Kinder kann kriegen, wer damit fertig wird" (in German). Stern. Retrieved 5 September 2010. 
  10. Gehrke, Kerstin; Oloew, Matthias (8 January 2010). "Letzter Akt in der Tempodrom-Affäre" (in German). Der Tagesspiegel. Retrieved 5 September 2010. 
  11. Rennefanz, Sabine (29 August 2009). "Ein Geruch von Vetternwirtschaft" (in German). Berliner Zeitung. Retrieved 5 September 2010. 
  12. Sarrazin wehrt sich gegen Untreue-Vorwürfe. Focus, 29 August 2009.
  13. "Berliner Finanzsenator. Sarrazin wird Bundesbank-Vorstand" (in German). Spiegel Online. 17 February 2009.,1518,608014,00.html. Retrieved 5 September 2010. 
  14. Executive Board of the Deutsche Bundesbank: Dr Thilo Sarrazin. Deutsche Bundesbank. Retrieved on 5 September 2010. [dead link]
  15. "Executive Board of the Deutsche Bundesbank submits application for the dismissal of Dr Thilo Sarrazin". Deutsche Bundesbank. 2 September 2010. Retrieved 5 September 2010. 
  16. Press release of the Executive Board of the Deutsche Bundesbank. 9 September 2010
  17. SPD Website Secretary-General Sigmar Gabriel's announcement of the expulsion proceedings
  18. The Local - Germany's News in English, "Sarrazin remains SPD member" 22.4.2011
  19. The Local - Germany's News in English, "Sarrazin pardon sparks fierce SPD backlash", 26.4.2011
  20. SPD Website, Andrea Nahles' letter to party functionaries
  21. Welt am Sonntag: Sarrazin distanziert sich von Sarrazin
  22. Schadet sich die SPD mit ihrem Sarrazin-Kurs?
  23. "Sarrazin muss sich entschuldigen" (in German). Die Zeit. 1 October 2009. Retrieved 5 September 2010. 
  24. "Bundesbank-Präsident legt Sarrazin Rücktritt nahe" (in German). Die Zeit. 3 October 2009. Retrieved 5 September 2010. 
  25. 25.0 25.1 Randow, Jana; Vits, Christian (1 September 2010). "Weber to Debate Next Sarrazin Steps as Merkel Condemns Comments". Bloomberg. Retrieved 5 September 2010. 
  26. Bild newspaper
  27. Immigration Provocateur in Germany Crosses the Line. Der Spiegel (30 August 2010). Retrieved on 30 August 2010.
  28. "Was tun?" (in German). Der Spiegel 34 (23 August 2010).
  29. [jahr=2010 Jahresbestseller Hardcover 2010]. Buchreport. Retrieved on January 3, 2011.
  30. Lowman, Stephen (31 August 2010). "German Politician Stirs Controversy with His Inflammatory Views on Muslims and Jews". The Washington Post. Retrieved 5 September 2010. 
  31. Fahrun, A.; Schuhmacher, H. (29 September 2010). "Mögen Sie keine Türken, Herr Sarrazin?" (in German). Die Welt. Retrieved 5 September 2010. 
  32. Woodhead, Michael (30 August 2010). "'All Jews share a certain gene': German banker sparks outrage with 'stupid' comments". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 2 September 2010. 
  33. Müller-Jung, Joachim (1 September 2010). "Phantasma "Juden-Gen"" (in German). Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Retrieved 5 September 2010. 
  34. Atzmon, G. (2010). "Abraham's Children in the Genome Era: Major Jewish Diaspora Populations Comprise Distinct Genetic Clusters with Shared Middle Eastern Ancestry". American Journal of Human Genetics 86 (6): 850–859. doi:10.1016/j.ajhg.2010.04.015. PMID 20560205.
  35. Wade, Nicholas (9 June 2010). "Studies Show Jews’ Genetic Similarity". New York Times. Retrieved 5 September 2010. 
  36. Berliner Morgenpost
  37. The Independent, 1 March 2011, p.31 [1]
  38. BBC
  39. Spiegel TV
  40. Der Spiegel
  41. Süddeutsche Zeitung

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