On the Ground

Creating Order Out of the Refugee Chaos

Hans Werner Patzki, Oberst a.D., leitet das Fluechtlingswohnheim in Kassel Niederzwehren. Kindergarten: im Gespraech mit Mutter und ihren Kindern. Foto: Heiko Meyer
Hans Werner Patzki is in charge of a refugee home in Kassel Niederzwehren.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The continuing influx of asylum seekers is taking a daily toll on Germany’s political and social stability.

  • Facts


    • Some economists are warning of dire national economic consequences from the recent wave of anti-immigrant violence in eastern Germany.
    • German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door refugee policy has so far admitted more than 1.2 million refugees into the country in less than a year.
    • Last year the influx into the border town of Passau was up to 7,000 people a day. Now, in winter, it’s only 500 to 1,000.
  • Audio


  • Pdf

Manfred Herrmann could be listening to the shanty singers in Jever’s old town center, a popular holiday resort not far from Germany’s Baltic coast. He probably would have regularly traveled to the sea or to Wilhelmshaven, a place he has learned to love and where he last served as a civil servant in charge of the defense ministry’s data center. But on January 7, the 70-year-old decided against being idle in tranquil Frisia. He left the northwest of Germany and made his way to the other end of the country – to the municipality of Passau.

The city in the southeast of Germany advertises itself with a slogan that could be roughly translated as “infinitely livable.” Passau is also the end point of the Balkan route for refugees from the south who want to enter Germany. Along with the Brenner route to the municipalities of Rosenheim or Freilassing, most of the refugees flood into Germany via these locales. Last year the influx was up to 7,000 people a day. Now, in winter, it’s only 500 to 1,000.

While the German government is trying to stem the flow of migrants internationally, the country’s federal police are trying to control the borders and register the new arrivals. And Mr. Herrmann, the retiree, is now with the authorities as well.

Want to keep reading?

Subscribe now or log in to read our coverage of Europe’s leading economy.