His opening words were: "As Chancellor [Gerhard] Schröder grapples with a seriously sick economy, he is making the same mistakes which led to the 1930s crisis that opened the door for Hitler."
Just how bad are Berlin's economic woes? In the last decade only Switzerland and Japan had poorer performing economies in the developed world. German unemployment is 8.3 percent in the workforce and predicted to reach one in 10.As an overall assessment The World in 2003[published by The Economist] said: "Germany, once the country of the post-war economic miracle, is acquiring a reputation as the sick man of Europe,with low growth,high unemployment and an unwillingness to contemplate the sort of changes that might get it out of its current difficulties."
Comparisons with the old financially disastrous Weimar Republic are rife in the British and European media."Hidden jobless[ness] takes Germany back to the level of the Weimar era,"wrote Tony Paterson for The Sunday Telegraph. He reported that "public fury has spilled into the streets of Berlin with demonstrations of health workers, teachers, builders and lorry [truck] drivers."
Bild (a German newspaper) ran a simple headline, "We've Had Enough,"expressing the frayed emotions of the unemployed. Part of the problem is high wages. Actually,"Britain's hourly labour costs are 30 percent lower than they are in Germany" (The World in 2003).
The Guardian's correspondent in Berlin reported that the "German tax rise evokes Weimar comparison." Another Guardian headline tells us that "Europe's most powerful banking sector is on red alert—German money machine grinds to a halt." The Mail on Sunday also calls Germany the "sick man of Europe"—talking of "debts, dole queues [welfare waiting lines] and industry in crisis."
In reality, conditions are nowhere near as bad as the skyrocketing inflation that plagued the Weimar Republic in the late '20s and early '30s when the proverbial wheelbarrow full of marks would not so much as buy a pound of butter. Nonetheless, the German economy bears close watching. Totalitarianism in the form of Hitler's Third Reich emerged out of economic frustrations. (Sources: The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, The World in 2003, The Guardian, The Mail on Sunday [all London].)