Germans are worried. Their country is one of at least four European Union member states where employment has exceeded the 10 percent rate.
According to February's unemployment statistics, for the first time since 1932 more than 5 million Germans are without a job. Those currently without a job aren't the only ones who are worried though. "The February figure will be significantly higher," Germany's labor and economic minister warned on Feb. 21 (Financial Times, Feb. 22, 2005).
Reaching the 5 million mark had an immediate impact on Germany's national confidence. In a poll taken a couple of days after the unemployment figures were released, 85 percent of the Germans surveyed expressed concern for their personal future. Every third German who still has a job is apprehensive that he will lose it.
In the eastern part of the country—formerly the nation of East Germany—50 percent of jobholders fear they will be laid off. Two out of three believe that the nation's unemployment rate will continue to rise.
Increasingly, there is a lack of confidence among the German people that their government will be able to turn the tide on unemployment. They are fearful over Germany's prolonged economic slump.
As a result, considerable pressure is on Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government. Part of it stems from the recent success of Germany's ultra-right NPD party (the National Democratic Party). The NPD has been around a long time. It made headlines as early as 1968 when it won and held seats in a German state legislature for one term.
Now, 36 years later, its former success has been repeated. The NPD won 12 seats in last fall's elections for the state legislature in the new state of Sachsen (Saxony) within what was formerly East Germany. The NPD garnered 9.2 percent of the votes cast, an increase of 7.8 percent in the five years since the last election.
With unemployment rates twice as high as those in its western states, Germany's newer states in the eastern part of the country have become fertile ground for ultra-right political activity.
The NPD has a radical "Germans first" platform. It demands that immigration to Germany must be highly restricted and that foreign guest workers must be sent home so Germans can take their jobs.
Several state elections will be held this year. If the German economy doesn't show significant improvement soon, the NPD is poised to attract—especially among the young—even more voters who are disillusioned with the traditional parties' efforts to solve the nation's economic problems. This is a grave danger in the heart of Europe—especially since Austria also has a similar ultra-right political party.
Conditions similar to those pre-Hitler
The recent unemployment figures prompted Bavarian Governor Edmund Stoiber—who opposed Chancellor Schroeder in the 2002 election—to accuse Schroeder of promoting indirectly the far-right NPD through his failing economic policies.
Stoiber fears that "... the economic failure of the Schroeder government is creating a breeding ground for extremists who exploit the hopelessness of people and thereby endanger our democracy" (Welt am Sonntag, Feb. 6, 2005).
He thinks that Germany could be approaching a crisis very similar to the one it faced in 1932, which opened the door for Adolf Hitler to seize power. It was in that election that millions of disenchanted voters propelled the Nazi party to a prominent position of influence in the German Reichstag.
Chancellor Schroeder, of course, is convinced that he is not underestimating the potential danger of the NPD's gains in the polls. His response to the NPD plan to conduct a protest rally in Berlin at the Brandenburg Gate on the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe (May 8) has been to ask "decent democrats" to hold a counter rally.
But mere demonstrations will not be enough to bring the current tensions to an end. Germany must quickly begin solving its unemployment problem if it is to counteract the growing sense of frustration and hopelessness within the country, especially in its eastern states.
There are some hopeful indications that the government will act in time. But if it doesn't, a real tragedy could be in the making. Germany's economy is the largest in Europe. It is essential that its government remain stable because of its impact on the economy—and consequently the political stability—of all of Europe. History has made it very clear that a radical government can disrupt the political scene of the entire European continent.
Leaders with an extreme agenda
All present European governments seem determined to prevent such a crisis from happening again. However, biblical prophecy indicates that at least a few European governments will once again come under the control of leaders with an extreme agenda.
Therefore, it is important to be aware of the warnings that the Bible gives us concerning the future of that portion of the world that once hosted the Roman Empire.
Those warnings are presented in considerable detail in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. To learn the significance of those warnings and understand why certain current trends in Europe today could be early precursors of their fulfillment, be sure to request or download your free copy of our booklet The Book of Revelation Unveiled. WNP