German Town of 102 to 'Welcome' 750 Refugees
When looking at the big picture of the refugee crisis in Europe, it's easy to forget the impact on ordinary people.
A small crossroads village in Germany, population 102, was informed by email recently that 1000 refugees would be resettled in their town. The mayor originally believed the news to be a hoax. But sure enough, regional officials assured the mayor that the town, Sumte, would have to take nearly 10 times the number of asylum seekers than there were residents.
When the mayor questioned the authorities, they made a small concession: only 750 refugees would be resettled.
Sumte has become a showcase of the extreme pressures bearing down on Germany as it scrambles to find shelter for what, by the end of the year, could be well over a million people seeking refuge from poverty or wars in Africa, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
In a small concession to the villagers, Alexander Götz, a regional official from Lower Saxony, told them this week that the initial number of refugees, who start arriving on Monday and will be housed in empty office buildings, would be kept to 500, and limited to 750 in all.
Nevertheless, the influx is testing the limits of tolerance and hospitality in Sumte, and across Germany. It is also straining German politics broadly, creating deep divisions in the conservative camp of Chancellor Angela Merkel and energizing a constellation of extremist groups that feel their time has come.
One of the few people, in fact, who seem enthusiastic about the plan for Sumte is Holger Niemann, 32, an admirer of Hitler and the lone neo-Nazi on the elected district council. He rejoices at the opportunities the migrant crisis has offered.
“It is bad for the people, but politically it is good for me,” Mr. Niemann said of the plan, which would leave the German villagers outnumbered by migrants by more than seven to one.
A plan only a neo-Nazi could love.