German angst soars in wake of Katrina floods

9th September 2005, Comments 0 comments

9 September 2005, BERLIN - German angst is at record levels, with a new study Thursday showing the vast majority of Germans are fearful of everything from losing their jobs to being the victims of the next al Qaeda terrorist attack.

9 September 2005

BERLIN - German angst is at record levels, with a new study Thursday showing the vast majority of Germans are fearful of everything from losing their jobs to being the victims of the next al Qaeda terrorist attack.

And at least one expert says fuel prices, terrorism and Hurricane Katrina are partially to blame for reviving long-buried memories of wartime horrors for many Germans.

Spiralling fuel prices have fuelled fears of not being able to pay the rent for many Germans, with a whopping 72 per cent saying ever-higher consumer prices make them "feel fearful", according to the survey by R+V Versicherung, a leading insurance company.

Seventy per cent are frightened by Germany's sluggish economy, with its chronic no-growth business rates. And with unemployment running at more than 11 per cent nationwide (over 20 per cent in parts of eastern Germany) 68 per cent of all Germans in the survey say they are afraid they could be the next to lose their jobs.

The annual German angst survey has been conducted for 15 years now, since the euphoric days right after German unification. At no time has fearfulness been higher than now.

"Germany are twice as fearful as they were 15 years ago," says Rita Jakli, who conducted the survey.

She says 52 per cent of respondents reported being "very seriously fearful" now, compared to 48 per cent last year.

A total 84 per cent fear Germany will be a terrorist target, according to findings of a similar survey by Forsa Institute survey of 1,002 respondents compiled for RTL Television.

Only 15 per cent of the respondents said they were not afraid of terrorism.

Another 12 per cent said they were "very much afraid" of terrorism and lived in constant fear of an attack. But nearly half of all Germans, 48 per cent, said they felt relatively safe in their everyday lives.

Two other surveys show Germans are disillusioned with their jobs and have lost faith in the economy. One survey, by BAT British American Tobacco, said a majority of Germans believe that their standard of living is declining. The survey of 2,000 people in Germany showed respondents agreeing with the sentiment that "quality of life will continue to decline" in the foreseeable future.

And a Gallup Poll meanwhile showed only 15 per cent of Germans like their jobs, while a whopping 69 per cent "just do the minimum" at work. The pollsters said Germans look for fulfilment outside of the work place, particularly in the wake of terrorist attacks in New York, Madrid and, most recently, in London.

Terror has brought home to Germans the fact that terrible things can happen at any time to anybody, anywhere, according to an angst specialist, psychologist Elmar Braehler of Leipzig University. The attacks also reawakened latent war traumas among Germans, he told Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

"People generally live in a state of denial, pretending that bad things happen to other people but not to themselves," Braehler said. "But the al Qaeda attacks made a lot of people here in Germany realise that bad things can and do happen to good people."

Braehler and his research colleague, Burkhard Brosig, have compiled a number of studies on the psychological impact of terrorism among Germans.

"More than anything else, the attacks rekindled latent angst concerning warfare," said the expert. "Germans have never worked through the trauma of they two world wars they caused in the 20th Century, even Germans born after the war are psychologically traumatised to a degree," he said.

"In times of natural disaster or economic reversal, this trauma resurfaces and Germans start worrying about the possibility of war," he told dpa.

The economy is flagging, Alpine floods ravaged Bavaria recently and the news media are full of stories about Hurricane Katrina and terrorist attacks. All of that re-opens Germany's psychological war wounds, Professor Braehler said.

"The feeling of powerlessness is key to this fear," he added. "Germans can't understand the motives of the terrorists, who seem shadowy and mysterious to them. They don't understand why people are losing their jobs and why New Orleans could be wiped out. Why are these bad things happening to innocent people?"

"New Orleans reawakened that war trauma. I know of many cases of Germans saying they can't get those images out of their minds. They picture themselves in those winds of destruction, with the water rising inexorably, unable to escape, staring death in the face. It's the same sort of fear people experience in times of war," he said.


Subject: German news

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