Visitors to Germany are shocked at how far the country has fallen

My grandparents and their families, faced with a choice between certain death if they stayed in Germany and possible life if they could get out, did the best they could to leave. I am one of the results of those efforts, but there were other effects. Some of my ancestors committed suicide when they realized what their beloved Germany had become; others never recovered from the feeling of non-belonging caused by the flight from their homeland.

Two Germanies lived on in my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ memories. Alongside horror, evil and chaos there was the land of Beethoven, Hesse and Mann; of science, wealth and entrepreneurialism, of precise industrial design and of order and civilisation.

Both those Germanies are now dead: the evil, genocidal one and the glorious land of order, culture and beauty.

What is left is one of Europe’s most rickety nations, bowed by decades of poor political decisions, bad management and artistic and industrial decline. Fans in Frankfurt for the Euros have found a city of drug-addled zombies, broken fountains and unbridled crime.

From Volkswagen, which has never recovered from the emissions scandal of 2015, to Deutsche Bahn, which has some of the worst punctuality records in Europe (only 52 per cent of trains run on time) and a rolling stock whose problems make Britain’s railways seem advanced, Germany’s traditional once-great industrial prowess has been replaced by shambolic third-ratism.

The problems go deeper. Last week, German midfielder Toni Kroos, who moved to Spain to play for Real Madrid ten years ago, said he felt his seven-year-old daughter was safer in Spain than in his homeland because of “uncontrolled” migration.

These were not the bombastic right-wing comments assumed by critics – Kroos stressed that he was “1000 per cent” in favour of welcoming migrants and that “I find it sensational, that people come to us from the outside and then are happy.”

But he said that he “felt the impact of migration was underestimated” and – with a dash of wisdom Merkel would have done well to listen to before opening Germany’s doors to more than a million Syrian refugees in 2015: “Clearly when many people come, there is always a percentage who do not do us good, just as there is among Germans….I think Germany is a great country and I’m happy to be here, but it’s not really the same country that it was 10 years ago when we left.”

For people like John Kampfner, the author of the comic-sounding yet deadly serious book Why the Germans do it BetterGermany is a beacon of the bloc that we in Blighty ought to be emulating. They are more “open”, greener, more peace-loving, more cooperative. Kindergarten.

But as the struggling economy, disillusioned, powerless-feeling population and once beautiful streets of its cities attest, Germany is none of those things. It is a country that has drawn all the wrong lessons from its darkest tendencies. Instead of devoting itself to keeping its people safe and happy, and to taking a positive pride in the best parts of its culture, it has instead dispensed with all discernment by opening the floodgates to people who ought to be carefully vetted before being handed the keys . In doing so it has vandalised itself, massively strengthening the country’s right-wing platform.

Its stance on Ukraine, and war in general, has been craven – instead of understanding the urgent need to stand up to bullies, despots and mass-murderers, like Putin, Germany instead flaps about, intoning about the perils of escalation, inflammation, provocation . This is the country that sent Ukraine 5,000 helmets at the start of the war. While it has marginally improved its offering since then, it is still very far from a moral force to be reckoned with within an EU that has never been more desperate for moral leaders.

There is one area in which Germany holds its head high: anti-Semitism, Jews and Israel, the latter two garnering real support and understanding in ways that are simply impossible, it seems, for other Western countries.

But as Germans are bewildered by what has happened to their country, along with the Ukrainians still barely hanging on, and the Jews caught up in Europe’s Islamist crosshairs, words are far from being enough.

Germany has never quite understood how to be good. But in its terror of being bad, it has only made things worse.

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