In some depressed areas, it won more than 50 per cent of the vote.Just over 70 years after the Third Reich, the prospect of an openly nationalist, xenophobic, Far Right party taking so many seats in Germany’s parliament fills many people, quite rightly, with unbridled horror.Usually Germany is held up as the model to follow when it comes to combating winter.
His reward was to find himself persona non grata, treated in some quarters almost as a latter-day Joseph Goebbels. And the plain fact is that for decades, millions of people, not just here in Britain, but in almost every country in Europe, have been profoundly worried about mass immigration. Not because, as their liberal critics claim, they are all card-carrying racists.
Because, in an age when economic and cultural globalisation is sweeping away so much of what they take for granted, they are deeply worried about the character of their neighbourhoods, the competition for jobs, the pressure on schools and hospitals and the survival of their national identity.
Rising temperatures at the weekend following by a plunging thermometer on Monday created black ice across the country.
The S-Bahn network in Berlin that carries most commuters to work was severely delayed due to frozen points.
To ignore their concerns, or dismiss them as primitive prejudice, could hardly be more self-defeating. When I saw the first exit polls on Sunday, I was reminded of something I read in Douglas Murray’s polemic The Strange Death Of Europe, which I wrote about in the Mail this year. In the small city of Kassel, in the heart of Germany, some 800 migrants were due to arrive under Mrs Merkel’s refugee scheme, so the authorities held a public meeting.
But when residents began to voice their concerns, the district president, Walter Lubcke — a member of Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrats — spoke up. Anybody who did not agree was ‘free to leave Germany’.Instead, with horrendous irony, she reawakened them. The rise of the Far Right across Europe predates the Syrian refugee crisis.Indeed, Ms Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie made his electoral breakthrough in the mid-Eighties and reached the final round of the French presidential elections as early as 2002, long before the current crisis.As I wrote then, this sort of talk was not just outrageously arrogant, but almost disgracefully counterproductive.For what politicians like Mr Lubcke have done, effectively, is to push millions away from the mainstream and into the hands of the extremist Right. Across Europe, mainstream political parties are in retreat.Yet there is no getting away from the fact that more than five million Germans, many of them perfectly reasonable, educated, decent people, voted for them, just as almost 11 million Frenchmen and women voted for the Front Nationale’s Marine Le Pen in May.