Germany: Transformed by Crises
Unfähig, machtlos, selbstsüchtig: incompetent, powerless, selfish. That is how many Germans would describe their government right now. Katastrophe is how they would summarize the government’s coronavirus response and its preparedness for recent record flooding. Some are saying this in private, others in public. And some are growing impatient. A survey published on May 17 showed more Germans than ever (61.5 percent) desiring a big shift within the federal government.
Germany has stumbled from the euro crisis to the refugee crisis to the coronavirus crisis to the recent flood crisis. Each has transformed Germans.
Germans love stability and strong leaders, especially in unstable times. The prolonged lack of such leadership has grievously agitated them. It is an alarming repeat of history.
In September, Germans will vote in national elections, hoping for a leader to steer the nation through choppy waters. Angela Merkel, chancellor for the past 16 years, is not running again, so whatever stability she provided will disappear. In recent months, she has been almost invisible in her party’s campaigning. Her departure from politics comes as the German mood is ready for drastic changes.
On July 16, as Central Europe was hit by devastating floods, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer declared a military disaster alert. Rivers of water rushed through major cities, people were evacuated, houses were destroyed, and emergency workers were brought to their limits, with some losing their lives. About 200 people were confirmed dead and 1,300 were reported missing during the height of the flooding. The damage was estimated in the billions.
The disaster could not have come at a worse time. Following months of lockdowns, Germany’s economic reserves are meager and trust in the government is at a low.
The flooding also hit Germany’s North-Rhine Westphalia, the home state of chancellor candidate Armin Laschet. The German Army used tanks to clear debris from the streets.
Past floods have changed election outcomes. When the Elbe and Oder rivers flooded in 2002, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder appeared as crisis manager and used his power to help his people. His rival, Bavarian State Premier Edmund Stoiber, was in no position to make a difference and narrowly lost the election.
In the early days of the recent flooding, Laschet failed to make such an impression. But he was able to provide economic relief to his own state, while others could only make promises. The rivals to Merkel and Laschet’s Christian Democratic Union (cdu) are the Greens, and they hoped to use the flood to score political points, but polls indicate they failed; some even saw their attempts to do so as inappropriate.
In a July 21 Forsa/rtl/n-tv survey regarding which of the candidates should replace Merkel, the most popular answer, at 44 percent, was “none of the above.” In the crisis, Germans looked for leadership and found none. While the effect on the election remains to be seen, the effect on the public mood is already clear.
Many Germans and media outlets blamed the government for not doing enough to warn citizens and provide help. The European Flood Awareness System did issue warnings, but many residents were still caught by surprise. Some called it a monumental failure of the system. One hydrologist told Science that researchers “were stupidly congratulating ourselves that we were forecasting something so early. … The assumption was that would be really helpful,” she told Science. “We should not be seeing this number of people dying in 2021 from floods. It just should not be happening” (July 20).
Floods are common in Germany. So why isn’t it better prepared for such a crisis? Some are blaming privacy concerns. While other countries routinely warn citizens through mass text messages, German lawmakers have resisted such measures. But within days of the floods, priorities changed and the nation green-lighted mobile providers to text emergency warnings to specific areas.
This is just a small example of how a crisis can change Germany. Once people feel powerless, they quickly give up freedoms in favor of stronger government.
The coronavirus crisis revealed a similar trend.
Dysfunction and Pandemic
Despite Germany’s world-class economy, medical infrastructure and pharmaceutical industry, its management of the covid-19 outbreak has been a crisis of its own. Politicians, commentators and everyday citizens agree that this crisis is self-inflicted. They don’t blame individual politicians or parties, but their form of government.
Mr. Laschet was elected party leader of the cdu on January 16 and is now in a prime position to become the next chancellor. As such, the eyes of millions of people were on him in the crisis months of early 2021. But when leadership was needed, Laschet was nowhere to be found. Germans in a crisis heard him say he was “contemplating” what to do. This downgraded him from being merely unpopular among the average German to being a laughingstock: The social media hashtag #laschetdenktnach (“Laschet contemplations”) trended in Germany.
But something more serious is taking place: Demand for decisive leadership is building. Many Germans believe the coronavirus is killing thousands as a direct consequence of government failure. Some say the government is implementing lockdowns in an inconsequential, haphazard, irresponsible manner. Also, some politicians have profited from the crisis through dubious business deals and rank corruption. It is as if the coronavirus exposed weaknesses in the German system itself.
In “Germany Is Facing an Epic Identity Crisis,” Thomas Kielinger wrote, “After 16 years in the saddle, Angela Merkel’s legacy is a disoriented and divided country. [O]ur woefully inadequate response to the covid pandemic is chipping away further at the time-hallowed perception of German excellence in organizational matters” (Telegraph, April 4).
On March 20, Der Spiegel’s cover story was “Descent of a State: The New German Incompetence.” It asked: “Why can’t we get a handle on the coronavirus mess? It’s about more than scandals and mishaps: The republic’s systemic weakness is being revealed, and the citizens’ patience is at an end. … A rude awakening is taking place, coupled with resentment against politicians” (Trumpet translation throughout).
With many, though, it is resentment against their entire system of government.
In “Weakness of Federalism: Make Germany Finally Ready for Crises” (April 2), Spiegel’s Martin Knobbe wrote: “Germany’s small-scale federalism is failing in the coronavirus pandemic.” He praised the nation’s small-state model as “a success story that goes back centuries,” and he described the Hitler era as “a warning for today of what a monopoly of power at the head of the state can do.” However, the nation’s Basic Law, drafted with the help of the Allies in 1948 to prevent the rise of dictators, is proving “dysfunctional” in the age of the pandemic.
Knobbe reasons that Germany’s entire way of governing itself must change “to equip Germany for special challenges, for extraordinary crises—of which there will probably be more rather than fewer in the future.”
Case in point: During the pandemic, Chancellor Merkel was leading one way while the state premiers chose their own paths. In most cases, this is a sign of a functioning democracy, but it visibly bothered Ms. Merkel. In a March 28 interview, she threatened Germany’s 16 state premiers: If they failed to support the national government’s coronavirus measures, she would “have to consider whether we will find [other] ways” to push the decisions through, perhaps giving the national legislature “a greater role.” This was a demand for nothing less than a major transfer of power from German states to the national government.
In April, Germany ended up passing the amendment that Merkel and others demanded. The power to enforce lockdowns was centralized in Berlin. When it was signed into law, Germany’s most popular newspaper, Bild, called it “A Black Hour for Freedom!”
The power shift from the people and the states to the central government is said to be only temporary and only for lockdowns during pandemics. But the threshold has been crossed. In peacetime, Germans are content with democracy, but in crisis, they seek something more akin to autocracy.
Expect the central government to help itself to that power whenever it pleases.
In Crises, Freedoms Vanish
It used to be that protests were an incentive for the government to change its policies. Today, protests seem to be an excuse to increase governmental power. Citizens fed up with restrictions have marched in the streets. Authorities have responded by trying to lock them up.
On April 28, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution warned that since the government began enforcing measures to contain the covid-19 pandemic, the nation’s “democratic order, as well as state institutions … faced multiple attacks.” For this reason, the domestic secret service put certain citizens under nationwide surveillance. This surveillance includes monitoring meetings, intercepting e-mails, even screening bank accounts and financial flows.
Such surveillance has been used on far-left and right-wing extremists, as well as Islamists who pose a terrorist threat. Now the government is targeting a movement called Querdenker (“Lateral Thinkers”), which, it argues, is causing an “anti-democratic and/or security-endangering delegitimization of the state,” according to Spiegel Online. This movement doesn’t quite fit into any of the previously established categories, and it draws its support from people of many diverse backgrounds. Yet millions of citizens who support the lockdowns have criticized the Querdenker movement, so don’t expect much backlash from the general populace.
Still, this is an alarming development. If Querdenker supporters can be surveilled for “delegitimizing the state,” what German is immune from surveillance? Government critics of all sorts can expect to be targeted.
In the July 2020 Trumpet, editor in chief Gerald Flurry warned of the early stages of this dictatorial approach: “European leaders are increasingly behaving like dictators and assuming dictatorial power. The people of Europe are being conditioned to accept more tyrannical leadership.”
Now we see European states trying to force citizens to take the vaccine. These and other measures would have been unthinkable if not for the media overhyping the covid threat. Once again, a crisis has transformed nations.
Overshadowed by the recent flooding and the coronavirus crisis is another grinding crisis that has already transformed Germany and Europe, yet is far from over: immigration.
In the first half of 2021, the number of migrants arriving in Italy was three times higher than during the same period last year. Between the start of the year and June 10, authorities counted 15,252 boat migrants arriving at Italy’s shore—a sevenfold increase over 2019 (yet still a fraction of what Italy experienced at the peak of the refugee crisis in 2015).
The next refugee crisis looms. Following the withdrawal of nato forces, violence is escalating in Afghanistan. Clashes between the Taliban and the Afghan government are causing more and more to flee the country. While many seek to escape to Turkey, Europe will be their next destination. On July 27, Germany’s Welt asked: “Is Europe in Danger of the Next 2015?”
With every wave of migration, Europeans are increasingly concerned that they are losing a part of their identity. More and more people are willing to resort to extremes: attacks on refugees; refugee centers set ablaze; far-right parties voted into national parliaments.
Governments across Europe are passing more anti-terrorist laws and tightening their screening methods for migrants. They are introducing new surveillance measures and granting security authorities more power. Behind the scenes, military strategists are preparing to deal with the problem head on.
Without the crisis, such trends would have been unthinkable in multicultural, tolerant Europe.
All these crises have created serious financial concerns for Germany and kept its government and people off-balance. Germany is surrounded by failing economies, all bound together in one common currency, the euro. Germany was repeatedly forced to bail out European countries after the economic crisis of 2008.
covid-19 has also caused an epidemic of debt across Europe. With the exception of Ireland, every single country that needed a bailout in the last economic crisis now has even worse debt problems. Even large economies like Italy and France are in deep danger. Across the eurozone, government debt has increased by $1.3 trillion. Much of southern Europe only stayed afloat due to the European Central Bank printing €1.3 trillion (us$1.5 trillion). This has made Germans very worried that runaway inflation could soon destroy their savings.
“Many experts will tell you that Europe is about to break apart,” Mr. Flurry wrote last year. “If these nations’ response to the coronavirus does not cause an immediate economic meltdown, the debt they are accumulating will still come due at some point. Some kind of financial crisis is inevitable. When it comes, watch what happens! A crisis like the current one is exactly what European leaders have longed for to forge a European superstate!” (ibid).
It is precisely such a financial crisis that is needed to transform Europe into the single federal power its founders dreamed of. “The founders of the European project knew that creating the euro—a unified European currency—without all the other aspects of a unified government would provoke economic crisis,” Mr. Flurry wrote. “Yet they still deliberately proceeded with their plan, knowing that crisis would provide the pretext for transforming Europe into a superpower!”
Jean Monnet, an EU founding father, said, “Europe will be forged in crises and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crises.” Former German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said, “Crisis represents an opportunity. Europe always moves forward in times of crisis. Sometimes you need a little pressure for certain decisions to be taken.”
The euro crisis has paved the way for a worse crisis to hit Germany. Germany’s economy hinges, like so many others, on the United States dollar. When the ticking debt bomb of the U.S. Federal Reserve explodes, it will also leave Europe’s system in ruins. When this occurs and Europeans fall into despair, one nation will emerge as the natural leader to resolve the emergency: Germany.
The upper echelons in Germany know this is coming. They know that all of Europe will look to their nation for solutions. They also know the German people are fed up with weak leadership and with bailing out other countries; they don’t want to risk their savings to save Greeks. All of Germany’s recent troubles are about to culminate into one decisive crisis. This is prophesied to unite Europe into a sleeker, pared-down version of the European Union. European leaders often talk about a “two-speed Europe” or “core Europe”—but it will take a crisis to turn these dreams into reality. It will also take strong leadership.
This is exactly what Bible prophecy says Europe is about to get.
All the above-mentioned crises make Europeans realize that their leaders cannot solve their problems. They are growing more in favor of authoritarian rule. Already we are seeing the rise of strongmen and a push toward authoritarianism in Europe.
“Yet these rising strongmen are not yet united as the Bible says they will be,” Mr. Flurry wrote last year. “The Holy Roman Empire yet lacks its overarching leader.”
For centuries, Europeans lived under the dictatorial rule of the Holy Roman Empire. The Trumpet often warns that Europe is returning to this form of government. When covid-19 emerged, Mr. Flurry warned that Europe’s reaction would hasten that outcome.
The Bible prophesies of a European empire rising in the end time. The book of Daniel repeatedly emphasizes that it is an end-time book (e.g. Daniel 12:4, 9). Although Daniel 11 contains history, Jesus Christ Himself referenced that chapter and said it contains prophecy for the end time (Matthew 24:15). Daniel 11:21 describes a strong German leader who comes to power through “flatteries.” A parallel passage in Daniel 8:23 says this man is “a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences.” Other scriptures show this is referring to the leader of a European beast power (request our free booklet Who or What Is the Prophetic Beast?). Based on this prophecy, Mr. Flurry has boldly proclaimed that Germany will, once again, unite under a strongman who walks in the tradition of Charlemagne, Hitler and other dictators.
The Bible reveals that a strongman will take advantage of people’s craving for strong leadership in crisis and offer solutions and stability to a desperate Germany and a divided Europe. Mainstream Christianity has ignored these end-time prophecies. Current events in Germany, however, perfectly match what the Bible prophesied thousands of years ago.
Revelation 17 also describes this European power. It likens it to a beast—biblical symbolism for an empire—that continually rises and falls. This empire is led by a woman—the biblical symbol for a church. Only Europe has a history of a series of empires led by a church. Verses 12-13 prophesy that in its last phase, 10 European nations or groups of nations will submit to the rule of one strong leader. This is certain to result from a series of shocks and crises.
Are we about to see this astonishing prophecy fulfilled?
Dark clouds are hovering over Germany. Few speculate what the nation will look like when the storm breaks. It is about to change from a democracy to an autocracy, and all Europe will change with it. When you see a transformed Germany emerge, remember the Trumpet’s forecast.
This change may follow soon after the September German elections. Armin Laschet may win—he may even be one of the 10 kings—but he is unlikely to satisfy Europe’s longing for strong leadership. The Trumpet is watching for another man to become the prophesied strong leader. Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has long prepared to lead Europe out of a financial crisis. As Europe’s crises intensify, watch for this man to rise to power. Keep your eyes on Germany.
As you see these events unfold, remember that the same passages that prophesy of this radical, dangerous change in Germany also say it will happen just before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, “the Prince of princes” (e.g. Daniel 8:23-25). At His return, God’s Kingdom will be established (Daniel 2:44). Dark days are ahead, but after the storm comes hope!