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How long can Germany stay welcoming to refugees?

Germany has been welcoming to thousands of refugees desperate for asylum. But not everyone in that country feels happy about the number of newcomers. Matt Frei of Independent Television News reports.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Refugees from across the Middle East continue to flee civil wars and the threat of ISIS. Germany, among the European nations, has been welcoming them.

    But in this report from Munich, currently in the midst of Oktoberfest, we learn that attitudes are changing.

    Matt Frei of Independent Television News has that.

  • MATT FREI:

    You could with be excused for thinking you had landed on a strange planet, especially if you're a Syrian refugee and you walk into this, in the center of Munich, and there are beer bottles thrown from the train station.

    The annual Oktoberfest, Disney with lederhosen and supersized beers, this is the various celebration of excess. The beer halls are the size of aircraft hangars. Beer is served in something bigger than a flower vase and pork is king on the plates and on the walls.

    A few weeks ago, the city authorities briefly flirted with the idea of canceling this annual bacchanalia out of respect for the refugees who had been given standing ovations at the train station. But that would have gone down very badly, and since then the mood here shifted against the visitors from another world.

    I met Hans Forba, a retired math and physics teacher.

    The rest of the world is impressed by the hospitality of Germans towards outsiders.

  • MAN:

    I'm not so happy about that.

  • MATT FREI:

    You're not happy about it. Why not?

  • MAN:

    Too much people. All the Muslim — Muslim people, they will throw us out.

  • MATT FREI:

    They will throw you out? They can't throw you out. There are 89 million of you.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • MAN:

    Every year, we lose 200,000 Germans and get 400,000 Muslims more.

  • MATT FREI:

    So, you think there is a danger the Muslims will take over in this country?

  • MAN:

    Yes, yes, they take over. I'm sure about that, yes, very sure.

  • MATT FREI:

    So, what would you do about this refugee problem then?

  • MAN:

    I don't know. I don't vote for Merkel again.

  • MATT FREI:

    You voted for Merkel?

  • MAN:

    Yes. But I will never do that again.

  • MATT FREI:

    Because of this?

  • MAN:

    Yes.

  • MATT FREI:

    And still they come, despite the fact that Germany reimposed border controls with Austria two weeks ago.

    This is Passau. While Germany's economic miracle in the form of newly minted Mercedes Jeeps screeches by, the refugees line the platform, waiting to be processed.

    There is friction amongst the newcomers. The police step in before a brawl can erupt.

    Ala Dine is an English teacher from Aleppo. His 6-year-old and only son died in a barrel bombing. He has been a refugee for a year documenting every step of his nomadic existence on his smartphone.

  • MAN:

    We need a solution. Killing is not a solution.

  • MATT FREI:

    So Putin getting involved is not a solution?

  • MAN:

    Yes, yes, yes. No. In old time, Russia help Assad, but now bomb, more bomb.

  • MATT FREI:

    It means more war.

  • MAN:

    Yes, more war.

  • MATT FREI:

    More refugees.

  • MAN:

    Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

  • MATT FREI:

    So what's your future going to be?

  • MAN:

    I don't know my future. Really, I don't. I waste my future.

  • MATT FREI:

    Passau has welcomed 17,000 refugees in one week alone. That's a third of its entire population and almost as many as the whole of Britain will accommodate in four years.

    It is said that down the end of the train line, Angela Merkel, a pastor's daughter, is using the refugees to turn Germany into a moral superpower. But her own party is now worried about a backlash. And here, at the Passau Tavern, opinions are divided, in this case in one family.

  • MAN:

    It's not like in the first days, where there were a lot of people standing at the railroad station with all these signs saying welcome to Germany, et cetera. That's more or less gone. But I also don't see any people saying please get away again. So, people are getting used to that impression.

  • MATT FREI:

    What do you think? Is it too many?

    "Yes, far too many," Evelyn, the mother told me. "We have no idea how to cope with these numbers."

    Angela Merkel's moral exceptionalism regarding refugees stems in part from Germany's exceptionally dark past, and nowhere is this more poignant than here. This was the main camp at Dachau, Dachau, one of the first and most infamous camps built by the Nazis. They killed more than 40,000 prisoners here.

    And here's the really bitter irony. Such is the lack of accommodation and space for the refugees flooding into Germany now that quite a few of them have been put up by the authorities in another part of the camp just across the road.

    The S.S. called this piece of hell the herb garden. They used the camp's prisoners as slave labor to help develop a Nazi brand of homeopathic medicine. These are the original greenhouses. It's a grotesque notion lost on Javed and Chaffe, both refugees from Afghanistan who now call this place home.

    Inside, all traces of the past have long been erased. So, how do they feel about the history of this place?

    So, what Javed says basically is that he doesn't really care that this was a concentration camp which he is now staying in, because it's better than sleeping on the street, and there are no rooms, there are no flats available anymore in Germany, because there are simply too many refugees like him. So he's happy to have this place and doesn't mind too much that it's in a rather creepy location.

    Both are relieved that Germany has offered them refuge, but they're also sick with longing for the country they lost.

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