‘I’ve given up on all my dreams’: Dread in Germany deepens over war in Ukraine

Kati Pannwitz spends her evenings alone at home in a darkened and unheated apartment, watching old films and thinking about the new reality of life in a country that is getting ever closer to the war in Ukraine.

Rising inflation and fears of an energy crisis hit 34-year-old Pannwitz, taking a heavy toll on her finances and the future of her and her 17-year-old son.

No more vacations, no more trips abroad, no more going out, no more saving and a prospect that has grown increasingly bleak for Pannwitz – and millions of other Germans – since Russian forces invaded Ukraine seven months ago.

Woman stands in the middle of the street.

“How can we pay the bills when prices are going so crazy?” asks Kati Pannwitz.

(Erik Kirschbaum / For the Time)

“I gave up all my dreams,” said Pannwitz, a single mother who works at a Berlin car dealership and saved up to one day travel the world. Because her financial reserves have evaporated this year, she wants to start a part-time job at a men’s outfitter just to make ends meet. Her son recently enlisted in the army after graduating from high school.

“Like all my friends, I’m scared of how I’m doing,” she said. “How can we pay the bills when prices are going so crazy? At first I turned the heating down but then turned it off after the bill doubled. I used candles instead of lights and watched Netflix instead of going out. what else can I do? How are we supposed to survive this?”

Fear of runaway inflation has been an anathema to generations of Germans who know the story of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party, who came to power on the heels of a nation devastated by hyperinflation in the 1920s.

Fear in one of Europe’s wealthiest countries is creating an eerie centennial déjà vu that has angered Germans more than the war itself, which they want nothing to do with – and is playing out just 1,000 miles to the east.

A great disturbance in the sea

A major disturbance in the Baltic Sea last week after a series of mysterious explosions that damaged gas pipelines.

(Danish Defense Command via Associated Press)

Fear of a dark, cold, and possibly even hungry winter is heightened by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ominous saber-rattling over a possible use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine and the West. The country was even more unsettled by the mysterious explosions at the bottom of the Baltic Sea, which damaged natural gas pipelines that, not so long ago, had supplied nearly half of Germany’s supplies.

“Nobody will freeze or starve to death this winter – can the federal government really keep this promise?” Was the seriously meant episode title of a popular prime-time talk show called “Anne Will” on ARD last Sunday.

On Thursday, the federal government announced a $200 billion aid package aimed at helping Germans pay heating and electricity bills that have already doubled, or in some cases tripled, for many. Germans were urged to save energy, turn down their thermostats and take cold or shorter showers, while authorities turned off lights and turned down heating in public buildings.

Widespread fears of inflation in Germany – which hit a 71-year high of 10% this month – and energy shortages have not gone unnoticed in Washington, where there are concerns about Europe’s largest economy becoming a weak link in the chain clear line on sanctions against Russia.

The unmistakable German trepidation was also closely followed in Moscow, where Putin – the former KGB agent in East Germany and still a fluent speaker of the language – is reportedly an avid consumer of German media.

Putin is probably aware of opinion polls showing that Germans are more suspicious of the war than others and resent inflation, energy shortages and the spread of war in their peace-obsessed country.

A recent poll by the renowned Infratest Dimap institute for ARD showed that support for the federal government and the tough sanctions regime against Russia fell from 66% approval in March to 53% in September. When asked whether sanctions would disrupt energy supplies, approval dropped from 68% in March to 54% in September.

The institute also found in an April poll that 80% of Germans fear that the war in Ukraine would cause lasting damage to the German economy, 76% feared that Germany would experience energy shortages, and 64% feared that the War from Ukraine would spread to Europe.

“Many people on modest incomes are currently suffering and afraid of what is coming next, and support for Ukraine and the resulting sanctions has pretty much eroded,” said Thomas Jaeger, a political scientist at the University of Cologne. “If it gets really cold this winter, support will continue to drop. The United States and other European countries already see Germany as a weak link. This will be even weaker if energy bills continue to rise unchecked.”

Already a deeply pacifist country with an understandable aversion to war after his Wehrmacht Wreaking havoc across Europe during World War II, Germany has been accused of being slow to support Ukraine’s defense efforts – first refusing to send arms, fearing it might anger Putin and leading to a larger war, and then came up a litany of varying reasons for withholding its highly regarded armored vehicles, tanks and air defense systems.

“Germany’s reputation as a reliable partner in Europe is plummeting,” Jaeger said, citing a survey by the German Marshall Fund last week that found perceptions of Germany’s reliability have fallen by more than 10 percentage points in Poland this year. Turkey, USA and Spain.

A man stands in front of a wall.

“Everyone I know is afraid of this war, but also of the collapse of our economy,” says tax advisor Jörg Feucker.

(Erik Kirschbaum / For the Time)

That doesn’t matter to Germans like Jörg Feucker, a 51-year-old tax consultant in Berlin, who fears the West’s “economic war” against Russia could only end up crippling German industry, causing bankruptcies and bringing down an abrupt end to three golden decades of prosperity after the cold war.

“Everyone I know is scared of this war, but also scared that our economy will fall apart, and the consequences of that could be worse than war,” Feucker said, noting that Germany’s position as the world’s fourth-largest economy could be in danger danger.

“Everything is looking bleak at the moment and there is no silver lining anywhere. Everything is collapsing right before our eyes, and we’re back to where we were during the Cold War with an East-West nuclear confrontation,” he said. “People are scared and don’t know how to get through it. …

“It is difficult for many of us to understand how we are drawn into so much destruction for Ukraine. A lot of people don’t understand it.”

https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-10-03/dread-germany-deepens-russia-war-ukraine ‘I’ve given up on all my dreams’: Dread in Germany deepens over war in Ukraine

Alley Einstein

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