When I was a young American GI stationed in Germany during the late 1960s, I had many occasions to ride the German rails. I have been to many large metropolitan train stations (Hauptbahnhofs) and often late at night. Even in those times, train stations in big cities were places you wanted to avoid during the late hours. In those days, it was mostly drunken, middle aged Germans, which led me to ask myself what they might have done in the war that led them to their present state. There were also lots of drunk American GIs headed back to base after a night of drinking. Full disclosure: Sometimes I was one of them.
During the ensuing decades when I returned to Germany, I had the opportunity to observe the social dynamics at the main train stations across the country. While the faces have changed, the fact remains that train stations in large cities are best avoided late at night. In recent years, I have noticed the predominance of Middle Eastern and North African immigrants hanging out at the stations. Are they foreign students? Are they visiting professors at a local university? Are they businessmen on a trip for their companies?
Not hardly. Granted, I have never stopped to chat and ask them their status. However, there is a difference. When I was a GI stationed in Erlangen (near Nuremberg, whose train station I know intimately), I happened to meet an African doctor who was working at the University of Erlangen. I was at a pizzeria with a German girl I was dating, and we found ourselves seated at the same table with him. He had had too much to drink but was delighted to have a chance to talk with us. The plain fact was that he was lonely, hardly surprising the climate in Germany at that time. He insisted on buying our pizza and beer and we reluctantly accepted. He was well-dressed, spoke halting German, and was just trying to make friends. I relate this story to make the point that I can differentiate between legitimate immigrants and lowlifes no country should accept.
And I hasten to add that my last trip to Germany was 2013 before the present wave of migrants/refugees began. This New Years Eve, Germany was wracked by a wave of assaults against German women, most notably at the Central Train Station in Cologne by Middle Eastern and North African migrants. The media initially tried to cover it up, but some elements of the media decided enough was enough and have publicized it, identifying the origins of the culprits. The German public is shocked and outraged.
Over the past five decades, I have had a chance to see the dark side of German train stations in big cities late at night. But I have never seen or experienced what happened in Cologne this past New Years Eve. It has reached a new low. Germany may never make their central train stations pristine, but what is happening now cannot be tolerated.
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