During New Year celebrations in Cologne, there were more than 500 reported attacks against women, including robbery and sexual assault. Most of the suspects are of North African origin, and some are thought to have entered the country illegally or as asylum seekers.
The news was welcome campaign fodder for US presidential hopeful Donald Trump. Referring to German chancellor Angela Merkel’s open door policy on refugees from Syria, he commented in his usual rhetoric: “I don’t know what the hell she is thinking”.
Trump went on to say that he did not want to have “people coming in from migration from Syria (sic)” as these were aggressive young men who “look like they should be on the wrestling team”. More dangerously still, Trump believed such people could act as terrorist “Trojan horses”.
Trump’s comments are in line with his vicious verbal attacks on Mexicans and other immigrant groups in the United States. But they betray his own family background. His grandfather, Friedrich Trump, a German, lived a migrant life in the US on the edge of illegality and rejection. During the World War I, he belonged to an immigrant group which was sweepingly labelled the “enemy within” or – in his grandson’s parlance – a Trojan horse.
The great wave
Friedrich Trump was swept to the United States in one of the biggest waves of mass migration in history. During the 1880s and early 1890s, 1.8m Germans emigrated to various European and overseas destinations. When young Friedrich arrived in New York in 1885 he joined around 200,000 of his compatriots who had already settled in the metropolis, forming a distinct “Little Germany”. After working for six years as a barber, he was caught by the Gold Rush, moved west and opened up a chain of restaurants and hotels in Washington State and British Columbia. Hospitality did not only include food and lodging, but also alcohol and prostitution. Friedrich anglicised his name to Frederick and became a US citizen.