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Germany's Angela Merkel: Multiculturalism has 'utterly failed'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's comments come just days after a study by a German think tank found that more than 30 percent of people believed Germany was 'overrun by foreigners.'

By Matthew ClarkStaff writer / October 17, 2010

German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at a meeting of the youth organization of her Christian Democratic Party in Potsdam, Eastern Germany. A declaration by Angela Merkel that Germany's attempts to build a multicultural society has failed is feeding a growing debate over how to deal with the millions of foreigners who call Germany home.

Clemens Bilan/AP

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a gathering of young members of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party this weekend that the "multikulti" concept – where people of different backgrounds would live together happily – does not work in Germany.

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At "the beginning of the 1960s our country called the foreign workers to come to Germany and now they live in our country," said Ms. Merkel at the event in Potsdam, near Berlin. "We kidded ourselves a while. We said: 'They won't stay, [after some time] they will be gone,' but this isn't reality. And of course, the approach [to build] a multicultural [society] and to live side by side and to enjoy each other ... has failed, utterly failed."

The crowd gathered in Potsdam greeted the above remark, delivered from the podium with fervor by Ms. Merkel, with a standing ovation. And her comments come just days after a study by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation think tank (which is affiliated with the center-left Social Democratic Party) found that more than 30 percent of people believed Germany was "overrun by foreigners" who had come to Germany chiefly for its social benefits.

STORY: Why 13 percent of Germans would welcome a 'Führer'

The study also found that 13 percent of Germans would welcome a “Führer – a German word for leader that is explicitly associated with Adolf Hitler – to run the country “with a firm hand.” Some 60 percent of Germans would “restrict the practice of Islam,” and 17 percent think Jews have “too much influence,” according to the study.

"The findings signal that Europe’s largest nation, freed from cold-war strictures, is not immune from the extreme and often right-wing politics on the rise around the Continent," writes the Monitor's Europe Bureau chief, Robert Marquand. "The year 2010 is marking a clear shift toward extremist politics across Europe, analysts say. An uncertain economy, a gap between elites and ordinary Europeans, and fraying of a traditional sense of national identity has just in the past month brought more hard-line politics and speech, often aimed at Islam or immigrants – into a political mainstream where it had been absent or considered taboo."

'Multkulti is dead'

Multiculturalism has taken a beating in recent months in Germany.

Last week, Horst Seehofer, the leader of the CDU's Bavarian sister party, the CSU, said it was "obvious that immigrants from different cultures like Turkey and Arab countries, all in all, find it harder" to integrate.

" 'Multikulti' is dead," he said.

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