Photo/IllutrationGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union addresses the media during a news conference after a party leaders' meeting at the headquarters in Berlin on Oct. 29. (AP Photo)

"Welcome to Germany," a 2016 German comedy recently shown in theaters in Japan, made me laugh, cry and gave me quite an insight into the country's refugee crisis.

The Hartmanns are a well-to-do German family. One day, they take in a young man from Nigeria, an escapee from a terrorist organization in his country. Some of the scenes are shockingly graphic.

The Hartmanns' next-door neighbor looks upon the Nigerian as if he were a criminal, and threatens to "call the police if he steps onto my property."

A small anti-immigration rally is held in front the Hartmann home.

The film reminds us that Germany's refugee policy stands in a precarious balance between people's desire to welcome them and an ingrained aversion to doing so.

Has that balance been tipped now?

Owing to the public's growing antipathy toward immigration, Germany's ruling coalition fared badly in regional elections in October.

On Oct. 29, Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union announced her resignation as party leader. She also confirmed that she would not seek re-election as chancellor in the 2021 general election. Even though there are still three years left in her chancellorship, her leadership is likely to wane.

I once wrote a report from a German city about newly arrived refugees. Some German citizens were committed to teaching German to the newcomers, and some others welcomed them into their homes.

Germany's preparedness to accept refugees was so full-fledged that I felt no other country could rival it.

However, after the refugee population topped 1 million, perhaps the public felt the situation had got out of hand.

Germany's refugee policy is said to reflect the nation's collective sense of remorse for its Nazi past, specifically the persecution of minorities. It is rather inconceivable that the German people's attitude toward refugees has completely reversed, and I do not want to believe it. Some refugees have become gainfully employed and are putting down roots around the country.

A line from "Welcome to Germany" goes something like, "Once we have overcome the present crisis, I think we will see our country's true nature and the direction in which it is headed."

I wonder what Germany will be like when it eventually emerges from the rough seas.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 1

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.