There are different types of fear. Everyone knows individual fears like fear of heights or fear of spiders, for example. But there are other fears: These fears do not affect an individual but society as a whole, so the individual alone cannot overcome this fear. The new exhibition “Fear. A German State of Mind?” takes a closer look at this phenomenon.
In 2015, nearly one million people fled to Germany. Their arrival causes a controversial debate. On the one hand, there is a strong “Willkommenskultur” ("welcoming culture"), on the other hand, a critical attitude towards refugees is growing. Already in 1992, there was a strong fear of migration, when refugees from the former Yugoslavia arrived in Germany.
Not only the fears themselves change over the decades but also how society deals with them. In the 1950s, Germans do not speak openly about their fears. This feeling does not serve as a political argument until the 1980s. The fear of war causes thousands of people to demonstrate against the deployment of nuclear weapons in the Federal Republic in the 1980s. Visible signs of the protest at those demonstrations are, for example, several badges with political messages. In our exhibition, there will be a jacket with more than 30 badges, pointing out the owner's attitude.
The exhibition focuses on four topics to show what has sparked collective fears in Germany over the past 60 years. High numbers of refugees and immigrants repeatedly trigger waves of fear. So does the arms race with nuclear weapons as well as the civilian use of nuclear power, forest dieback and the danger of surveillance. The exhibition also deals with questions like, does the much-cited “German angst” exist? Are Germans particularly anxious?