by Marco Malaguti

Which winter awaits Germany? A dark winter, and that is not a metaphor. With the exception of the Lower Saxony state elections, Germany has no noteworthy electoral appointments until 2023, and this, no doubt, facilitates the transparency with which governing parties and media are informing the population about the energy rationing coming this fall. Italy, in the midst of the "bathing" election campaign, seems to be pretending to know nothing about the upcoming rationing because of the substantial termination, now taken for certain, of gas supplies from Moscow. But in Germany, despite greater diversification of the energy production means, it is all they talk about.

Cold homes, warm gyms. Germany's bracing itself for winter

Much could be said about this difference in approach between Rome and Berlin, but let us look at what the so-called German "rationing" consists of. The topic is of great interest for the simple fact that our plans, that is, those prepared months ago by the current resigning government, already exist, although there have been no public announcements of their details, which could be very similar to the German ones (which are not only widely known by the Federal Republic's population, but are already being implemented in large parts of the country). Indeed, there are already several German administrations that are preparing heated community spaces in gymnasiums and parish buildings to enable people who will not be able to pay bills and rent to have a warm place to live, or at least spend the night, during the cold months. In a "Bild" article it was reported that city administrations such as those in Ludwigshafen, Neustadt, Frankenthal and Landau, in developed states such as Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate, are scrambling not only to find room among city infrastructure but also by turning to private citizens who own vacant properties.

The leak, confirmed by several local administrators, would see the new practice of "communal spaces" being inspired by the recent experience of pandemic period "covid hotels." A practice that, if confirmed, would see Germany falling back into the nightmare of Weimar, when entire communities of unemployed, maimed war veterans and homeless people sought shelter at church dormitories and state Wärmestube, large communal spaces heated by massive cast-iron stoves.

German cities swallowed by darkness

Meanwhile, in the middle of summer and the height of the tourist season, major cities, including the capital, are plunging into darkness. In fact, the Senate of the city-state of Berlin has announced that the lights that illuminate the capital's main monuments such as the Cathedral, the Marienkirche, the Staatsoper, the Deutsche Oper, and the Charlottenburg Castle will be turned off, to which will be added administrative buildings such as the Rotes Rathaus (City Hall) and Schloss Bellevue, the President of the Republic's residence (but the list of buildings to be "turned off" amounts to nearly two hundred sites).

It is an unprecedented measure, affecting places dear to the imagination of both Berliners and tourists who habitually flood the streets of the Teutonic capital, omphalos of European nightlife. Similar lists are being prepared in every major German city, with major capitals such as Leipzig, Munich and Nuremberg already joining this major "shutdown" campaign.

Germany already rationing

In Hanover, capital of the Lower Saxony state with a population of more than half a million, the sale of portable air conditioners has been banned, while hot water will no longer reach public buildings except for kindergartens and hospitals. After a certain hour, yet to be determined, traffic lights will also be turned off, including those in central city areas. These measures implement the recommendation of Helmut Dedy, president of the Deutscher Städtetag (DS), the German association of mayors that already weeks ago, while the electoral law was being discussed in Italy, called on German local administrators to proceed immediately with rationing, without waiting until they were in the winter to find themselves in the pinch. An invitation accepted with undeniable self-sacrifice from the Alps to the Baltic Sea, in a country where, global warming or not, winter is long and the heating units are unlikely to be turned off before May. In fact, even when it comes to private heaters, there will be little to rejoice about: real estate giants such as Bochum's Vonovia (nearly four hundred thousand apartments between Germany and Austria) have not waited for policy recommendations and have moved on their own, ordering maximum temperatures in apartments to be kept at 17 degrees for night hours (for daytime ones, we shall see).

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Increasingly restless public opinion

Notwithstanding the proverbial discipline of the German people, it is unknown how the Germans will react when these measures begin to bite in all their actual harshness. Assuming, of course, that they are not overtaken by further, even more stringent measures. Public opinion, for now, appears uneasy, albeit partially distracted by summer vacation.

The government is beginning to face its first protests, as learned the hard way by Economy Minister, Green Robert Habeck, who was heavily protested at a rally in Bayreuth, Bavaria, where the number of protesters vastly outnumbered the skimpy shed of environmentalist supporters and where booing from citizens concerned about rationing covered the minister's voice.

An issue, that of the social body's resilience, on which the Minister of the Interior, Social Democrat Nancy Faeser, also warned in an interview with the industrialists' newspaper "Handelsblatt,". She admonished that the gas and commodities crisis will generate a wave of radicalism and violence never seen in the postwar Germany. For Faeser, compared to what will be seen during the coming winter, "the protests of the Querdenker Movement will look like a children's birthday party" - a heavy-handed statement when one considers that the Querdenker Movement, on August 29, 2020, during an oceanic demonstration against covid restrictions stormed the Bundestag in what was essentially a Berlin Capitol Hill.

Definitely ominous foretellings, especially when one considers how closely linked the Italian (particularly the Northern one) economic system is to the German and, above all, how much more fragile Italian institutions are compared to Germanic ones. Whether Faeser's words were really exaggerated and alarmist we will soon find out, but in case they were even realistic it really comes to hope that this long summer of peninsular electoral campaigning will never end.

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Research fellow at the Machiavelli Center. A philosophy scholar, he has been working for years on the topic of the revaluation of nihilism and the great German Romantic philosophy.