Politicians have rushed to condemn a board member of the German central bank for a new book tackling immigration, but his views have found considerable support among the population at large.
Thilo Sarrazin's book "is not convincing, but it has convinced many people," said the influential Spiegel magazine, which this week has the Bundesbank executive on its cover, calling him a "people's hero."
His publisher is rushing to print more copies of "Germany Does Itself In" to meet demand. Online retailer Amazon.de has a massive 207 reader reviews on its website, with the average score 4.4 stars out of a possible five.
The Social Democrats, or SPD, the centre-left political party Sarrazin belongs to, has been inundated with thousands of letters, emails and phone calls attacking the central bank board's desire to expel him. "Listen to the voice of the people for once," Spiegel quoted one of the almost 4,000 emails as saying.
In the book, Sarrazin says Europe's top economy is being undermined, overwhelmed and made "more stupid" by poorly educated, fast-breeding, badly integrated and unproductive Muslim immigrants and their offspring. "If I want to hear the muezzin's call to prayer, then I'll go to the Orient," he says, saying that allowing in millions of "guest workers" in the 1960s and 1970s was a "gigantic error."
He also says that Turkish and Kurdish "clans" have a "long tradition of inbreeding," leading to higher rates of birth defects, and ponders whether this might be one reason for immigrants' poor school performance, Spiegel said.
This and his comment to a newspaper that "all Jews share a certain gene," critics say, is akin to the kind of pseudo-science used by the Nazis. Chancellor Angela Merkel called the remarks "completely unacceptable." The Bundesbank's board has asked President Christian Wulff to fire him, as it cannot do so itself.