German concerns grow as war in Ukraine continues | Germany | In-depth news and reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW

In Germany, the feeling of crisis is spreading. The obvious indicator of a partly unstable nation: empty shelves in supermarkets, hoarding and purchase limits on staples including pasta, flour and yeast. People are hoarding non-perishable food again, as they did at the start of the COVID pandemic – but now, instead of toilet paper, sunflower oil is in high demand.

The German oilseed processing industry association (OVID) warns that “restrictions in the flow of sunflower, flax and soybean goods from the conflict region” are to be expected in the weeks and months to come. Russia and Ukraine are among the world’s largest exporters of sunflower oil; Germany covers 94% of its needs with imports.

German consumers have started panicking to buy food products, such as cooking oils, which are largely imported from Ukraine and Russia

According to a recent poll by the polling firm Forsa, 69% of the 1,000 people questioned on February 28 said they feared that NATO and therefore the Bundeswehr, the German army, would be drawn into the war. According to the latest Deutschlandtrend poll, many respondents are convinced that the conflict will leave its mark in Germany. 64% expect the economic situation to deteriorate.

This war is being watched almost live on social media and is geographically closer than any military conflict has been in a long time, emotionally moving more and more people across Germany.

A place to talk about fears

They often seek help from a telephone counseling service. “The investigations have become very intensive,” Christina Zajackowski of the Cologne telephone advice service told DW. One out of five calls is related to war; people are afraid that it will overflow the borders and arrive in Germany. People are afraid “that their family members or friends will be killed, that their own house will be bombed, as they see in the Ukrainian media”. It’s fine for callers “to talk about their fears or just express their worst fantasies,” says telephone counselor Zajackowski.

An employee of a telephone service providing mental health counseling in Germany

Many people have sought mental health counseling to deal with their anxieties about the war in Ukraine and its effects

Young people who grew up in a peaceful Europe are worried about the future. But for members of the Second World War generation, the images of destruction in Ukraine stir deep fears.

This generation “has suppressed the memories of the war in times of peace. Now everything resurfaces,” Thomas de Vachroi, an official with the Evangelischer Kirchenkreis Neukölln, a Christian religious organization in Berlin, told DW. His organization runs Haus Britz, a facility where many older people live. “They are terribly afraid that at some point the red line will be crossed, NATO will intervene and everything will go from bad to worse. I have to tell you honestly that I now see it that way too.

However, the elderly are not worried about themselves, but about their children and grandchildren, says de Vachroi. They say things like “I don’t think my grandchildren could cope with a situation like the one we had after the war: surviving hunger, looking for food in the fields, having no clothes” .

Frank Ulrich Montgomery, president of the World Medical Association, warns that people’s fears of war must be taken seriously. “It is important that their feelings are not minimized,” he told the Funky media group.

Preparers anticipate emergencies

Some people in Germany have been meticulously and materially preparing for crises and disasters for years. These “preparers” assume the worst, and more so than ever. On the Internet, they show their survival backpacks, iodine tablets to hopefully protect against radioactivity in nuclear accidents, and backup electricity generators; they offer “prep tips for beginners”.

YouTube users are sharing videos on purported radiation sickness prophylactics, how to handle power outages, and various other crisis management strategies.

And fear is good business too; The security industry is booming. The personal security company “Bunker Schutzraum Systeme Deutschland BSSD” based in Berlin, notes a marked increase in interest. “Until now, the number of daily visits to our website has been between 100 and 300. With the onset of the war, they skyrocketed to over 10,000,” the communications manager at DW told DW. BSSD, Mark Schmiechen. Investigations ranged from small steel rooms known in the industry as “pop-up panic rooms” to basements or garages converted into bomb shelters, to weatherproof bunkers. atomic bombs.

A commercially available “pop-up panic room” model

Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, “pop-up panic rooms” like this have been in demand in Germany like never before

The security company set up a six-phone hotline for two weeks, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. “We had ten calls per hour on the phone,” reports Schmiechen. Many callers also wanted to know what to do in an emergency. “For example, we had a young woman who said, ‘I don’t even know who to contact. I called the police and called the authorities – they couldn’t give me any advice. Are they the good ones [to call] now?””

Cyber ​​protection authority fears computer attacks

Many Germans fear a nightmare scenario of a possible collapse of energy and water supplies due to a cyberattack by Kremlin-led hackers on critical infrastructure. German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser has called for the threat to be taken seriously, and the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) is also alarmed at such a possibility.

As part of its warning about Russian manufacturer Kaspersky’s virus protection software, a statement from Germany’s cybersecurity protection authority raised alarm: the actions of Russian military and/or intelligence forces were “related to a considerable risk of a successful computer attack”.

The Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Aid (BBK), which reports to the Ministry of the Interior, also considers power outages due to a hacker attack to be “in principle possible”, the office told DW. Two years ago, the authority was ridiculed for inciting the population to build up a ten-day reserve of food and household items. Now the civil protection agency is overwhelmed with inquiries and has created a special section on the war in Ukraine on its homepage.

This article has been translated from German.

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