Olaf Scholz told Germans they would “never walk alone” on Thursday as several of his spy chiefs warned that the cost of living crisis could lead to riots on the streets.
Speaking at his summer press conference, the chancellor assured the public that “we will be there for them” during a winter in which energy shortages and raging inflation caused by the war in Ukraine are expected to hit home.
“I have purposefully chosen the phrase ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ to show our stance,” said Mr Scholz, referring to the classic Gerry and the Pacemakers ballad, which is also a hit among football fans in Liverpool and Germany.
“I don’t think there will be any unrest in this country,” Mr Scholz said, claiming that Germany’s robust social safety net would see people through.
The 64-year-old Social Democrat pointed to a €10 billion (£8.4 billion) tax relief package announced on Wednesday as just one element of a raft of measures that his government had taken to alleviate the worst effects of the crisis.
Mr Scholz’s reassurance came in stark contrast to the urgent warnings of several of his spy officials, who stated that the mood on the street could easily turn nasty.
Stephan Kramer, the president of intelligence in the state of Thuringia, described the atmosphere there as “highly emotional and explosive” and “easily able to escalate”.
“Mass protests and riots are just as conceivable as concrete acts of violence against property and people, as well as terrorism,” he told broadcaster ZDF.
His grim assessment was echoed by Torsten Voss, the head of Hamburg’s intelligence agency, who said that an extremist network organised in protest against pandemic measures was now turning its attention to the energy crisis.
Meanwhile, a third spy chief, Brandenburg’s Joerg Mueller, said that neo-Nazis were “dreaming of a winter of German rage”, which they could use to stoke violence on the streets.
Fears of unrest came ahead of a winter in which Germans are likely to have to drastically cut down on heating if the country is to avoid gas rationing.
With Russia currently pumping only a fraction of normal gas deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, Germany’s energy agency said that consumers will have to reduce their usage by a fifth in order to avoid it stepping in to prioritise some sectors over others.
Meanwhile, the government plans to bring in a massive levy on gas bills in the hope of discouraging people from unnecessary heating. But there are fears this could add to the cost of living crisis for middle-class households.
Polling showed that the people of east Germany, where the far-Right is strongest, are particularly reluctant to make personal sacrifices to support Ukraine, with fewer than half are prepared to accept gas rationing.