Children and adults experience bullying in Germany. There, bullying is referred to as “mobbing.” That bullying and its effects are the same as they are in countries like the U.S., the U.K., France or elsewhere. The targets feel fear, isolation, and they may develop symptoms of depression. Some may attempt suicide if they aren’t able to get help. In Germany, the issue of bullying takes on another dimension because of the numbers of foreign nationals and refugees who have taken residence in this country.
Deadly Results of Bullying in Munich
In the middle of June, 2016, a young German citizen of Iranian descent shot several people at a Munich McDonald’s. Once he was done there, he went to a shopping mall and shot people there. From there, he went to the highest level of a parking garage, located near the mall. By the end of his shooting spree, he had killed one adult and eight younger people. When he was confronted by German polizei, he shot and killed himself.
At first, German authorities worried about a “lone wolf” terrorism attack. But, as they dug deeper into David Ali Somboly’s past, they found that he suffered from depression, for which he was receiving treatment. Somboly was also bullied at several schools. He may have planned the shootings out in advance. In a raid on his family’s apartment, police found papers that detailed how the police respond to shootings, along with a book about people who have carried out school shootings.
Somboly was Bullied
Not only did Somboly allegedly plan out his shooting attack, he enjoyed playing violent video games. He suffered from panic attacks that were instigated when he came into contact with others. Along with psychiatric treatment—some of this on an inpatient basis—he was taking psychotropic medications.
He was bullied by classmates when he was fourteen. He seems to have targeted immigrant teens (Hungarian, Greek, Kosovo Albanian and Turkish) at the McDonald’s.
Aftereffects of “Mobbing” (Bullying)
If you look at The Independent’s Facebook image, you see a handsome, young man with dark skin, eyes and hair. Under the image, the caption reads, “The chilling words Munich gunman Ali Somboly told his classmates before killing 9 people.” The killings are a tragic result of bullying in Germany.
Take a look at some of the comments. One girl clearly blames the shooter’s bullies. Another young woman refers directly to his isolation and bullying, saying that authorities should have seen what was happening and stepped in. Another young woman issues a challenge for German society to recognize bullying, taking it seriously.
The people posting on the Facebook page seem to know that Somboly was a bullying victim and that it had a significant effect on his mental well-being. This awareness of why Somboly may have carried out his killing spree comes from Germany’s laws and policies against bullying.
Mobbing Stories in Other German Cities
In Hildesheim, students were stunned to see several students physically abusing another classmate. The target was forced to smear motor oil on his genitals and brush his teeth with a wire brush. The teacher was in the classroom next door. Outcome: five of the 10 students are behind bars as German prosecutors are investigating the teacher’s failure to notice what was going on.
A male teen was jailed for beating up a classmate in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. And, in Hannover, two teen students were physically bullied by five of their classmates; their abuse included sexual assault.
Mechtild Shaefer, a bullying expert (focusing on teen victims) at Ludwig-Maximilians University (Munich) recommends that teachers receive pedagogic training on interacting with students, which may help them to uncover bullying behavior.
Recommendations for Care
Bullying, especially if it is ongoing, can have negative effects on the health of targets. Dr. Leonhard Thun-Hohenstein, who heads child psychiatry at the Christian Doppler Hospital, advocates for juvenile bullying victims to receive inpatient psychiatric care. He says that they suffer from acute depression, with some experiencing suicidal ideation.
Mobbed for Being “Different”
Being targeted for bullying because you are different doesn’t just happen in the U.S. In Germany, one German-American expatriate was removed from his German school and enrolled into an American school.
He was always picked on (bullied) for being different. As a result, he doesn’t feel as integrated into German society. His parents wanted him to be able to assimilate with his German classmates, but because of his American heritage, he was singled out.
Story of Workplace Bullying
A woman who used to work for Siemens in Nuernberg after marrying a German citizen became the target of workplace bullying. Sedicka Weingaertner was called “Arab” (she was born in Afghanistan), “dirt” and “sloppy.” After experiencing the bullying for over four years, she developed several serious psychosomatic reactions. Weingaertner’s psychologist examined her once Weingaertner decided to sue Siemens.
How Workplace Bullying Affects Victims
Victims of workplace bullying develop psychological, emotional and physical symptoms. Some become depressed. The stress causes others to develop chronic illnesses and either gain or lose weight.
“Mobbing” effectively isolates targets and, depending on the methods used to bully them, can humiliate them, sometimes causing the target to lose the ability to function on the job.
Mobbing has become so prevalent in Europe that Swedish insurance companies pay health care claims that cite bullying as a cause of illness.
Protections for German Workers
As of 2014, the German Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs states that employers are “obliged” to protect their employees’ rights to privacy and health. To reach this goal, the ministry charges employers with preventing mobbing, taking actions against employees who mob other employees. Employers are expected to “take all possible measures” to prevent bullying. This is an excellent first step, which is more than is done in other first-world countries, although it doesn’t specify how to handle bullying.
Laws Against Workplace Bullying in the EU
The European Union has taken seriously the issue of workplace bullying, with some countries in the EU beginning to address this as early as 20 to 25 years ago. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union ranks human dignity highly in Europe. The Charter addresses working environments that respect each workers’ right to health, safety and dignity. Again, this is more than other first-world countries have attempted to do.
EU members signed an agreement that required member countries to implement and enforce a zero tolerance policy on “status-blind” workplace harassment. In Germany specifically, its constitution offers a foundation for the common law development of anti-bullying laws.
Cyberbullying in Germany
Cyberbullying takes place in Germany. In a survey completed by YouGov, just over 50 percent of German teens said they believe that cyberbullying is worse than face to face bullying. Because it is ongoing, this is true. About 18 percent of German teens say they have experienced bullying through social media.
Facebook Bullying against a German Citizen
Social media, especially Facebook, isn’t always kind to those who dare to express themselves differently. A German citizen had new eyebrows tattooed onto her face—soon, she began getting some pretty negative reactions, asking whether she was right in the head, whether the tattoos were fake, and even using photo editing programs to create unflattering images of the young woman.
The young woman didn’t allow her detractors to take her down. She told her detractors that she’s happy with her new look.