If the chancellor had invested similar energy into the handling of the refugee crisis after 2015 as she had put into the handling of the euro crisis seven years before, Germany certainly would not have ended up as the polarized society it is today. When it came to addressing domestic issues, hers was a populism of silence.

The latest example of this public diplomacy laziness was the way Ms. Merkel dealt with the events this summer in the eastern city of Chemnitz. In late August, a 35-year-old local man was stabbed to death by an asylum seeker. The event sparked protests by right-wing extremists and rioting. A Jewish-owned restaurant was attacked, and police later arrested members of a suspected right-wing terrorist cell with possible links to the events.

Yet Ms. Merkel waited almost three months before she paid a visit to Chemnitz. When she finally decided to meet locals last week, one citizen summed up her comments by comparing them to way the last leader of communist East Germany, Erich Honecker, had spoken to the people: “Just blah blah.”