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“All hell is breaking loose here,” says the lady at the savings bank's telephone hotline. “Since Monday, it's been an uninterrupted flood of calls.”

A bank manager who asks not to be named describes the reaction to Ms Merkel's statement as: “Ouch! I'd better look into this crisis thing.” The guarantee, he says, “seems to have alerted people to something they ought to be worried about but haven't been so far.”