The arson attacks in Vorra and Tröglitz sent a signal that alarmed official Germany, ever conscious of the past.
"We should not be surprised that our partners in the world note with great concern when refugee shelters burn in Germany, and that people follow exactly how German society is reacting," the foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, told Die Welt a week after the attack in Tröglitz.
But just as European statements do little for the Italian Coast Guard members watching migrants capsize and drown in the Mediterranean, pronouncements from Berlin may not help German mayors struggling with the refugee issue.
Weeks before the arson attack, the mayor of Tröglitz, Markus Nierth, quit after far-right marchers opposed to the housing of migrants demonstrated outside his house. At least half a dozen politicians, from big city districts to tiny towns, subsequently told German news media of right-wing harassment and even death threats.
In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Mr. Nierth said he was glad that federal authorities now seemed willing to do more, particularly financially. "It is really hard to make clear to some people that there is no money for a kindergarten, or a swimming pool, but there is money to put up refugees," he said. If the state or federal government absorbed the cost, hostility to refugees would diminish, he argued.
In Vorra, Mr. Herzog, 52, a Social Democrat in a largely conservative state, has been mayor since 1996. He has spent his life in this valley, and is still rattled by the night of Dec. 12, when his panicked deputy called to report that the new refugee shelter was on fire.
Daylight revealed the extent of the damage, estimated at €700,000, and two swastikas daubed in red alongside a slogan, "No to asylum seekers in Vorra."
"I was speechless," Mr. Herzog said. "What was really so bad was that only two weeks earlier there had been an open day," where everyone "seemed really happy that a bit of life would return" to a long-closed guesthouse that was renovated for about 40 refugees.
"From one night to the next morning," he sighed, showing a visitor the damage, "everything was destroyed."
Vorra is a meticulous place: Lace curtains hang the same length to the millimeter, logs are stacked in orderly piles and the church graveyard is strikingly well maintained. The community is small, and any outsider is instantly recognized as such.
But on a recent afternoon, Helga Herbst, 53, and her husband, Peter, 61, were among several residents who said that asylum seekers would be welcome.
"There has always been a good deal of contact with nonresidents, and no fear of such contact," Mr. Herzog said. Despite the swastikas, he was reluctant to attribute the arson attack to right-wingers. "Anyone can paint a symbol on a wall," he said.
Repairs are underway, though it will be fall at earliest before about 30 refugees can be received.
Pastor Schukat noted that adjoining villages had already absorbed a few dozen refugees, just as they had near Tröglitz.
Asked whether the higher authorities were leaving small communities to cope as they can, Pastor Schukat was cautious. "Yes and no," he said. "The great advantage we have is that it really is possible to integrate these people. In a big city, if there are 100 new arrivals, it doesn't really hit home in a big way. Here, you really notice if you have 30 more people to deal with." In the best-case scenario, everyone integrates "in a good, lasting and reasonable way."
Coping with change brought on by once-remote global crises has encouraged inhabitants to overcome fears of strangers, the pastor insisted. "Vorra is an absolutely normal village," he said. "There are 100,000 like it in Germany."