Wednesday, May 25, 2005

German Immigration and Democratization

PolS 148

German Immigration and Democratization

A fundamental question is being debated within Germany’s political and cultural society. This question is, ‘Who is German?’ What individual constitutes a German citizen? A stereotypical view of the German citizen could be a blond-haired, blue eyed burly individual who would be good-natured, drink beer, speak with an accent slurring the ‘s’ to a ‘z,’ be militarily precise and hard working, and would dress in Bavarian clothes. Yet foreign immigrants who are incorporating their own customs and mores into German culture and German society are now challenging the view of what constitutes a German citizen. With these clashing views on identity, German immigration has evolved into a split personality. One aspect of the German immigration is to allow foreigners and refugees seeking asylum into the country. And yet at the same time, immigration and naturalization laws make it almost impossible for immigrants to become naturalized German citizens. It is this fractured personality of German laws that have caused immigrants to become the equivalent of second-class citizens. Such a fracture may cause racial conflict within German society.

Immigration into modern Germany started in the 1950s when West Germany began to integrate her economy into the European Common Market. This was the start of the West German Wirtchaftswunder or Economic Miracle. At the end of the Second World War, West Germany’s economy was in the midst of a labor shortage. To combat this labor shortage, West Germany invited thousands of “Gastarbeiter,” or “guest workers” from Mediterranean and Southern European countries to temporarily fill positions in its industrial workforce. These guest workers would help Germany grow in her industry before returning to their original countries. Within the ages of twenty to forty, the Gastarbeiters brought their families over to Germany, rather than sending money back to the families in their countries of origin (Seibel, 1997). West German recruitment of guest workers ended in 1973. As a result of recruitment and reuniting of families, West German foreign population increased from 680,000 in 1960 to 3,000,000 in 1970 (Seibel, 1997). Within twenty-five years, these foreign residents became a permanent part of West German society with guest worker families giving birth to children who would become a second generation of foreign residents. These second-generation foreign residents were completely integrated into German society, language, and culture with their families giving birth to a third generation of foreign residents. Second-generation and third-generation foreign residents are German in all aspects except their race. Currently, there is an estimated 7.3 million immigrants residing in Germany (Whose Fatherland? A Proposal to Grant Citizenship to Members of Germany’s Vast Immigrant Community Stirs Passionate Debate, 1999), representing around 8% of the German population (Siebel, 1997). And their numbers are growing. One in five babies being born in German society are from non-German citizens (Who is German, 1997). According to Ranier Munz, professor of demographic studies at Humbold University in Berlin, Germany will need 300,000 immigrants a year during the next thirty years to keep it’s population steady (Rinaldi, 1999).

In addition to the immigration of foreign workers for the Wirtchaftswunder, Germany has also accepted immigrants seeking political asylum. In 1947, when the post-war West German constitution was written, a clause was inserted where “politically persecuted persons enjoy the right to asylum.” This is a part of the Grundgestez or Basic Law. This political asylum clause of the Basic Law was set up as a West Germany’s repayment to the world for asylum seekers fleeing the Nazi regime (Siebel, 1997). No other nation has recognized such a liberal and unrestricted right to political asylum. In 1989, 121, 318 asylum seekers entered West Germany. By 1992, the annual figure had risen to 438, 191. This increase in asylum seekers, coupled with economic problems of the reunification of Germany, caused a rise in radical right-winged political groups criticizing the government’s support of asylum seekers. In July 1993, Germany adapted it asylum law rejecting asylum to those immigrants who reached Germany by way of a “safe third country,” and thus cutting off a land route into Germany. Not only did this regulation conform to the policies of other West European countries, but also the number of immigrants seeking asylum dropped in Germany to around 116,367 in 1996 (Siebel, 1997).

While it has been easy for immigrants to enter Germany, it is far more difficult to become a naturalized German citizen. German citizenship laws are adhered to the legal precedent of jus sarguinis or citizenship by blood. To become a German citizen, an individual must be born of German parents or ancestors. This is opposite of the precedent of jus soli where and individual becomes a citizen through birth in a nation-state regardless of ethnicity. Thus, individuals living in Kazakhstan who were descended from ethnic Germans immigrating to Russia around 200 year ago have a greater chance of becoming German citizens over that of a second or third-generation Turkish individuals born in Germany (To the Fatherland: Kazakhstan, 1997). For those who wish to become naturalized citizens who are not of German blood, the requirements are difficult. First, an individual must voluntarily wish to remain in Germany. The individual must have a complete knowledge of German politics and German language. The individual must reside in Germany for a period of 10 years. Finally, an individual must renounce their former citizenship (Kurthen, 1995). This is an important immigration restriction since renunciation of citizenship for Turkish and Polish immigrants will lead to an abandonment of inheritance rights in their countries of origin. As a result of these strict naturalization laws, the annual naturalization ratio is about 3 percent of the 7 million resident aliens living in Germany (Kurthen, 1995). In comparison, the United States ratio is around 6 percent (Kurthen, 1995). Currently, a proposed new law is being backed by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, which would ease the process of naturalization for residents who are non-German. Called the Dual Nationality Law, this law allows some liberalization in Germany’s naturalized citizenship law. First, a second-generation foreigner born in Germany would automatically become a citizen if at least one parent came there before the age of 14. An immigrant could apply for naturalization after eight years residence instead of 10. Finally, a non-German partner in an intercultural marriage would become a citizen after three years instead of going through naturalization. More importantly, the Dual Nationality Law would not require the renunciation of an individual’s former citizenship.

This aspect of German citizenship laws is slowly creating a class society with foreign immigrants being relegated to a second-class citizenship status. Currently, foreign workers comprise between fifteen and twenty percent of the work force in Germany’s large cities (Siebel, 1997). However, much of the work which immigrants perform is menial work requiring little skills and low pay. According to a study by the RWI Economic Research Institute, 75% of foreigners do menial work which ethnic Germans would avoid, keeping the German economy running with basic food and service industries (Rinaldi, 1999). Turkish immigrants currently run 40,000 small businesses in Germany (Who Is German, 1997) while 10,000 independent kebab food shops manage to outsell McDonalds (Rinaldi, 1999). The demand for small businesses providing ethnic products and services is growing with market analysis estimating a total of 106,000 businesses, which will employ 650,000 by the year 2010 (Hillmann, 1999).

With this growing need of ethnic labor, immigrants may find a life and culture in Germany that is alien to them. The integration of two cultures can become difficult for first-generation immigrants assimilating in Germany. However second and third generation foreigners are also finding them selves caught between two cultures. Foreign children born in Germany are finding a life of confusion. Within the home and family, the social and cultural norms these children learn from their parents come from their parent’s country of origin. But when they enter the German educational system, these children learn of the German prejudices. Foreign children are isolated. They are outsiders in the minds and views of Germans. Attempts to assimilate with German children may also fail. As a result, some foreign children’s interest in learning will sink. They will become autistic or aggressive and their socialization into German society is blocked. Social, cultural, and spiritual stress increases in these children. Many children feel overwhelmed by the stress and view school as a burden rather than an obligation. This can result in a loss of education or withdrawal from school in later years (Onder, 1996). For second and third generation children who are able to assimilated into the German culture and speak the German language, the culture conflict becomes twofold. Not only do they realize the prejudices of the German culture against foreigners, but also they are thrust into a conflict between the German culture they’ve adopted and the ethnic culture of their parents. Disagreements can become violent conflicts between the children who have adopted the German culture and their parents who are culturally bound to their country of origin. Thus second and third generation children are placed into a life of no identity and are forced to culturally fend for themselves (Onder, 1996).

The final problem that immigrants must face is German racism. This modern German racism originated through a combination of factors. First, near the end of the Second World War, the allied powers of the United States, Great Britain, and France, concentrated on de-Nazifying West Germany. What the allied commanders may not have realized is that individual Nazis would have submerged their own racial beliefs and party doctrine within themselves at the end of the war. In East Germany, the Communist government disavowed them selves from having any links with the Nazis past, thus no attempts were made to de-Nazify East Germany by the Soviet Union. Second, the horrors of the Third Reich with the concentration camps and the wholesale slaughter of civilians were consistently reinforced into the West German school curriculum and through West German society. These horrors of the Nazi regime were considered a result of German militarism and German nationalism. Because of these horrors, the West German Government suppressed German nationalism and patriotism. For young Germans who were growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, and who had no memories of the war, the suppression of nationalistic pride and views Germany would cause a backlash against the status quo. This backlash would have been reinforced when the younger Germans learned from their grandparents of how nationalistic German pride existed before the Second World War. It is this lack of nationalistic pride in the younger Germans, which is fertile ground for the tapping by right-winged extremist and neo-Nazi political groups (Krautz, 1993). Bela Ewald Althans, a highly affluent and sophisticated neo-Nazi extremist, has been organizing a grass-roots network of small right-winged extremist parties, skinheads and neo-Nazis into the Die Bewegung or The Movement (Lee, 1993). Althans claims he was influenced by old Nazis and tutored to the Nazi philosophy by Willi Kraemer who was an adviser to Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels and Major General Otto Ernst Remer, who played a crucial role in stopping the assassination attempt against Hitler in July 1944. Althans was also influenced by Michael Kuhnen, a German army lieutenant who was expelled from the West German army for pro-Nazi agitation in the military. Kuhnen recognized the opportunity to build up a neo-Nazi movement through brandishing resentment of foreigners and guestworkers while projecting strength as an outspoken Nazi, which would attract media attention and followers to his movement. While the German government has banned the Nazi party and has attempted to suppress some of the extreme right-winged parties, Althan’s has carried on Kuhnen’s work, creating through the underground a highly organized German Nazi Party (Lee, 1993). In 1996, over 2,500 racially motivated criminal acts were reported in Germany (Onder, 1996). It is estimated that there are 42,000 right-winged radicals in Germany with 6,200 considered dangerously militant (Marks, 1994).

Finally, the problems with German immigration and the racial views can be identified through German culture. Germans believe that the Aryan race and culture is distinct. Germans believe that their nation is not a nation of immigration. Germany is not a ‘melting pot’ of immigrants as compared to the United States. “In Germany, a kind of unconscious feeling exists that a real German is only a real German by blood and that others can never be part of this country,” said Nora Rathzel, head of the Institute for Migration and Racism in Hamburg (Drohan, 1993). This is the key problem since this mental image of who can be German is causing an unconscious racial view and racial discrimination against different ethnic peoples and cultures. Only when Germany can accept different peoples and culture into her society will she become a much more stronger and democratic nation.

Works Cited

Drohan, Madelaine. (1993). The German Problem. World Press Review. Vol. 40.
No. 2. Pg. 23.

Hillman, Felicitas. (1999). A Look at the “Hidden Side”: Turkish Women in Berlin’s Ethnic Labour Market. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. Vol. 23, Issue 2. Pg. 267.

Krautz, Joachin. (1993). The Grapes of Neglect—Violence and Xenophobia in Germany. Contemporary Review. Vol. 263. No. 1533. Pg. 169.

Kurthen, Hermann. (1995). Germany at the Crossroads: National Identity and the Challenges of Immigration. International Migration Review. Vol. 29. No. 4. Pg. 914.

Lee, Martin A. (1993). Hitler’s Offspring. The Progressive. Vol. 57. No. 3. Pg. 28.

Marks, John. (1994). The Growing Pains of the New Germany; Unification Brings Disorder and Early Sorrow. U.S. News & World Report. Vol. 116. No. 19. Pg. 42.

Onder, Zehra. (1996). Muslim-Turkish Children in Germany: Sociocultural Problems. Migration World Magazine. Vol. 24. No. 5. Pg. 18.

Rinaldi, Alfred. (1999). No Turks, Please, We’re German. New Statesman. Vol. 128. Issue 4417. Pg. 23.

Siebel, Anne Marie. (1997). Deutschland ist doch ein Einwanderungsland Gerworden: Proposals to Address Germany’s Status as a “Land of Immigration.” Vanderbilt Journals of Transnational Law. Vol. 30. No. 4. Pg. 905.

To the Fatherland: Kazakhstan. (1997). The Economist. No. 9. Pg. 47.

Who is German? (1997). The Economist. Vol. 342. No. 8011. Pg. 45.

Whose Fatherland? A Proposal to Grant Citizenship to Members of Germany’s Vast Immigrant Community Stirs Passionate Debate. (1999). Time International. Vol. 153. Issue 3. Pg. 22.

Who Should be German, Then? (1998). The Economist. Vol. 348. No. 8075. Pg. 45.

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