• Germany edition
 
'Diversity in Germany has become reality'

'Diversity in Germany has become reality'

Published: 29 May 2013 15:53 GMT+02:00
Updated: 29 May 2013 15:53 GMT+02:00

Twenty years ago, two women of Turkish descent and three young girls were killed in their home during a far-right arson attack in Solingen, North-Rhine Westphalia. Three days earlier, on May 26th 1993, Germany's asylum laws were drastically tightened. It appeared at the time as a bleak triumph for xenophobes especially given earlier pogroms and racist attacks in places such as Hoyerswerda, Rostock and Mölln.

Those crimes left a macabre trail that has continued to the present day, climaxing in the ten murders carried out by the neo-Nazi National Socialist Underground (NSU) group. Most of their victims were also people of Turkish origin.

It is no coincidence that on the 20th anniversary of the Solingen attacks, the "Genc Prize for Peace and Harmony" will be awarded to Sebastian Edathy, member of parliament and chairman of the NSU investigation committee, and Ismail Yozgat, the father of one of the NSU victims. The award is named after the Turkish family whose house in Solingen was targeted by neo-Nazis.

Survivors of the family, some of whom have German citizenship today, are firmly championing reconciliation and understanding, awareness and integration.

Since 2006, the German government has held an official "integration summit", which met on Tuesday in the chancellory. The summit is used by Chancellor Angela Merkel to push for a dialogue between different cultures and religions, to raise education and German language levels among migrants and urge Germans to be more welcoming.

It is not just an attempt to be nice, but also regarding the lack of skilled workers in Germany and a demographic development that has prompted the country to look for more qualified immigrants. "Children, not Indians," a 2000 populist campaign slogan of the Christian Democratic Party in response to plans to invite foreign IT workers, is unthinkable today.

Germany has long been a land of immigration. Still, the word "migrant" is used in politics and the media to describe people who have lived here for decades because it sounds softer, temporary and casual. But in reality, much has changed on the cultural, political and factual level since the Solingen attack. But a lot doesn't mean everything.

In Germany, just like in most other European nations, racism, xenophobia and right-wing extremism continue to exist, with surveys showing that around 25 percent of the population in European nations are wary of foreigners and outsiders.

The foreigner traditionally serves as a scapegoat especially in times of economic crisis when governments try to divert attention from their own problems. For instance, Angela Merkel is the most prominent foreigner being symbolically sacrificed as the scapegoat in populist political debates in Italy and Greece. But when the victim lives in the vicinity and is unprotected, the symbolic can easily turn deadly serious. Today, Sinti and Roma in southeastern Europe are experiencing exactly that, as a people who are still persecuted and ostracised.

This is different from a few unspeakable racist comments emanating from the dregs of the debate surrounding Thilo Sarazzin, a controversial banker turned author. But that doesn't mean every blabbering idiot who airs his opinion online is going to turn into a thug or a murderer. And not every opinion poll is cause for alarm. Those who ask overly simple questions such as "Are you in favour of hiring foreign workers in the face of three million jobless in Germany?" shouldn't be surprised by the answers.

Reality is much more complex than politically correct theories. Every abused asylum-seeker, who is often held in deplorable conditions for years, every person with a foreign-sounding surname being dismissed without a reason while looking for a job or an apartment - that's just one too many. Not to mention victims of explicit violence at railway stations, at bus stops and in other public places. Or even the scandalous no-go areas, especially for black foreigners, in eastern Germany.

And yet, the majority of the predominant group in society has transformed. Whether during calm or turbulent times in a globalised world, migration is normal. It means a burden, a challenge as well as an enrichment.

Twenty years ago, then Chancellor Helmut Kohl did not visit Solingen after the attacks. Today that would be unthinkable, because a colourful, diverse Germany is a reality not confined to the ranks of its successful national football team.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Size does matter in this case, rules judge
Photo:Shutterstock

Size does matter in this case, rules judge

A judge has ordered a deliveryman's manhood to be measured after he claimed in court that it was too small for him to be guilty of exhibitionism. READ  

Crimea annexation unnerves Germans: Poll
Ukrainian soldiers near Luhansk, Ukraine. Photo: DPA

Crimea annexation unnerves Germans: Poll

Almost two thirds of Germans fear Russia plans further land grabs in Ukraine, according to an opinion poll released on the eve of Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to the conflict-torn country. READ  

Ice bucket challenge gets dumped on Germany
Actress Natascha Ochsenknecht gets doused. Photo: DPA

Ice bucket challenge gets dumped on Germany

German football players, German tennis players, German TV characters and Germany's latest Topmodel winner are on it, but is it actually making a difference? READ  

Defence chief shot down over shooting quip
Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen tries on military body armour. Photo: DPA

Defence chief shot down over shooting quip

Amid heated debates over arms for Iraq, the Ukraine crisis, and Germany's foreign military involvement despite its WWII legacy, defence chief Ursula von der Leyen stirred a debate of her own on Friday after a dud World Cup gag. READ  

Expat Dispatches
He'll take my name: yes he's really sure!
He says "I will!" Photo: DPA

He'll take my name: yes he's really sure!

A quick and uncomplicated conversation between a recently engaged couple concluded that the husband-to-be would take on his fiancee's surname. However, no one was more surprised by people's reactions than Australian expat Liv Hambrett. READ  

Newborn white lion cubs are pride of the circus
Photo:DPA

Newborn white lion cubs are pride of the circus

Four white lions born into the Krone Circus during its stop in Magdeburg yesterday find themselves in a Germany reliving a decades-old fight over exotic animals displayed for profit. READ  

Heart centre accused of fiddling transplant list
A donor heart gets delivered to the DHZB. Photo: DPA

Heart centre accused of fiddling transplant list

UPDATE: The German Heart Institute of Berlin (DHZB) is under investigation for attempted manslaughter after evidence showed a doctor manipulated patient data to get them a new heart faster. READ  

Germany sues Swiss bank over missing marks
Julius Bär bank. Photo:DPA

Germany sues Swiss bank over missing marks

Berlin is suing one of Switzerland's largest banks in its bid to recuperate hundreds of million euros that went missing during the reunification of East and West Germany, the bank said Thursday. READ  

Trial of cannibalism fetish cop to begin
The scene of the crime. Photo: DPA

Trial of cannibalism fetish cop to begin

The trial of a German police officer accused of murdering a willing victim he met on a website for cannibalism fetishists starts on Friday in the eastern city of Dresden. READ  

False teeth of the dead: finders keepers?
Coffins awaiting incineration in a crematorium. Photo: DPA

False teeth of the dead: finders keepers?

An Erfurt court has decided not to force a 56-year old man to pay damages for more than 31 kilos of gold teeth taken from the crematorium in Hamburg where he worked between 2003 and 2011. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Society
A German journalist shares the story of his US arrest in Ferguson
Photo: DPA
National
Berlin's senate puts the brakes on Über
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The mysteries of Berlin's abandoned theme park
Photo: DPA
Culture
How I deal with my German Hausmeister
Photo: Ingrid Eulenfan/flickr
Gallery
Nine German treats you'll want to eat right now (and one you won't)
Photo: DPA
Society
Who's getting German citizenship?
Photo: DPA
Culture
How World War I changed Germany forever
Photo: APA/DPA
Gallery
The 12 best words in Austrian German
Photo: DPA
Society
'Look at those German shanty towns!'
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Education
Raising the bar for law & business in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Photo: DPA
Culture
Sprechen Sie Deutsch? 10 reasons why you should.
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,364
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd