• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

'Diversity in Germany has become reality'

The Local · 29 May 2013, 15:53

Published: 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.

Story continues below…

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)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
File photo: DPA

When a man swimming naked in a Bavarian lake felt a strange pain in his nether regions, he looked up to see a fisherman on the shore. "Don’t pull!" he shouted.

Study finds rival Rhineland beers 'actually taste the same'
Left: Altbier. Right: Kölsch. Or can you even tell? Photos: DPA.

Cologne and Düsseldorf have a long established rivalry, not least over who has the better home brew. So the results of a new study might be more than they can swallow.

Eastern Europe pushes Germany for joint EU army
Angela Merkel (l), Beata Szydlo and Victor Orban. Photo: DPA

Eastern EU countries on Friday pushed for the bloc to create a joint army as they met with Germany for talks on sketching Europe's post-Brexit future.

Merkel’s party mate wants to get rid of all Karl Marx streets
Karl Marx and one of the roadways in Berlin named for him. Photos: Wikimedia Commons, Nicor

Hundreds of streets are named after the founder of communism, but this conservative politician wants to give Marx the boot.

State elections
6 reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
Photo: DPA

With state elections around the corner, The Local looks at the poor side of Germany's "poor but sexy" capital city.

Upstarts RB Leipzig plan to go right to top of Bundesliga
RB Leipzig players celebrate scoring against Dynamo Dresden. Photo: DPA

RB Leipzig make their Bundesliga debut on Sunday, but the East German outfit, sponsored by energy drinks manufacturer Red Bull, are already far from popular in Germany's top-flight.

Poland criticizes Germany’s 'self-serving' foreign policy
Witold Waszczykowski. Photo: DPA

The Polish foreign minister has said that Germany all too often follows its own interests at the expense of its partners, as Chancellor Angela Merkel prepares to visit Warsaw.

Vast majority of Germans in favour of burqa ban: poll
Women wearing niqab veils in Saudi Arabia. Photo: DPA.

A survey found that the vast majority of respondents were in favour of Germany passing a ban on the full-body veil sometimes worn by Muslim women.

Czech police detain driver for harassing Merkel's motorcade
Angela Merkel. File photo: DPA

Czech police arrested a man on Thursday for attempting to drive into the motorcade of visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Prague, they said.

Teacher convicted for holding kids back after class
Photo: DPA

A music teacher from North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) has been found guilty of "holding people against their will" after he made some naughty stay kids back after class.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
What's on in Germany: events for August 2016
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
8,546
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd