• 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
Munich man arrested for foreigner death threats
Photo: DPA

Munich man arrested for foreigner death threats

A man from Munich was arrested on Monday for posting videos on Facebook in which he posed with a gun and threatened to kill foreigners. READ  

View from Germany
'Only losers in economic war with Russia'
Volkswagen is the German company with the biggest turnover Russia. Photo: DPA

'Only losers in economic war with Russia'

German businesses are lobbying hard against imposing tougher sanctions on Russia after the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, warning further sanctions would hurt the country's exports and threaten German jobs. READ  

Man sets himself on fire outside Israeli embassy
The Israeli Embassy in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Man sets himself on fire outside Israeli embassy

UPDATE: A man set himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Berlin on Monday night. Police said it was too soon to say whether it was part of a political protest. READ  

Thousands of litres of beer close motorway
Photo: NRW-aktuell.tv/YouTube screenshot

Thousands of litres of beer close motorway

Thousands of litres of beer were spilled on a motorway near Duisburg in western Germany on Monday night, when a truck carrying several hundred crates of Bitburger toppled over, shutting the Autobahn. READ  

Court allows patients to grow their own cannabis
Photo: DPA

Court allows patients to grow their own cannabis

Seriously ill patients will be allowed to grow their own cannabis at home for medicinal purposes, a German court ruled on Tuesday. READ  

Seven German family members killed in Gaza
An Israeli strike on Gaza City on Monday. Photo: DPA

Seven German family members killed in Gaza

UPDATE: Seven members of a German family living in Gaza City were killed in an Israeli air strike on Monday evening. READ  

Workers in Germany pay record tax sum
Photo: DPA

Workers in Germany pay record tax sum

Workers in Germany are paying a record amount of tax into government coffers, according to figures published on Monday. Those on an average wage of €40,000 pay almost twice as much tax in Germany as they would in the United States or Australia. READ  

Netflix to launch in Germany in September
Laverne Cox, star of Netflix series Orange is the New Black. Photo: EPA/PETER FOLEY

Netflix to launch in Germany in September

Netflix revealed plans on Monday to launch in Germany in September this year, bringing the popular movie and TV streaming service to one of the world’s biggest markets. READ  

Steinmeier: We'll raise pressure on Russia
An armed separatist walks past the bodybags of victims of the MH17 crash. Photo: EPA/IGOR KOVALENKO

Steinmeier: We'll raise pressure on Russia

Germany's foreign minister said Monday the EU will "raise the pressure" on Russia over the Ukraine crisis following the downing of Malaysian flight MH17 with a suspected missile. READ  

No foreigner road toll for German borders?
Bavaria's Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann (l) and Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer are fighting over the "foreigner toll". Photo: DPA

No foreigner road toll for German borders?

Bavaria’s interior minister has called for German border regions to be exempt from a controversial project to charge foreigners to use the country’s roads, sparking a row within his own party. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
Jobtalk: How innovative is Germany?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
German Bucket List: How many of these can you tick off?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Joachim Löw: A career in pictures
Photo: Submitted
Society
Is this expat cat the world's oldest?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Germany's week in pictures: July 12th - July 18th
Photo: DPA
National
Heatwave to bring highs of 36C to Germany
Photo: DPA
Analysis & Opinion
Should Germany follow France and ban the burqa?
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
Which workers is Germany short of?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Ten best expat jobs in Germany: Which one would you choose?
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Photo: Shutterstock
Features
Some of the most embarrassing mistakes you can make in German
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
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
Sponsored Article
Bilingual school turning education on its head
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

3,232
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd