• Germany's news in English
 

'Diversity in Germany has become reality'

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.

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
Germans want to keep their hands on cash
Germans still trust cash over other forms of payment. Photo: DPA

Germans want to keep their hands on cash

Confirming conservative stereotypes, Germans have come out strongly in favour of sticking to hard cash in conducting transactions, a survey published on Thursday showed. READ  

This week in history
Fassbinder: New German Film's Enfant Terrible
Rainer Fassbinder on set in 1977. Photo: DPA

Fassbinder: New German Film's Enfant Terrible

On Sunday May 31st, Rainer Weiner Fassbinder, one of the most influential German directors of all time, would have turned 70 - had it not been for his death at the age of 37 in 1982. The Local takes a look back at the life and work of the enfant terrible of New German Cinema. READ  

Cool caps reduce hair loss during chemo
Photo: DPA

Cool caps reduce hair loss during chemo

German scientists are trialling a special scalp-cooling cap which helps reduce hair loss for cancer patients going through chemotherapy. READ  

Industry: 'doped' growth boosting economy
A man assembling food processors in a Wuppertal factory. Photo: DPA

Industry: 'doped' growth boosting economy

The German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) warned on Thursday that a fresh burst of economic confidence might be unfounded, even as they raised their growth projections for 2015. READ  

Slow-moving fighter jet blocks Autobahn traffic
A Eurofighter jet stopped up traffic on Thursday because it was so wide. Photo: DPA.

Slow-moving fighter jet blocks Autobahn traffic

A damaged Eurofighter plane being pulled by a truck along the autobahn was so wide that it blocked three lanes of traffic on its way to being repaired in Bavaria on Thursday, drawing the ire of fellow drivers. READ  

Right-wing leader suffers restaurant attack
AfD co-leader Frauke Petry. Photo: DPA

Right-wing leader suffers restaurant attack

Frauke Petry, co-leader of Alternative for Germany (AfD), was attacked by masked assailants while eating in a restaurant on Wednesday evening. READ  

Court rejects case against US drone strikes
An American MQ-9 "Reaper" unmanned drone. Photo: U.S. Air Force/Paul Ridgeway/dpa

Court rejects case against US drone strikes

A German court on Wednesday rejected a complaint by three Yemenis demanding that Berlin bar Washington from using a US base on its territory to operate deadly drones. READ  

Gay marriage: Germany still says 'No'
A gay couple in Stuttgart. Photo: DPA.

Gay marriage: Germany still says 'No'

Germany's cabinet on Wednesday approved a raft of draft measures to extend the rights of same-sex couples, but faced criticism for allowing only civil unions, not full gay marriage. READ  

Spectre of Greece haunts G7 Dresden meeting
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble welcomes his G7 colleagues to Dresden. Photo: DPA

Spectre of Greece haunts G7 Dresden meeting

Finance ministers and central bank governors of the Group of Seven wealthiest nations gathered in Dresden Thursday to discuss the global economy and tax evasion, but the Greek crisis was also high on everyone's minds. READ  

Cologne's giant bomb successfully defused
The bomb was burrowed deep in the ground. Photo: DPA

Cologne's giant bomb successfully defused

Bomb disposal teams have successfully made a 1,000-kilo explosive dropped during the Second World War safe, allowing 20,000 evacuated people to return to their homes. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Travel
Why the train strike is bad for passengers and workers
National
Meet Germany's Eurovision hope
Business & Money
Is 2015 a new moment for jobsharing?
Features
How the LGBT rights movement was born in Germany
National
Why you don't make bomb jokes at the airport
National
Why Germany needs a little less tipple
National
Who Germans and Americans trust... and don't
Politics
What the UK election means for Germany
National
Why Germany is great for mums
Features
The Germans with GI dads
Five ways Germany falls short on gay rights
Travel
Giant tortoise found riding Munich rail
National
FCK CPS? A-OK with court
Politics
Opinion: Brexit's dangers for Germany
Features
Smart kids all want to work for BMW
National
Minister shows off top Denglisch
National
Germany's 'other genocide' in Africa
National
Arms firms get a 'must do better' mark on ethics
Sport
Bayern's anticlimactic 25th Bundesliga win
Politics
A Greek learning politics in Germany
Features
The battle of the "Gates of Berlin"
National
Germany's 'very poor' lobbying record
National
Germany's favourite baby names of 2014
Politics
Merkel's 15 years at the top of German politics
Travel
Lowest of the low: how woman exploited Germanwings crash
Features
Spice up asparagus season with The Local's serving suggestions
Sport
Football and the €30,000 firework
Technology
Why scientists oppose killer robots
National
'Cannibal cop' gets 8 years
National
Which city is Germany's worst for drivers?
Technology
Electrifying 'Ostalgia'
National
Cologne Cathedral returns from space
Pupils mourn lost classmates
National
Freed after 25 years on death row
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
10 things you didn’t know about Zagreb (and why you should go)
Is your workload 'out of control'? You're not alone...
Sponsored Article
What expat parents should ask before choosing a school
Features
Paddy's Day, Berlin style
National
Why east Germans are happy to get it on on camera
National
Uplifting thoughts to get you through the last week of winter
National
What would you do with a 250-year-old pretzel?
National
Who wants the Olympics more - Hamburg or Berlin?
Features
Just why is the German flag Schwarz, Rot, Gold?
Business & Money
Getting German workers and bosses thinking positive
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

6,693
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd