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Germany looks back at 50 years of Turkish immigration

The Local · 26 Oct 2011, 07:45

Published: 26 Oct 2011 07:45 GMT+02:00

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On October 30, 1961, booming West Germany signed a recruitment agreement with Turkey to supplement its workforce. The mostly unskilled labourers were promised minimum wages and accommodation for the duration of their temporary contracts.

Some 710,000 people answered the call until the 1973 global oil crisis ended the recruitment drive. Thousands of workers returned to Turkey, but many instead decided to bring their families to Germany, triggering a massive increase in the country's Turkish population.

Today, more than 2.5 million people in Germany have Turkish heritage. Their presence has indisputably enriched Germany both culturally and economically – but it has also sparked countless debates concerning the integration of a group long seen only as guests eventually expected to leave.

This discussion hit a low point in 2010, when the controversial best-selling book by ex-central banker Thilo Sarrazin, Deutschland schafft sich ab (Germany Abolishes Itself), contended Muslim immigrants were a drag on German society.

The damage done was similar to that of a "bull in a china shop," according to Klaus Bade, head of the German Advisory Council on Integration and Migration.

But 50 years ago, neither German nor Turks were concerned with the challenges of integration, since no-one thought the first Turkish labourers would stay. Only decades later did both sides realize there was plenty of work to be done.

In 2005, Germany’s new immigration law came into force, formulating terms and responsibilities for immigrants. Those wishing for German citizenship now have to pass a naturalization test and prove they can speak German, though there are still many Turkish immigrants – often women brought over as brides – who cannot communicate well in the language. There are now also government-supported courses meant to ease integration.

Nonetheless, fixing past deficits will take time. Turkish immigrants still struggle in Germany’s labour market, mainly because they lag behind in the education system.

Children from immigrant families go to university-track high schools less often than their German counterparts and are often disproportionately represented at lower secondary schools. There is also a higher drop-out rate among students with an immigrant background.

For Turks, being non-EU citizens is also problematic. Foreigners born in Germany must decide by the age of 23 between their parents' nationality and German citizenship. An long-outstanding bill was passed in the German parliament to recognize vocational training acquired abroad by immigrants more quickly. But is its questionable whether the bill will receive a majority in the upper house, the Bundesrat.

While Turks are frequently confronted with their integration failures, Germans must contend with widespread Islamophobia and discrimination against immigrants.

Ahead of official celebrations on November 2 marking the landmark recruitment treaty, Chancellor Angela Merkel has made clear she has no illusions about Germany's relationship to its Turks.

Story continues below…

"We’re not looking for exaggerations, we are not out to exacerbate things, but we’re calling the facts by name and not sweeping the problems under the table," Merkel said recently.

But the difficulties shouldn't overshadow the success stories; those Turkish Germans who have made a positive impact on German society.

Whether it's Mesut Özil giving the national football team creative spark, Fatih Akin representing German cinema at the Cannes Film Festive, or Cem Özdemir leading the Green party, modern Germany would be unimaginable without the contributions of countless Turkish immigrants and their children.

DPA/The Local/emh

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

08:44 October 26, 2011 by ChrisRea
Well written article! Bravo!
08:47 October 26, 2011 by delvek
Dramatically aletered the fabric of German society?

Whoever wrote that sentence needs a dose of Bavarian (among other regions) fresh air!
09:16 October 26, 2011 by freechoice
seriously how much level of integration do you need to dribble a ball around the football field?
09:30 October 26, 2011 by So36
@freechoice Snide comments like that miss the point that he's proudly wearing the German eagle on his national team jersey.
09:47 October 26, 2011 by DoubleDTown
@delvek. You're right. Likely the author is trapped in a large metropolitan area that they consider to be the "real world" and consider the rest of the country as living in ignorance.

Similarly, I can well remember native New Yorkers who though NYC, as bizarro as it is, was the "normal" "real world" and considered mainly-white suburbs and whole geographic regions as simply anomalies that could be ignored.
10:14 October 26, 2011 by So36
@DoubleDTown You write that as if rural backwater areas are more "real" and therefore more important. I have news for you, pal. It's all equally real and important and just because you want to shut your eyes to part of it doesn't make it any less so.
11:35 October 26, 2011 by storymann
I agree with Nalan Arkat this more of a time for reflection than celebration.

What are we celebrating? 50 years of integration success .
12:15 October 26, 2011 by mike_1983
I think the writer of this article is living in a dream world...... Merkel said a few months back the immigration has totally failed in Germany!
12:30 October 26, 2011 by intensive_care
@mike_1983 .. German president said complete opposite two weeks before Merkel said about failing immigration. No one quotes that, why? because xenophobes rule Germany. Its all about votes my dear, Merkel fear that conservative will move towards the far right parties, by giving this statement she tried to keep them loyal to CDU. Regarding the Turkish immigrants, compare their level of honesty with Russian and Polish immigrants, you will have your answer.
13:10 October 26, 2011 by Englishted

Sadly he wears his shirt with pride when he is not playing Turkey.

The Local,

"indisputably enriched Germany both culturally and economically,"

That statement is disputably in it's self but please feel free to provide the evidence to support the "achievements" of the last 50 years.
14:30 October 26, 2011 by LecteurX
@ Englishted, I will do it for the author: well, if it wasn't enriching Germany economically in the 1st place, Germany employers wouldn't have insisted with the German govt to sign this treaty, and then they wouldn't have asked to modify the rules and enable Turkish "guest-workers" to stay in Germany longer than the brief 2-5 years they were supposed to spend here. No, employers wanted them to stay longer. I don't think they did it out of compassion or for philanthropic reasons...

Second, ízil was bullied by Turkish supporters for playing for Germany, so you're quite unfair to hold this against him. If a woman was a victim of rape and then would reconsider some of her habits, would you hold this against her too?

Of course there are plenty of failures and disappointments due to this Turkish migration to Germany, but seriously the article states it quite plainly: the Turks were not expected to stay on, so nothing was done to help them integrate. They share responsibility for this (think "Erdogan") but really the Germans did not do much until some 10-15 years ago...
15:23 October 26, 2011 by Asgarli
"seriously how much level of integration do you need to dribble a ball around the football field?"

Thats exactly what a loser who has no idea about hard work and determination would say! ))
05:09 October 27, 2011 by nathan45
"Current numbers show that only a fifth of women originating from outside of Sweden are working within three years of moving to the country, which is an alarmingly low number, argues Sweden¦#39;s Minister for Integration, Erik Ullenhag.

The comparable figure for immigrant men is 50 percent after the same period of time."

HOLY CRAP! Why is it that no one gets it immigration from non western nations is a fail the sooner every western nation gets that the better. Guess what every one those 3 to 5 years they aren't working guess who pays the bills you the tax payer. Stand up say no more to your governments. people use the arguement that western workers wont work for minimum wage I work for less if people want to pay the bills they will work.
09:37 October 27, 2011 by ChrisRea
Yes, nathan45 is right. Governments should do more for immigrants from non Western countries. They should receive the right to work so that they can enrich both the country and themselves.
12:30 October 27, 2011 by LecteurX
nathan45, yep, did you know that asylum seekers are not allowed to work? Just a clue.
14:30 October 27, 2011 by nolibs
Hmm, no comments are allowed on http://www.thelocal.de/society/20111027-38429.html Censorship perhaps?

The Turks stayed because life is better here, not because there "was plenty of work to be done". I don't expect the older generation to be fully German, but the younger generation should. In the story I linked, that is a good story of how this is happening. The problem is with his father who still considers himself a Turk and, as noted in this story, the importation of fully Turkish brides. The imported brides will extend the amount of time needed to integrate by decades if not indefinitely if the practice continues.

Likewise, I fully support the denial of work to so-called asylum seekers. Most of them are economic refugees or are able to go back to a now stable country, such as B-H. I would support putting asylum seekers to work cleaning streets and whatnot, however.
23:15 October 27, 2011 by Englishted
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
10:30 October 28, 2011 by LecteurX
@ nolibs, I followed your link and could comment on that article...
12:05 October 28, 2011 by Raydoggy
What would we do without all the great cultural and business innovations the Turks brought with them, like, ah, let me see, oh yes, Doners, ah, then there is, hmm, oh yes, more Doners, and of course spitting on the foot path, being loud in trains, having no sense of boundaries, wearing totally ridiculous haircuts, acting like macho morons on the street, stealing bicycles, shouting obscenities at girls and women, oh, but look the wrong way at their sisters and you are an evil infidel.

Thank you Turks, for bringing such a wonderful culture to Germany, what would we do without you.
12:12 October 28, 2011 by ValP
Omigod Raydoggy BEWARE! Here comes the intimidating SeptiSeverus, or whatever in the world his (her?) name was, and tells you in a very intimidating way that you need to drop your snide sarcastic racist remarks RIGHT NOW and start teaching those people how not to spit or act like morons.... and yeah sure - how to use the German articles in the gramamtically correct way..... I can see it coming.......
04:52 October 29, 2011 by KewGardensNYC
Being an anthropologist and doing my BA in the 70s, Ph.D. work in the 80s, I was fortunate enough to study and live in France, Italy and Germany, I also worked in the Middle East: Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Jordan. I can easily attest that I was given a very Liberal, accepting education and respect many cultures. However, my respect is neither universal, nor equal for all. It it seems very obvious to me both professionally and privately, that unless one culture will accept the priorities & modes of life in the culture in which they live, the introduced culture is programmed for failure.

I don't see any realistic notion of multi-culturalism as anything other than a fantasy--misguided and delusional. A multi-cultural society cannot be a theme park--it must be solid and organic. Magical thinking cannot thrive in a scientific culture, nor precise logic in one given to vague, "fuzzy" boundaries. Immigrants must either give up what doesn't work and change or learn to accept their inferior status, brought about by their own actions. Medical care, abundance and great wealth has been generated by European mores, but Europe cannot care for, feed or house, endless populations which don't significantly contribute to those mores: hard, sustained work, openness, curiosity and innovation.

Some Turks have indeed done well and that is great. Many have not. Yet from my (outside) reading, channels do exist within German for integration. They may not be perfect, but compared with--let us say--Turkey dealing with sexual minorities, Christians or Armenians, the German programs are more than window dressing.

If the Turks are disappoint in Germany finding it too repressive, there are many others in the world who would welcome free access to German society, learn German and more importantly, become German. This question is a European one now, from Spain, to France to Sweden. Immigrants should be given a helping hand when coming into a culture, but it they are unwilling or unable to accept it, then they should be expelled. Any other approach is unethical for those who put in the hard work to adapt another culture and suicidal for both the immigrant and the parent culture in the long term.
10:01 October 29, 2011 by whatsup
Germany has the least immigrants in Europe. All European countries are changing and being enriched by different immigrants and their different cultures. Germany must get the idea of being 'plain German' out of their heads as they, more so than any of the other countries, can do with the enrichment of another culture. Having the Turks here, who are hard workers, is the best thing that has happened to them. Trying the 'hardline' as they tend to do is a big mistake, all things take time .... Embrace rather than taking such a negative line.
12:16 October 29, 2011 by trevzns
Romantic nationalism alive and doing well in the 21st century.


This question is a European one now, from Spain, to France to Sweden. Immigrants should be given a helping hand when coming into a culture, but it they are unwilling or unable to accept it, then they should be expelled.

At which period in world history did Europeans become a scientific culture and how many different cultures do we have in the world today?

Also, regarding integration of societies. How much hard work, cultural adapting, tolerance, respect and openness did Europeans contribute as immigrants when they first arrived in Africa, China, the Americans, India, and Australia?

For many Europeans and those of European descent, Magical thinking, vague, fuzzy boundaries and unethical behaviors are an inherent part of their cultural heritage.

A good example of this can be found in the religious beliefs and teachings of the Europeans religions of, Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
20:07 October 29, 2011 by JAMessersmith

"How much hard work, cultural adapting, tolerance, respect and openness did Europeans contribute as immigrants when they first arrived in Africa, China, the Americans (sic), India and Australia"

Hard work? Quite a bit, actually. They completely transformed many of those lands from primitive backwaters to advanced industrial societies. German immigrants in the USA, for one, have contributed immensely to the creation of that state, as did the British in Australia, or the French in Canada, etc... If it were left to their native populations to develop their countries, they wouldn't have things like "medical technology" or "energy" or even "farms" in some cases.

As for the other traits you mentioned, i.e. tolerance, respect, openness, etc... the Europeans weren't the only ones to fail in that regard. No matter which culture you turn to during this same period, you'll find barbaric practices, some even more barbaric than others. People tend to think that Europeans were the only ones who acted this way, but that was far from the case. We have a tendency to romanticize exotic cultures, but they suffer from many of the same failures as we do. For example, Native Americans enslaved one another, and the Aztec Empire, for one, was one of the most brutal empires to have ever existed. Those repressed by the Aztecs willingly sided with the Spanish because their hatred for the Aztecs was so intense. Likewise, the Zulu tribe in South Africa wasn't exactly what one would describe as "tolerant". Nor were the Maori, or the Bantu, or the Rajputs. Many of these cultures were extremely brutal, and even MORE conservative than European cultures, in many respects.

So long as you qualify your statement with context, I don't have a problem with it, because yes, European settlers were indeed intolerant, close-minded, and cruel, but so were most people throughout the world at the time. The only difference was Europeans had better technology and could therefore dominate. But I can assure you, if the Native Americans, or the Aztecs, or the Zulus had been the first to industrialize, Europe would've been placed under their yoke, rather than vice-versa.
12:18 October 30, 2011 by trevzns
@ JAMessersmith

Hard work? Quite a bit, actually. They completely transformed many of those lands from primitive backwaters to advanced industrial societies.

I am not suggesting Europeans did not make contributions and advancements in the lands and continents they occupied and colonized. I also forgot to mention part of European Heritage is also contempt, stealing, lying, copying and denial.

There seem to be a few missing pieces to the European jigsaw puzzle of Europes great contributions to our existence?

The Greek and Roman civilizations were quasi benefactors of the math, science and technology that some Europeans today take credit for.

Let us step back a bit in Western civilizations history. During the periods when the Romans arrived in central and Northern Europe, what did they find, and specifically what did they find in German and England? Primitive backwater lands and peoples.

With no advanced technology, no advanced medicine, no science and the most important missing piece of the puzzle, no script.

Brutal and intolerant as the Aztecs and Zulus may have been by European Christian standards, The Aztec civilization had advance agricultural systems, math, science and a script.

As for the Zulu tribe in South Africa, the Zulus are indigenous to Africa and not immigrants from Europe, Asia or any other European colony.

African cultural and heritage, from South Africa to North Africa, East and West all had advance civilizations, societies, agricultural systems, math, science and technology and not to mention, scripts.

Those primitive backwaters lands, are you referring to Europe?
14:28 October 30, 2011 by arbeitsbiene3
@ JAMessersmith

The only difference was Europeans had better technology and could therefore dominate. But I can assure you, if the Native Americans, or the Aztecs, or the Zulus had been the first to industrialize, Europe would've been placed under their yoke, rather than vice-versa.

Maybe they would have and why not? Payback and revenge are dishes best served cold.
00:33 November 1, 2011 by federale86
Just look at the photograph. Men in suits respecting German society and behavior.

Now look at Turkish immigrants who want to create a little bit of Islamist Turkey in Germany.

Clearly this policy of Turkish Gastaubeiter was a big mistake.
03:37 November 5, 2011 by ms915
The Russian-Germans are the real success story of German integration efforts.
05:32 November 6, 2011 by wires
When the history of Gastarbeiter is reflected upon in Germany, the emphasis is on Turkish immigrants. All other recent immigrant groups are often ignored. For example, there are about a half million Poles living in Germany, those with dual citizenship number well over one million. Despite the historical animosities and prejudices between German and Poles, the Poles generally have no huge problems taking part in German society. There are other immigrant groups that are worth comparing (and honoring) when assessing contributions and evaluating assimilation into German society.
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