Sunday, February 14, 2010



By Kevin Stoda, Wiesbaden

In several recent writings, I have explained that historically (up through the end of the 19th Century and even the earliest 20th Century), Germany was a salad bowl of cultures. This was so clearly the case that under the Kaiser-era that the Polish, Danes, other nationalities, and minorities held seats in the German parliaments prior to WWI.

I also shared that after WWI and WWII, German speaking Americans and German-American immigrants had quite a struggle recovering their identities from childhood onwards. I had shared from Ursula Hegi’s TEARING THE SILENCE in noting how the German-American immigrants, born between 1939 and 1949, had often not come to see themselves, their America, and their Europe in (anywhere near a) comfortable manner until they were well into their adulthoods—often in the late 40s.

Naturally, this was not just true for immigrants from Germany proper. There have also many Germans, for example, cited in Hegi’s book TEARING THE SILENCE: “On Being German in America” who came from all over Eastern Europe—Poland, Belorussia, the Ukraine, Siberia, and the former Czechoslovakia—and never felt quite integrated in either East nor West Germany. The cold shoulder from East and West German society and political economy is certainly one of the many reasons that those Americans-to-be [interviewed by Hegi] then chose to emigrate again, i.e. to an entirely different continent: North America.

In fact, today, there are now German speakers and new-German settlers (new German citizens) from Kazakhstan, Russia, Moldova, Romania, and Latvia in Germany experiencing similar integration problems to what the immediate post-WWII German refugees faces in West and East Germany in the late 1940s and 1950s. All these latter (post WWII) groups of new ethnic German settlers are considered German by the laws of the country and the European Union. Many continue to go through a long stage of troubling integration since they certainly perceive a glass-ceiling of sorts to be keeping them and their families from obtaining the better positions in work world and society during their first generations in Germany. On the other hand, there are also exceptions to this trend in integration among the post-Cold War German émigrés. [The linked article below shares more information on these trends.]

As many readers know, I—despite coming from Germanic ancestries on both sides of my family—am not German. I live in Germany and speak German fairly well, but my ancestors never emigrated East (towards Asia or into Asia) as many of the new Ethnic German settlers’ ancestors did. My mother’ and father’s ancestors came directly from Europe over 150 years ago. Therefore, I do not hold any German passport nor do I have any right to call myself European. This is why the European Union has sat by and watched my Filipino wife being denied from receiving a visa to join me (and to live or raise a family with me) in Germany to-date.


Interestingly, it was similar racial prejudice that many Eastern ethnic Germans experienced as refugees in exile in both the two Germanies after WWII. In short, in the 1950s many ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe were treated as foreigners and outsiders in Germany. After the war, there had been hunger and the refugees from the West had become common beggers or thieves in the eyes of those in West Germany who were just starting up their Post-WWII economic miracle.

One woman in my church, who was raised near Dresden in former East Germany, shared with me today how similar it was for her in Hessen and Baden-Württemberg as a refugee from the East after 1945. She shared how at that time there was no government welfare system to empower new immigrants to find work, to receive aid for their starving children, nor to provide proper and egalitarian access to hospital care. This woman, now in her late 70s, had tears in her eyes as she shared how rejected they were by local farmers and other Germans in the West in the early 1950s when they moved about whichever town they had chosen to settle in. Those Western Germans were eyeing any German speaker as an outsider at the time—no better than they had eyed the initial occupying Western Allies with similar skepticism. These Western Germans feared that what-little-they-had would be taken away to be given to someone else—as had happened in Nazi war-torn Germany in 1943-1945 and again during the immediate post-WWII occupation of the local German communities by allied commanders, i.e. who sequestered the local houses and livestock to feed troops and others.

It wasn’t really until the West Germany economy began cooking in the late 1950s that the West Germans finally relent and actually embrace many of the newcomers and exiles to their lands. In the 1950s and 1960s, for the first time in over half a century, the West German government officially began importing free laborers. [Alright, we need also to note that the Nazis had imported slave labor to Germany throughout WWII, too.]

Some of these émigrés of the 1950s and 1950s came from the poorer parts of Mediterranean Europe. This is why Italian, Greek and Yugoslavian restaurants became common place by the 1960s in Germany. They were then followed by the Turkish and Iberian émigrés. By the time the two Iberian states—Spain and Portugal—entered the European Community in the early 1980s, Spanish and Portuguese speaking Germans were not unknown. Meanwhile, Turkish Imbisse and restaurants were commonplace and West Berlin had become the largest Turkish city outside of Istanbul.


However, with the economic recessions and depressions of the 1980s, Germans were having trouble coming to terms with being a kaleidoscopic nation. In 1983, the new German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, a doctorate of history, claimed that Germany is NOT-A-LAND-OF-IMMIGRANTS. In contrast to the factual demographics of Germany in the 1980s, that farcical imagery of Helmut Kohl was a mainstay in the press and academia for far too long. It wasn’t until the 1990s and the early part of this past decade that most average Germans would even call themselves or their land “multi-kulti” or multicultural in nature.

This half-century or more of denial about the growing multicultural character of a modern Germany led to a backlash about ten years ago as the new minister president of Hessen ran on an anti-foreigner ticket for the major local party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). As recently as 2008, Germany’s fascist-like parties, including the NDP, openly praised the Hessen Minister, Roland Koch, for his rhetoric and anti-foreigner politics.,1518,526724,00.html

Totally, unaware of how Hessen and the Rhine-Main River region had become so anti-foreigner in its immigration and integration policies, I moved to Hessen in 2009 expecting Germany to have grown into its truer image as a kaleidoscopic nation state in the middle of Europe.

That has not been the case. My wife still has no visa and mine—as an American—is extremely restricted for work. So, now I am ready to move on.

Should I leave Hessen? Germany? Europe?

What do you think? Or recommend?



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