European Muslims in Germany in the Postwar Period Essay

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Post World War One, Germany boasted a booming economy and there was a need for healthy male workers to fill the demand. Germany was in need of men who could act as laborers for both factories and mines in the period after World War Two. This period bestowed Germany with much economic blossoming and swift expansion. Turkey and Germany had a recruitment treaty, which established terms for the guest workers; after Turkey, subsequent Islamic nations formed recruitment treaties with Turkey, such as Morocco and Tunisia. For many of these workers from Islamic nations, finding employment in Germany was a wise decision as it meant that they could receive good pay and send that money home to their families. Furthermore, it also meant they could increase their skillset, making them a more competitive worker when and if they returned to their native countries. However, even though this was a win-win situation for both Germany and the Islamic workers, there were still intensive integrations issues often connected to the friction between Islam and Christianity, and general German intolerance to foreigners.

Turks soon found that there were massive social issues that undermined their successful integration. While East Germans were readily embraced into West Germany, Turks were not as fortunate. “Scores of opinion polls, hundreds of anti-Turkish hate crimes, and the ubiquity of vicious ‘Turkish jokes’ all testify to the extreme public opposition that most Gastarbeiter have faced in the Federal Republic” (Fetzer 70). Germany had long established itself as a nation that did not welcome immigration with open arms. Even though in the postwar period Germany desperately needed a massive influx of able-bodied labor, there was still a social resistance to immigration. As Mandel explains, immigrants from Islamic states created a sense of Uberfremdung, which can best be translated as “overforeignization” (2008). Mandel quotes writer Max Frisch who wrote, “We called for labor, but people came instead” (2008, p.51). This quote aptly describes the massive problem with Islamic-based immigration in Germany. Immigrants of Islamic heritage had been arriving in Germany since the early 1960s, but Germans tended to think of them as “guest workers” rather than people who were becoming a part of the overall nation. Hence, the overwhelming mentality in Germany was that these “guest workers” would eventually be returning to Turkey, Tunisia and Morocco and all the other Islamic nations they originated from. Throughout the decades, Germany has consistently been reluctant to connect to reality and embrace proper integrations through a legitimate immigrations policy, something that could have prevented many of the nation’s immigrations policies that they experience today.

In the period from 1950 to 1993 Germany received a total of 12.6 million immigrants, yet it staunchly defined itself as “not a country of immigration” (Joppke, 1999). This mentality was one of the main reasons why Germany still experiences much discord in regards to the immigrant populations that it houses: historically one can see that Germany would have experience more internal harmony had they just accepted full integration, but their innate aversion to integration with immigrants communities prevented this from happening. With this first Turkish-German recruitment agreement, even though both nations were positioned to benefit, Germany had a very unrealistic view of human behavior or of the need for integration as a whole. German companies primarily went after laborers who had some skills or no skills, which worked on assembly lines and who often had very low literacy skills. These low literacy skills didn’t concern Germans at the time, and this is an example of more problematic thinking: Germans felt that the Islamic immigrants could just live in isolation to the rest of German society, living in dormitories near factories.

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The fact that they couldn’t communicate well with the rest of the members of German society who surrounded them, was viewed as unproblematic. This clearly shows the entirely problematic viewpoint of Germans towards the immigrants who were helping them rebuild their society.

The German government did indeed intend to thwart any of these Islamic immigrants from making Turkey their permanent home. In the original recruitment document was a rotation clause, which was designed to cap a workers initial stay in Germany for around two years, however this wasn’t well enforced (Bartsch, 2009). Part of the reason for the shoddy enforcement was connected to the fact that the German government was reluctant to continue paying to train new workers every few years, and understandably so—why pay to train new workers while shipping out experienced workers who are reliable and dedicated (Bartsch, 2009). Turkish immigrants, much like many other Islamic immigrants proved repeatedly that they were able to work hard with the highest levels of productivity, and almost no demands, making themselves a workforce that was superior to their German counterparts (Bartsch, 2009). For Turkish workers, another reason that there was a reluctance to return to their homeland was that Turkey was often rife with much instability. However, German factories and mines often undermined all attempts at integration, hiring interpreters so that the need to learn German seemed less immediate.

Throughout global history, immigrant communities are often scapegoated for problems that occur in their new national homes. In Germany this was no different. For example, the oil crisis that created some economic stalling in 1973 found a way to blame the guest workers who were actually helping to contribute to the economy. Such issues could only further the social discord and static that threatened the integration and harmony of Islamic workers. Historically, it’s also important to acknowledge that many of these Islamic immigrants lived in a state of unstable limbo: “Fearing that life in Turkey would be not what they expected if they went home, and that they would never be able to return to Germany, many Turks decided to stay and, to be on the safe side, brought their families to their adopted country. But because they needed more space, the Turks began moving out of the dormitories and into cheap apartments in neighborhoods near the factories, which the Germans gradually vacated” (Bartsch, 2010). This was the beginning of the Turkish faux-integration in Germany, when Turkish neighborhoods developed, as well as neighborhoods oriented around other immigrant populations, and which created dynamics known as “parallel societies” (Bartsch, 2010). German government at the time was disorganized and characterized by the static of contradictory endeavors: attempts were both made at integration as well as to financially incentivize guest workers to return home, offering them thousands of dollars to do so (Bartsch, 2010).

The German government was consistent in their bungling of the presence of foreign workers within their society. On the one hand, they couldn’t help but appreciate this consistent labor force that helped them rebuild their economy and promote further stability. On the other hand, the German government was still devoted to Germany not being a nation that welcomed immigrants for any extended period of time. For example, many public schools offered additional lessons in Turkish: this was not to promote bilingual skills in school children but to ensure that Turkish children remained poised to return to their homeland, and to thwart any attempted or organic integration. More discord among….....

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Abal?, Oya S. "German public opinion on immigration and integration." Migration Policy Institute Report. http://www. migrationpolicy. org/research/migration-public- opinion-and-politics (2009).

Bartsch, Mattias. "Turkish Immigration to Germany: A Sorry History of Self-Deception and Wasted Opportunities - International." SPIEGEL ONLINE. Last modified September 7, 2010. immigration-to-germany-a-sorry-history-of-self-deception-and-wasted- opportunities-a-716067-2.html.

Fetzer, Joel S. Public attitudes toward immigration in the United States, France, and Germany. Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Joppke, Christian. Immigration and the nation-state: the United States, Germany, and Great Britain. Clarendon Press, 1999.

Mandel, Ruth. Cosmopolitan anxieties: Turkish challenges to citizenship and belonging in Germany. Duke University Press, 2008.

Rubio-Marin, Ruth. Immigration as a democratic challenge: citizenship and inclusion in Germany and the United States. Cambridge University Press, 2000.

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