GERMANY IN THE MIDST OF CHANGE: NEW GERMANS FROM 113 LANDS WHILE THOUSANDS LEAVE THEIR HOMELAND, “DEUTCHLAND”
By Kevin Stoda, Germany
Buried in the Frankfurter Allgemein Zeitung (a popular and well written German newspaper known to readers as the FAZ) on May 27, 2009, there were a pair of articles that shared the schizophrenic approach to a demographic crises that Germany has been witnessing these past decade.
The first tiny article included a picture of women and children from four or more continents in line to be sworn in as new citizens of Germany.
The title on the blurb above this piece was “1218 Germans from 113 Countries” [“1218 Deutsche aus 113 Laender” in German].
This article, “1218 Germans from 113 Countries”, started by noting that the Frankfurter International Choir sang a beautiful welcome in German with the tune “Fruende, die Ihr Seid Gekommen” [or “Friends, You Have Arrived”] .
To these friendly words, the 1218 New Germans were sworn in during a single ceremony this May 2009.
All these new Germans had had to give up their citizenship as the Oberburgermeisterin (Grand Mayor) of Frankfurt, Petra Roth, welcomed them as full citizens in their new homeland. This giving up of one’s citizenship is not something to be undertaken lightly. It is like putting all your hopes and money into a single roll of the dice.
The Grand Mayor Roth thanked these new Germans for their solidarity and their trust in the German Federal Republic and the city of Frankfurt in Hessen.
Several new immigrants from Africa, Asia, and Turkey are quoted in the article. For example, the “New German” from Egypt noted that he appreciated the freedom and better life the country of Germany offered him and his family.
A lot has changed in Germany since I lived here in the 1980s. At that time, the German Chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, had claimed that Germany was not a country for émigrés.
Now, Germany of 2009 is quite another place, especially with its multicultural cities. They are much more cosmopolitan than was the case 25 years ago, i.e. when one needed to have German blood in order to be welcomed into the German fold.
Naturally, there has been backlash in Germany to this oncoming growth in émigrés over the past decade since the German citizenship laws have changed.
However, émigrés are happy to continue to move to Germany, where first wars in the 1910s and again in 1940s had left its population decimated. Next, the relatively quick post-war baby-boom was followed by decades of fairly low birthrate (i.e. since the 1960s and birth control) in Germany.
In the last few years, there has been an increasing interest by the German government in making the land a more children-friendly-place, but decades of underdevelopment in the areas of childcare, child education, adult integration, and children development programs--as well as shortfalls in support for families and married couples--have left the German youth population underdeveloped as well.