By Kevin Stoda, an American in Hessen
I came across your interview, entitled "Internationalization in Post-Modern Wiesbaden" (Wiesbaden Magazine April 2010). In the interview you rightly described how Wiesbaden, the capital of the state of Hessen (and located only a few miles from Frankfurt ), has had historic ties to both the United States and to Russia. In the interview, you acknowledged that after WWII, the United States Air Force Command had been situated in Wiesbaden; therefore, the Berlin airlifts from 1948 through 1949 were carried out from here--with many American pilots dying through flight accidents. You and many Germans are thankful for how the Americans and allies stepped up in your hour of need to save the post war German peoples in the West.
The states of Hessen, Rheinland-Palatinate, and Bavaria had been occupied by the USA after WWII and eventually became home to many USA military bases, so after the air force finally pulled out its headquarters from Wiesbaden in the1990s, the U.S. Army soon moved in.
However, in the aftermath of the appropriate refusal of Germanys government to support the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, most American military personnel were pulled out of Wiesbaden (in a kind-of Cheney-Bush fit of spitefulness). This has left a bad taste in the mouths of many, who have now created a relatively unfriendly-to Americans-Rhine-Main development region.. In short, soldiers who had been stationed in Hessen and elsewhere prior to 2003 felt more at home then--as did American businessmen and contractors who supported the USA infrastructure.
To put it bluntly, on the surface level, there has a been a negative backlash to the Americans coming and going from the Rhine and Main river areas over recent decades. On the other hand, I also note that Hessen and other German states failures to integrate Americans and other foreigners has historically been a major post-WWII issue. The city of Wiesbaden and the neighbouring state governments need to do much better.
RETURN TO WIESBADEN
Now, the USA Army has decided to return its headquarters to Wiesbaden as of this past year. Nonetheless, I note that your city and country in the carrying-out of (1) integration & social services, in the (2) application of basic jurist- or court decisions, in (3) the duties of providing social welfare and infrastructure (all aspects involving unequal access to even basic rights to foreigners-of-the-American-ilk) have continued to go down hill. For example, after being unemployed for over 6 months, I personally have consistently had my unemployment claims in Germany turned down.
Moreover, I do not see your government and civil servantry improving, especially not. improving due to the current anti-foreign and anti-immigrant trends witnessed in Hessen and Germany over the past 5 to 10 years. These anti-foreign and anti-immigrant trends are similar to those in the USA but the acccess to rights, courts and support is even worse than in the USA. These German and European-wide trends are fully supported by judicial and civil bureaucrats who clearly see foreigners as "the barbarians at the gates" when it comes to providing health care, education, and basic financial or social assistance.
Typical of this lack of integration among children of mixed American and German marriages over the past 60 years demonstrates that of the millions of Americans whow grew up or were educated in Germany--very few graduated and comparatively fewer ever went on to German universities. (What I mean is that very few American children ever made it to German Gymnasium high schools. These elite schools were the key to getting into German universities.) Only the handful of immigrants, who made it through these elite high schools have ever received good paying and respectable jobs in the greater German political and economic communities. Otherwise these same children were forced to go to school abroad--something, which few could afford--unless somehow still well-connected in the USA.
Here is one of the kinds of American-ancestry peoples I meet often in Wiesbaden and neighboring towns on either side of the Rhine river. Meet Kerry, who goes to my church! Kerys mother is from South America but was a U.S. citizen in the air force. This mother settled and married here in Wiesbaden over three decades ago. The child, Kerry, was told by the German uncles and family not to speak nor learn English. Likewise by 6th grade Kerry had been selected out of the elite schools. (In short, the system closed the doors on her college education chances very early.) Her only option was to finish school at an early age and take up a trade. Kerry then learned to take care of the elderly working as a qualified nurse--until her back gave out after working 12 years.
Instead of being retrained in any other profession, such as training her to become a bilingual correspondent, secretary or even a German civil servant (God-forbid) as most German-German offspring would expect from the social services of Germany, Kerry now works only cleaning peoples houses--occasionally doing additional obligatory cleaning for the city of Wiesbaden in order to keep her entitlements.
I look at Kerry, who is a wonderful service-oriented individual with a lot of talent and see how the school system and integration efforts in Wiesbaden and most other corners of Germany have failed (and continue to fail) immigrants and children of foreign born parents. Kerry's story is true for African and German children that I know, too. One has to fight every single year just to receive his student loans--even though he was born and raised in Wiesbaden. This occurs simply because his father was from Africa and his mother was never well-connected in society. (The mother, too, is a service oriented person.)
On my recent trip to Berlin I stopped in other towns where American military personnel have been stationed for 60-plus years, such as in Frankfurt, Westzler, and Giessen. I talked with Germans with American fathers and I found the same story over and over again. They had had next to no chance of going on to university under the German system. Several immigrated to study in the USA. Others just live out a mediocre today in modern wealthy Germany--most with less access to social welfare institutions than their German-German counterparts. One American-German girl said she knew of no American friends who had ever made it to the Germany Gymnasium or elite schools in her home state of Hessen.
SYSTEM LOADED AGAINST AMERICANS
In short, just as the system has been loaded against Arab, Asian, Africa and Eastern European immigrants, North and South Americans have little chance of integrating--and the European Union unofficially supports the lack of integration by never taking Germany to court for its typical 5 year delay on rights and services. I say 5-years because--despite the obvious illegal discrimination which kept my Filipino wife from joining me to live, work and build a family in Wiesbaden last year in Wiesbaden's visa and integration offices-- I would have to live in Germany 5 full-years before the European Court of Human Rights would even legally be able to take up my case.
Could you imagine a U.S. Supreme Court refusing to take up someone's case of claimed racist-treatment, blackballing in job market, and biased legal codes and practices solely because the claimant lacks 5 years presence (or standing in the USA)?
This is the way modern Europe and Germany are run.
How many immigrants can survive under such duress in modern Germany under the current EU?
Mr. Oberbuergermeister of Wiesbaden on p. 8 of the same WIESBADEN Magazine article where your interview on Russians and Americans internationalising the Wiesbaden experience, the follow quote comes from the article, "A Bridge Between East and West", an article that tells of the 150 year presence of Russians and Russian immigrants in Wiesbaden:
"Many Russian-German immigrants were not desired in the former Soviet Union Republics, however, they feel they are unwanted here, too. They break under such distress."
I imagine I can speak for Americans and a lot of other fully non-integrated foreigners--including many African-Americans here in Wiesbaden and the Rhine Main region during the great economic downturn of 2008-2010--"Let us and help us to integrate more fully. We in Wiesbaden and scattered throughout Germany can make a positive difference in your 21st Century."*
*Note: I felt compelled to write this article after I observed in my recent travels from Bavaria to Berlin and Hamburg that far too few museums, too few zoos, too few cultural centres, and too few educational institutions had anything written in English or other foreign languages. (Such is not the case in all 9 of Germany's other neighbouring lands where bilingual and multilingual signs and translated texts are much more common than in this more ethnocentric land--at the heart of the EU.)