Many German children have a migrant background

Yet, German reality today tells a different story: Among first graders in Hamburg, for instance, every second German child has a migrant background. Rather than paving the path for more coherence, however, Germany is focusing on questions of national identity and how to calm the angry 13 percent – thus providing the AfD with the attention that helped them gain acceptance in the first place.

Not long ago, before the rise of the AfD, Chancellor Angela Merkel tried to pay tribute to immigrants and their contribution to Germany′s wealth and success. She knew that her much criticised refugee policy would only be successful if the narrative of Germany as an immigration country were to become part of the national conscience.

So she invited hundreds of activists, former guest workers and their children to the ″Kanzleramt″ to celebrate sixty years of recruitment treaties between Germany and Italy, Turkey, Greece, former Yugoslavia and others. Merkel raised the hopes of many of us sitting in the audience. She earned our trust when, on that day in 2015, she poignantly stated: ″You are as much a part of Germany as everybody else who lives here.″ Without its immigrants Germany would not be as prosperous as it is, she concluded.

Second-class citizens

And yet, within two years, the rise of the AfD has caused a backlash in German discourse that Merkel, fearing the loss of conservative voters to the right, has proved incapable  of quelling. Our votes, apparently, are worth less. My generation, it seems, must accept that democracy is not something that counts for us.

It took a long time for Germany to bid farewell to jus sanguinis and – despite our foreign blood – grant us the right to be Germans. These days, hyphenated Germans are often called the New Germans. Yet, the AfD even found a way of attacking that, too. During their electoral campaign, they put up posters stating: ″New Germans? We′ll make them ourselves.″

Initially the far-right movement claimed that German politics did not focus on the German people any more. It is about time the New Germans let them know: our parents were guest workers, not guest citizens, granted. They were denied the right to vote on any level. But their children are not ″foreigners with German passports″, as the far-right likes to call us. We are the people, too.

Jagoda Marinic

© 2017

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