What Integration Means For Germany's Guest Workers

The Debate Over Multiculturalism Alienates the Immigrants Germany Needs Most

Courtesy Reuters

On October 30, 1961, Germany and Turkey signed a recruitment agreement that would change German society inexorably for decades to come. The agreement brought hundreds of thousands of Turkish Gastarbeiter, or guest workers, to Germany to work in coal mines and steel factories, providing a vital and inexpensive labor supply that fueled the country's booming postwar economy. Today, there are as many as three million people of Turkish heritage living in the country, making up Germany's largest ethnic minority.

On Sunday, Germans will mark the fiftieth anniversary of this recruitment agreement with commemorations and reflections on immigration and its legacy. "The new German history began 50 years ago," an article last week in Süddeutsche Zeitung read. Germany has become "multicultural," the article continues, "whether one likes the word or not." Yet half a century after the first Turkish guest workers arrived, Germany remains uneasy, if not downright schizophrenic, about the role immigration

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