History of Turkish immigrants in Germany
If only things had gone as well for others as they did for Ismail Tipi. He was 13 and didn't speak a word of German when, in 1972, he stood, nervous and miserable, in the main train station in Munich after arriving from Turkey. He missed his friends, the sea near his hometown of Izmir and his grandparents, who had raised him for the last four years.
Tipi is just one of millions of Turkish immigrants in Germany, and yet his story is unique nonetheless. After he had spent five years attending school in Turkey, his parents brought him to Germany to live with them in the southern city of Regensburg, where his father had been working for electronics giant Siemens since 1968.
Today Tipi is a member of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and a representative in the Hesse state parliament. He is also an active member of the volunteer fire department and serves as the integration official for the local sports club. He is actively involved in his town's historical association and in a group that does fundraising for his daughter's high school.
Failures and Misunderstandings
If the lives of a significant portion of Turkish immigrants were even remotely similar to that of Ismail Tipi, no one in Germany today would be discussing the integration problems of Turks and Muslims or Thilo Sarrazin's bizarre theories on the genetic makeup of various ethnic groups. But it is precisely the roughly 3 million Turkish immigrants living in Germany who, according to studies by the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, are less effectively integrated on average than other immigrant groups. They are more likely than others to be poorly educated, underpaid and unemployed.
Anyone seeking to fathom the reasons for these discrepancies will uncover a decades-long history of failures, misunderstandings and missed opportunities, shortsighted political strategies and a recurring and stubborn tendency to ignore reality. "Germany has only had an intensive integration policy for about 10 years, " says Rauf Ceylan, an expert on immigration and religion.
Ismail Tipi, the CDU politician, believes that both Turks and Germans have been fooling themselves for far too long. "It was an illusion to believe that we were all just guest workers and would eventually go back to Turkey."
'At the Prime of Their Labor Capacity'
The illusion began on Oct. 30, 1961, with the signing of a labor recruitment agreement between West Germany and Turkey. Similar agreements already existed with Italy, Greece and Spain, but the West German economy was booming and the demand for labor seemed endless. After receiving vaccinations and passing a medical fitness test, hundreds of thousands of Turks boarded special trains in Ankara and Istanbul and were taken to Germany. The workers arrived in Munich and were then distributed among the country's industrial zones.