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“People have always met here during wandering through Europe”

Mar 18, 2023

Uwe Majewski bears a Polish surname and has Polish -speaking ancestors.
However, his ties with Poland end with this.
Majewski’s grandfather, who was the first in the family to set up in Germany, did not teach his children the language, although he was brought up in Polish.
He came to Berlin from Masuria during the Wilhelmiński times, i.e. at the end of the 19th century, but was born in the Belarusian Grodno, which was then located in the Russian partition.
Until he met his wife – a German woman from Treptów, today’s West Pomeranian Trzebiatów.
After marriage, they left her homeland.


– my three uncles fought in the war on the German side.
After the war, the borders moved.
The family moved to Germany
– says uwe.

you don’t always need to migrate to become a resident of another country.
– For centuries we have been dealing with the phenomenon of Borders Over People – borders above people – when as a result of wars and peace treaties suddenly someone comes to live in another country – reminds Dr. Axel Kreienbrink from the German Center for Migration Research, Integration and International Protection of the Federal Office DS.
Migration and refugees.

Congress of Poles from Westphalia and Rhineland in Bochum.
The 1920s

(NAC/Public domain)

Treptow is the only memory of Majewski from Poland – his parents returned to this city many times.
In addition, the 62-year-old UWE has no ties with the country of its ancestors.
He had never told his family history before – nobody asked him about her.
He never thought about his origin.
He was born in Germany, everyone perceives him as a German.
– only in the 1970s there was a small problem with the name – hardly anyone could write them without a mistake, so I still had to literate.
In the 90s, no one was asking how to write it.
They only checked whether it was “and” or “y” at the end.


such Majewski is in Germany
The authors of the Lexicon of names in the Ruhr Zagłębie Zidentified over 30,000
Polish names – apart from their Germanized versions – based on the analysis of telephone books from 1994–1996.
They are descendants of the so -called
Ruhrpolen, who worked in Rhineland-Westphalia between 1870 and the outbreak of the First World War.
It is estimated that half a million people came then, mainly from Eastern and Western Prussia.

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The first were professionals from Upper Silesia who “were to remedy the lack of experienced employees in the newly open mines of Zagłębie Ruhry” – as historian Lutz Budraß writes in the book “Industrialisierung und Nationalisierung. Fallstudien Zur Geschichte
des oberschlesischen industriereviers im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert “.
Later, workers from rural areas around Poznań, Warmia and Mazury joined them, and to a lesser extent from Kashubia.

Young men eagerly emigrated – a significant increase in population led to the overcrowding of the village.
Those who decided to leave were perceived as a role model, “great heroes” who wiped the trail to the west to future generations: “When who was 20 mk [for a railway ticket], he went to Westphalia, and when he waited, how would he be
He was 16 years old, he will go to Westphalia for a great earnings ” – wrote Ludwik Hurski in” From the diary of Westfalok “.
Possible in the form in which it took place – says Kreienbrink.

mass emigration was basically an internal movement.
– Poland did not formally exist during this period, and Poles or Polish -speaking people living in the Prussian partition were entitled to move within Prussia and the later German Reich – explains Kreienbrink.

Dr. Axel Kreienbrink from the German Center for Migration, Integration and International Protection

(Jan Burmeister/Press materials)

After Poland regained independence, about a quarter of emigrants returned to the country.
The same number of people went further: they settled in French, Belgian and Dutch industrial regions.
Those who stayed in Germany, initially lived a bit out of the way, focused around Catholic parishes, founded church associations and Sokół gym clubs.
With time, however, they completely integrated with German society.
They did not have much choice: already with the creation of the German Empire in the years 1870–1871 a clearly defined concept of the “German nation” appeared.
The authorities sought cultural unity – minorities were seen as a threat to public order.
That is why they were repressed.

on the route of migration of peoples

Ruhrpolen were not the first earning migrants in Germany.
Already after the 30-year war in the first half of the 17th century, when the population fell by one third, the rulers of individual German territories “recruited people capable of working from overcrowded regions of Europe”, as historians Dr. Vera Holensonkel and Dr. Jochen Oltmer from the University of Osnabrück write.
They needed people to rebuild seriously damaged areas.

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the most numerous, and at the same time the most economically, culturally and politically significant group of immigrants were Huguenots, who escaped from religious persecution from France Louis XIV.
– but they were not numerous enough to significantly affect the shape of future Germany – emphasizes Kreienbrink.
– Migrants of earnings in the nineteenth century contributed much more to the development of the country.

today just over 27 percent
People living in Germany carries a part of another country – they were born abroad or have a parent who was born there.
This is the highest percentage, since the study was conducted cooperation/' target='_blank'>cooperation-documents-were-signed/' target='_blank'>for the first time, in 2005.

kreienbrinka it is not surprising: migrations have shaped the German population for centuries.

– Germany is lying in the center of Europe, where the trails on the route of migration of peoples intersected in the past.
Already during the 30-year war, German territories traveled a lot of soldiers from various countries and people who escaped from east to west and from south to north.
As “a person with a migration past”, despite thoroughly a German name and a lack of a foreign accent.
Mother comes from Spain.
She came to work in the 1960s and stayed – after the wedding, she received German citizenship
– explains the historian.

As a result of an economic boom in the 1950s, there was a shortage of employees in Western Germany
The German government then concluded a number of double -sided recruitment agreements with Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Morocco, South Korea, Portugal, Tunisia and Yugoslavia.
They concerned employment in the industrial sector in positions that did not require significant qualifications.
The German Democratic Republic (GDR) concluded similar contracts with Vietnam, Kuba, North Korea, Mozambique, Poland, Hungary, Yemen and Angola.
Koreans worked mainly in mining, Korean as nurses.
The Vietnamese, Angolczy and Mozambican came as part of socialist internship programs – they hoped that they would gain new skills, but often constituted a cheap labor force.

As a result of the economic boom in the 1950s, Western Germany lacked employees.
The German government has concluded a number of contracts for their recruitment with several countries.
Many gastarbeiters have not returned to their countries


the employees’ stay was to be temporary, as in the case of Ruhrpolen in the 19th century.
However, when the contracts expired in 1973, some of Gastarbeiters did not return to their countries, like Mother Kreienbrinka.
Families joined the part.
Today, the most people with a migration past have Turkish (2.6 million) and Polish roots (2.2 million).
However, origin of over 1.3 million people from an 88 million society must be sought in Russia.
– here the situation is quite complicated, because in many cases it is not about ethnic Russians, but about German settlers from the areas of the former Soviet Union – says Kreienbrink.

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after the seven -year war in the mid -18th century over 100,000
The Germans decided to emigrate to the Russian Empire.
This is Tsarina Katarzyna II – by the way, the German princess born in Szczecin – encouraged settlers to set up a colony along the poorly populated Volga.
She promised religious freedom, tax freedom for 30 years, interest -free loans, exemption from the duty of military service for settlers and their descendants, and free transport to habitats.
These privileges ended with the rule of Tsarina.
In 1871, Tsar Alexander II issued a regulation forcing the Germans in Russia to completely comply with Russian law.
Many then went to the United States, Canada and South America.
Those who stayed experienced confiscation and arrests in the Bolshevik and Stalinist times.
The trauma of the Second World War meant that “many Germans ceased to perceive the Soviet Union as their home,” writes the historian Katharina Neufeld.

– they began to come back in the 1950s – explains Kreienbrink.
– It was enough that one family person had a German origin, and all members could settle in Germany.

change of perspective

Despite such a long history of immigration, Germany did not consider themselves a multicultural country until late.
– Until 2000, obtaining German citizenship was difficult, the so -called
Blood law, which assumes that citizenship is inherited from parents, and migrants were perceived as guests who will finally return to their countries.
The conviction that we were not an ethnic monolith at all began to be born at the end of the 90s, when the Coalition of Social Democrats and Green came to power, which began to introduce reforms.
Changes in the law clearly show a change in attitude towards people with a migration past: the state begins to accept that they are part of our society.

According to Kreienbinek, it is a big step forward.
The change of perspective took place extremely quickly, considering the luggage of the past: immigrants were labelled as “others” and “foreign” since the creation of a modern German nation -state.

The conviction that Germany is not an ethnic monolith began to be born in the late 1990s


Mainstream media has a huge impact on the perception of new Germans.
In 2011, the author of the work on the hybrid identity of migrants Stefanie Schumann regretted that there is still talk of “migrants” instead of Germans.
In the end, he must reach people that there is no difference between “German” and “a foreigner” – she noted.
Seven years later, the black German German Florence Kasumba was planted in the cult series “Tatort”.
And until the beginning of the 21st century, Afro-Niece stories were overlooked, despite the colonial past of the country: at the end of the 19th century, the German Reich colonized Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Namibia, Togo and Cameroon.

In 2019, Kasumba said that casting it in the main role is a sign that “Germany is ready for it.”
They also seem ready to face the colonial past.
In 2020, Berlin Mohrenstraße (“Maura street”) was changed to Antona Wilhelma Amo street, a philosopher from today’s Ghana.
He studied and lectured in 18th-century Halle and Jena in today’s Germany.
Until he had to leave the country because of the racial prejudices.

alice Hasters, journalist and author of the book “What whic people do not want to hear about racism, and they should know”, daughter of African American and German,
Born in Cologne, she still gets questions about her origin.
The answer that she is German is not always satisfying.
“Knowledge where it comes from is a privilege, just like the lack of a need to constantly explain your origin,” writes Hasters in the book.
“Belonging is not synonymous with origin. Belonging is needed.”

It is the sense of belonging that determines whether someone is, whether she feels German, German.
Majewski says: – after all, there are countries: people create them to have a sense of community.

Ula Idzikowska.
journalist, reporter.
A graduate of Dutch philology, comparative literature and investigative journalism.
He currently lives in Lviv, sometimes in Szczecin.
She spent the previous 11 years in Belgium, the Netherlands and the rest of the world.
He writes about migration and social themes.

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