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Ulrich Scheuner, Remarks on the Legal Status of "Displaced Persons" in Germany (December 14-15, 1948)

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3. The expectation of demonstrating German good will through [the granting of] minority status may apply. The further hope of thereby taking steps in the development of a new law on minorities that would also benefit German minorities [in other countries] is misplaced. The old minorities law rested on the firm foundation of the protection of individual, basic human rights, liberty, equality, protection of property, and freedom of conscience. There is no reason why these rights cannot also be guaranteed to the DPs as foreigners. An international minority law is not served by the protection of foreigners, because that is a different problem from that of resident national minorities. Moreover, in Eastern Europe, in particular, with Allied participation (Potsdam), the law on minorities was replaced with the solution of expelling the minorities. The reaction to this in Germany, which had to take in 11 million German refugees, cannot simply be to set an example through extensive minority rights. Unless the path of forced expulsions that was embarked upon in Potsdam is clearly relinquished, any thought of reestablishing a minorities law in Eastern Europe is utopian. Instead, today we see the expulsion of another 500,000 Magyars from Slovakia, and we witness the same phenomena of intolerance and exaggerated nationalism in Palestine and India. Since Germany has become the primary victim of this development, it naturally has every interest in bringing about more humane principles. But one can hardly expect it to do so by granting minority status to foreigners on its soil.

In addition to this, B.’s expert opinion on cultural autonomy and the international right of appeal is based on notions that were developed in Germany after 1920. These notions of a protected and internationally guaranteed minority have proven to be dangerous and illusory. They invariably widen the gulf between the minority and the majority nation, and they eventually lead to the exclusion of the minority from the life of the state. The right path – taken in exemplary fashion in Belgium and Switzerland – can only be that of full, civic-public law equality of the various national groups without any kind of corporative organizations or foreign intervention. Only this proven path helps. This means that if these DPs wish to remain in Germany as permanent residents, the path to this is equality in all legal respects without special status.

Finally, it also should be noted that, practically speaking, the DPs in Germany are long-term guests or – if they stay – a type of immigrant. But every state demands that immigrants assimilate.

To sum it up, the following can be said about the idea of a minority statute: such a statute, which is what B.’s expert opinion envisages, no longer does justice to the international situation today. What should be sought for groups of foreign nationals today is the protection of elementary human rights and cultural-religious freedom of conscience, but not corporative organization as a minority.

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