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"The Foreign Workers and Us," Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (June 3, 1961)

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There is a Lack of Recruitment Offices

The German commissions abroad have been much criticized. For some they work much too slowly, whereby it is overlooked that the real obstacle lies in the thicket of foreign labor administrations. For others they work too quickly, too hastily and summarily. For all that, not one of the critics has also provided the recipe of how to “process” the homeless human freight of a transport train. Anyone who has ever dealt with personnel organization on a large scale will not fail to appreciate these commissions. If the complaints still do not end, if the flood of job-seekers continues to push across the borders from all sides without registration, the reason lies with the system itself, which requires both refinement and greater density, as well as supplementation from private initiative.

An increase in the number of recruitment offices would be desirable. Second, one might think about setting up reception camps at the main border crossing points, also in the interest of our already strained friendly relations with the transit countries. In Salzburg, for example, there has already been enough trouble. Of course, such reception camps would have to be impeccable organizationally and hygienically, provided with an adequate staff of interpreters and equipped with an efficient phone and teleprinter. It would also be more useful for private business to maintain trained case workers than to send, on a case-by-case basis, hurried agents with at times completely absurd ideas and wishes, for they do not exactly make life easier for the German commissions.

Not Too Much Bossing Around

With this, we are touching not only on an organizational, but a fundamental problem, one that concerns the mentality of the Mediterranean countries, which is so little known in our country: the southerner is in principle bureaucracy-averse, to put it mildly. He has a deep distrust of the state apparatus at home. He considers it almost imperative to circumvent it. Thus the man from Calabria and Apulia does not necessarily have a criminal record when he lands as an illegal alien at our borders. Under the onslaught of complaints from the border area, the Bavarian interior minister recently promised “help in faultless hardship cases." That is welcome. But that is not what this is about. Rather, we are dealing with the magical attraction of our strange “miracle country” on population strata, some of whom are themselves still living in magical wishful thinking and for whom bureaucratic regimentation is initially something incomprehensible.

All Mediterranean countries have a long tradition of emigration spanning generations. In 1920, 211,000 persons emigrated from Italy, 150,000 from Spain. They certainly did not get to America, Canada, Brazil, or Argentina entirely without papers, official stamps, and health certificates. Of course, Mr. Capone and his ilk were also among them. But the likes of them have always known how to get any stamp. During this murky prehistory, the vast majority of the honest and hard-working evidently made it to their destination without being bossed around by the state, as incomprehensible as it may strike us. Even where they are lacking in reading and writing skills, the people from the south are bright, resourceful, and clever. However: unlike us, there is one thing they hate with a passion – being bossed around all the time.

Source: L. Kroeber-Keneth, “Die ausländischen Arbeitskräfte und wir” [“The Foreign Workers and Us”], Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, June 3, 1961, p. 5.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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