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The Government Warns of New Racial Arrogance (December 12, 1979)

In response to a mounting wave of xenophobic sentiment, Heinz Kühn, the Federal Government Commissioner for Foreigners’ Affairs, called the Federal Republic an “immigration country.” In the following article, published in the left-leaning Frankfurter Rundschau, Kühn called for the integration of foreigners living in West Germany and warned against the negative consequences of a new racism.

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Kühn Warns Germans of a New Racial Arrogance
The Federal Republic Should See Itself as an Immigration Country without “Forced Germanization”

“For four million foreign workers and their families, the Federal Republic has become an immigration country.” This view, “which many find shocking,” was emphasized by Heinz Kühn, the current Federal Government Commissioner for Foreigners’ Affairs in Bonn and the former Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia, at a conference held this weekend in Stuttgart. The topic of the conference, which was organized by the National Commission for the International Year of the Child, was “foreign children in the Federal Republic.” Kühn admitted that the Federal Republic is certainly not an immigration country in the conventional sense, like the United States or Canada. “But we have to open ourselves up to those who want to stay here, with all the attendant consequences,” said Kühn to an audience of about 600 representatives from foreigners’ associations, ministries, trade unions, churches, and welfare associations, as well as teachers, early childhood-education workers, and social workers.

For the first time since he presented his “memorandum” on the integration of foreigners to the federal government almost two months ago, Kühn dealt publicly with the key demands of the “memorandum” and the criticism that has been voiced thus far. “With the utmost strength and passion,” Kühn said, he stands by the “memorandum,” which above all demands local voting rights, “naturalization by postcard” for German-born children of foreign nationals, and their enrollment in regular German schools.

Kühn stated emphatically that he wrote the “memorandum” in “complete independence” from the government. Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who appointed Kühn Federal Government Commission for Foreigners’ Affairs, recognized that the problem was of great significance. Schmidt, as Kühn told his Stuttgart audience, expected him to submit proposals “with unvarnished frankness.” Up to this point, the federal cabinet – as reported – has consulted about the “memorandum” once, but an official statement on it is not expected until the coming spring.

So far, churches and charities have expressed their approval, Kühn explained. Some of the objections, however, were so outlandish that it seemed as though “anti-Semitic stereotypes from the 1930s were the model for anti-Turkish stereotypes of the 1970s.” Kühn warned emphatically against a new German “racial arrogance” and a new two-tiered society in which “high-quality” jobs would be reserved for German workers and “low-quality, dirty ones” for foreigners.

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