60 years of recruitment agreement: “Deutschländer” between two states

Status: 10/30/2021 5:04 p.m.

Between 1961 and 1973, 867,000 Turkish workers moved to Germany. Some brought their families to join them, others went back. Do the returnees and their children feel at home in Turkey?

Von Burcu Arslan, ARD-Studio Istanbul

For Dilara Aslan from Ankara, returning to Turkey was originally not a voluntary decision. “I was in 7th grade when my parents told us children that we were going back to Turkey,” she recalls. At that time she only knew the country from vacation stays: “I always had a good time there with my cousins. That’s why I had nothing against returning. But of course: I was a bit sad.”

Until then, the now 26-year-old had lived with her family in Hamburg. The grandfather came to work in Germany in 1972 as one of the last “guest workers” to be recruited. A little later he brought up the children, including Dilara’s father. Something special for Dilara, because: Her father was 14 years old when he arrived in Germany – the same age as she was when she arrived in Turkey.

While her father, Yücel Aslan, struggled with language problems in Germany and found little connections, it was much easier for Dilara in Turkey: she could speak Turkish and therefore integrate more easily, as she says.

“Deutschländer” between two cultures

Prof. Dr. Kemal Demir, Director of the Center for German Studies at Akdeniz University in Antalya. “It depends on what stage of life you returned to,” he says. “Whether they returned as a small child, whether they returned as adults. How much they have been integrated into Germany, that is, have experienced socialization in Germany.”

Demir’s father also came to Germany, near Goslar, as a guest worker in 1968. Even if Demir went to school in Germany and felt comfortable there, at some point he decided to return to Turkey. The returnees, but also Turks in Germany, are often disparagingly called “Almanci”. A term for people of Turkish origin from Germany, which means something like “German nationals”.

One of them is Yurdagül Ertem. The 57-year-old English teacher from Istanbul lived with her parents – first-generation guest workers – in Stuttgart for many years until she moved to Turkey after getting married. The author of German textbooks had and still has to struggle with prejudices. She knows the feeling of not belonging and also observes it in younger people:

“I can see that you don’t know exactly where you belong. Think of it like a lake – and you swim in the middle, but you don’t know exactly where to swim to.”

“We want to leave, why are you here?”

Like Yurdagül Ertem and Dilara Aslan, there are many women returning from Germany. You do not feel properly accepted by either side and still want to belong. On the other hand, there is also a lot of envy and incomprehension, reports Dilara Aslan: At the moment, many people of the same age in Turkey are trying to live abroad, especially in Germany, mainly due to the economic situation. “That’s why they often ask me why I came here and don’t want to go back. It’s much better abroad. They say: We want to go, why are you here? You have a German passport.”

She wants to stay in Turkey – if only for cultural reasons, as she says. Kemal Demir from Akdeniz University also sees the positive sides when young people from Germany come to Turkey.

“Punctuality, order and then just being diligent about what you want to achieve: These are the positive aspects that you have acquired there and can also be introduced here,” he says. “And the emotionality that one has experienced here through socialization, that being active, always being there, always doing something. If you combine these two sides, then you lead a really good life here.”

Her time in Germany was also formative for Yurdagül Ertem: Far-sighted instead of narrow-minded, approaching people without prejudice – that’s what she learned at high school, she says.

And even if it wasn’t always easy, all three agree: It was good that the parents and grandparents went to Germany one day.

60 years of recruitment agreement with Turkey: How do returnees families live?

Burcu Arslan, ARD Istanbul, 29.10.2021 12:57 Uhr


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