Two days ago, I have been in Germany, my native country, for a week. Admittedly, a short time. Thousands of refugees at the borders, thousands already in the country. How are the German people dealing with it? How are my people, descendants of WWII, the Nazi regime, coping with it? I tell you, it was an interesting journey.
Of course, I have listened around, trying to feel the vibes, the ressentiments; reading between the lines of the spoken words.
I’ve tried to differentiate between the real, honest reasoning and the emotional, polemical statements.
The majority of people I have been speaking to, have been serious and honest about their feelings towards the refugee situation; a minority only have been using the refugee situation in Germany to fuel racist and nationalistic slogans of the right wingers according to the public media and those politicians who are willingly taking advantage of the situation for their own opportunistic reasons.
There were those who still were feeling guilt towards the past, the infamous Nazi regime from 1933 till 1945. They were the people who still could not comprehend how political systems are influencing the thought and action of the individual to the full extent and its consequences.
I have met people who were the second and third generation of post-WWII refugees, and I have met and spoken with survivors of the refugee treks from Eastern Europe after WWII.
One interview I would like to post here because it was taken with one of the few of the surviving generation of WWII, albeit coming to Germany in 1989, shortly before the borders to the former communist countries had been opened.
I will call her Mrs E. because I don’t want to use her name publicly for many personal reasons.
Mrs E. was born in 1932 and had experienced and shared a very hard life as many women of her generation, due to social and political circumstances we all know of.
She had been a sibling of 7 children, 6 boys and one girl. Her dad had died during the war while on a transport to the Russian front which had been bombarded. A cousin of his, who had been a carpenter before the war, had been researching after the war and had found his grave near Babenhausen in Hessia where it stated that he had fallen on the 24th of Dec at 12.30 hrs, on Christmas day.
Her mother had to work in the fields of farmers across the surrounding villages for food. After the war, they first had to fear the Russians, then the Polish; they had been met with hostility from the first and the latter because of their German affiliation.
They had been working on kholkozes and Mrs E. told me that idlesness never had been tolerated as people loitering in the streets had been picked up for work by the police.
They had made several exit applications which all had been refused until their mother with one sister finally had been succesful. Due to her confirmation of responsibility, the rest of the family was at last able to immigrate from Poland to Germany.
For nearly over two years, the family had to live in an ‘Uebergangslager’ in Siechhof(makeshift camp) in the town of Wetzlar in Hessia, until they finally were allocated a private house. Siechhof had been an estate of the local steel industry for their employees who had been suffering from consumption.
During the interview, Mrs E. stated that in the surrounding cities, like Falkenberg, people couldn’t even speak Polish as they had been from German origin. When I questioned Mrs E. about Jews in the area where she had been living, she stated that there only had been few, presumably business folk who had fled at the beginning of the Nazi invasion according to her memory.
Her husband had been from Krakow whereas she had been from Upper Silesia. Her husband had died of cancer 1985. She said that he had never wanted anything from the government in Germany (Social Welfare) and that he had been a hard working man to support his family. Mrs E. has two daughters one of which, called Irena, is still living in Poland as a Nurse, the other , called Grazyna (which means: the beautiful) living with her in Wetzlar. Her daughter Grazyna is married to a Polish husband and has 2 children, both living in Germany. Her grandchildren both are married to a German husband/wife.
As I’ve stated before, I’ve had quite a few interviews during my stay in Germany with people about the refugee situation. The interview with Mrs E. seems important to me as it reflects how former refugees feel about it. The interview had been emotionless, reflecting the integration of people from other nationalities after 2 or 3 generations. Mrs E. states that they always had been feeling welcomed and she cannot recall any hostile treatment by German nationals. Of course, Mrs E. is one voice amongst thousands. Naturally, there are others.
Regardless of the outcome, interviews and speaking to people is important. Mainstream media mostly only is reflecting fragments and often extreme views to make the headlines. My intention to interview people about the refugee situation in Germany was and is to outline the general view of people being confronted with refugees in their daily lives. Of course, there is fear and helplessness, fuelled by the mainstream media but, in general the people of Germany are welcoming, often passionate, about the situation of refugees. Many, now German people, have been refugees after WWII and are reliving their own bitter fate during those times.
There are resentiments stirred at the moment against refugees, the EU and Germany itself.
Let me cite: If the asylum application is accepted, persons granted asylum status and those granted refugee status receive a temporary residence permit and are given the same status as Germans within the social insurance system. They are entitled to social welfare, child benefits, child-raising benefits, integration allowances and language courses as well as other forms of integration assistance.
This is the law, and a good one. Let us welcome refugees. Nobody leaves their country, family, friends and neighbourhood to live in a hostile environment to gain mere economical profit. Those who are abusing the system eventually will be sent back.
Between 1944 and 1948 about 31 million people, including ethnic Germans, were permanently or temporarily moved from Central and Eastern Europe.The death toll attributable to the flight and expulsions is disputed, with estimates ranging from 500,000, up to a West German demographic estimate from the 1950s of over 2.0 million.
This is history. Let us not be guilty by refusing refugees shelter. If we intend to export our idea of democracy, freedom and goodwill, we must accept refugees as fellow human beings and welcome them as such. Mass migration since the iron ages has proven to be beneficial for the cultures of the world. Future generations will judge our societies by how we’ve treated the vulnerable. We have failed in many aspects concerning our world and societies ; let us not fail in how we are treating refugees.