German Settlements in the East

BERLIN/ASTANA/SIBIU | | rumaenienkasachstan

BERLIN/ASTANA/SIBIU (Own report) - The German Federation of Expellees (BdV) has announced a new PR-project to promote "Germandom" in East- and Southeast Europe. According to the Federation, an exhibition presenting the history of "German settlements in the East" will open in the Berlin Crown Prince Palace (Kronprinzenpalais) in mid-July. It will also focus on German speaking settlements in Russia ("Volga Germans") and on the Danube Plain ("Danube Swabians"), presenting their history as a model: "People were living peacefully side by side," asserts BdV President Erika Steinbach. German speaking minorities are today still living in numerous "Germandom" regions presented in the exhibition, and, from their privileged position, support German policy as well as German industrial expansion into East- and Southeast Europe. Berlin is lending assistance and strengthening their organizational structures also with so called "development policy" funds. Political radicalization is becoming apparent among members of these minorities, who immigrated to Germany and maintain close contact to the regions of their origin. For example, members of the "Russian Germans" - whose history is commemorated in the BdV exhibition - have begun to cooperate with the right wing extremist NPD.

German Settlers

The Federation of Expellees (BdV) announced that it will open the exhibition "Die Gerufenen" (The Called) on July 16, presenting the history of German settlers in East- and Southeast Europe over the past 800 years. Time and again, Germans, lacking perspectives in their homelands or seeking to participate in the eastward expansion during the Middle Ages, settled along the banks of the Danube river or in Russia. The BdV exhibition will focus on the territories situated outside the German Empire's 1871 borders. This is a follow-up of the exhibition "Erzwungene Wege" (Compulsory Routes), which had focused on the resettlement of Germans from the Eastern regions of the 1871 Empire.[1] "People were living side by side peacefully," asserts BdV President Erika Steinbach, referring to the alleged model character of German settlements beyond the borders of the empire. The exhibition will be shown in the Berlin Kronprinzenpalais (Crown Prince Palace), a prestigious location in the centre of the German capital.[2]

Modern "Germandom"-Policy

German speaking minorities are today still living in numerous regions presented in the exhibition as "German settlements in the East," for example the Rumanian city Sibiu whose mayor is a member of the minority organization "Demokratisches Forum der Deutschen in Rumänien", DFDR (Democratic Forum of Germans in Rumania). Sibiu ("Hermannstadt") could serve as model of modern "Germandom"-policy. The city not only benefits from DFDR's cooperation with the German Interior Ministry including the annual apportionment of millions in German funds to the German speaking minority in Rumania. It benefits also from the so-called development aid. In the late 90s, the German Association for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) was commissioned by the German Ministry for Development to renovate the historic district of Sibiu. Hinting at the fact that German settlers founded the city 800 years ago, the media describes the "medieval architecture as appearing quite German".[3] GTZ investments, but particularly investments by German enterprises over the past decade, facilitated the city's considerable boom. "There is definitely a difference, if you need a translator in the discussion with a foreman or if you can discuss with him directly," declares the German speaking mayor as he describes the advantages presented by the German speaking minorities for the German industry (Siemens, ThyssenKrupp, Continental and others who produce in Sibiu's vicinity) in their expansion into cheap labor countries in Southeast Europe.[4]

Promotion of the Elite

In their striving for economic and political influence, the German government and German enterprises are also benefiting from the German speaking minorities living in the CIS countries ("Russian Germans"). For example, in Kazakhstan, the German speaking minority of about 300,000 members is organized around the "Council of Germans in Kazakhstan", whose chairman is holding regular consultations with German politicians.[5] German firms are profiting from their contacts to the "German-Kazakh Business Association," founded with the help of members of the German speaking minority in March 2004.[6] Like the minority in Rumania, the minority in Kazakhstan is not only receiving funds from the German Interior Ministry but also from the so-called German development aid. Already in 1993, the GTZ initiated a "Program for National Minorities" originally aimed at improving the living conditions of the German speaking minority in Kazakhstan, so as to thwart their members from immigrating to Germany. Today, this program is providing privileges to this minority over the non-German speaking part of the population. It also includes the "Promotion of the Elite" and is therefore contributing to a systematic strengthening of the German influence in Kazakhstan.

Autonomy

The GTZ's "Program for National Minorities" is not only benefiting German speaking minorities in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and the Ukraine, but also the German speaking minority in Russia - among them the 120,000 "Volga Germans" living along the banks of the Volga River. They are descendents of the first Germans who, already back in the 18th century had founded settlements in Russia and will be commemorated accordingly in the new BdV exhibition. Attempts in the early 1990s to revive the Volga German Republic of the 1920s and 1930s were a failure, in spite of the support coming from Germany, due to the resistance from the Russian speaking population. These attempts show that the modern "Germandom"-policy includes support for autonomy endeavors of regions in East- and Southeast Europe - commemorated in the BdV exhibition - that were influenced by Germans.

Radicalization

It is important to note that there are clear tendencies of radicalization among members of minorities, who immigrated to Germany and who keep close ties to the regions of their origin. This is particularly true for the "Russian Germans".[7] Since the establishment of a "Working Group of Russian Germans in the NPD" in February 2008, right wing extremists have become active particularly among Russian German organizations in North Rhine-Westphalia. Large parts of the approximately 2,5 million "Russian Germans" living in Germany are influenced by ethnic policy. It cannot be excluded therefore that the extreme right can be quite successful in recruiting members among them. "Russian German" right wing extremists in Germany are also striving for a close cooperation with their counterparts in the Russian and Central Asian regions of their origin. These are regions German politicians and businesses would like to use as a base to enhance their influence in the CIS countries.

[1] see also The Culprits' Perspective, "Zur Relativierung führen" and Kern
[2] Steinbach machts nur ohne SPD; taz 01.07.2009
[3] Tritt auf die Verkehrsbremse; Akzente 01/2005
[4] see also Übernahme
[5] see also Modernisierung
[6] see also Asiatische Konkurrenz
[7] Die NPD und die Russlanddeutschen; WDR 17.08.2008. CDU mit Kontakten zur NPD - CDU-Politiker arbeiten für rechte deutsch-russische Zeitschrift; WDR 12.10.2008