The 'Aussiedler' Controversy: Are the Wrong People Coming now? You do not Build Houses With Millstones

Der Streit um die Aussiedler: Kommen die Falschen ins Land? Mit Mühlsteinen baut man keine Häuser. Besuch im Wahlkreis des Auslandsbeauftragten Waffenschmidt, wo sogar zwischen den Tausenden Zugereister aus der Ex-Sowjetunion plötzlich Gräben klaffen

Deupmann, Ulrich. "The 'Aussiedler' Controversy: Are the Wrong People Coming now?" Süddeutsche Zeitung, 29 February 1996.

German to English translation by Alice Morgenstern, Munich, Germany

Waldbröl is an idyllic small town in the hilly region of Nordrhein Westfalen, an hour's distance from Cologne. Here you find various groups of German Russians who have resettled there after leaving the Soviet Union. There among others is Johannes Köhn (57), a very religious Mennonite who arrived in 1977 with his wife and three children. He is the very model of a Russian German: upright, hard working, competent and thoroughly reliable. He works as the representative of his firm's business in St. Petersburg and Helsinki. His children got a good education. And he did not only build a house, but also a church for the Mennonites, he stands at the head of his community.

There are other pioneers like him in Waldbröl. The Russian German Protestant Baptists have also built their own pray-house in true pioneer spirit: they did most of the work themselves, even grannies stood at the concrete mixers. "It has always been like that", says Peter Littau (37), who has been living in Waldbröl since 1989: "Land, houses and a church- that is in our blood." In front of the church you find a board with a quotation from a Psalm: "This has been the work of the Lord and a miracle before your eyes."

This is the town where Horst Waffenschmidt lives, the commissioner for the resettling of Russian Germans in Germany. The district is also his constituency as a Member of Parliament for the CDU (Christian Democratic Party). And he is considered the "Father of the Aussiedler". For a long time he could be happy with the results of his endeavors.

Waldbröl has 18,500 inhabitants, every sixth of them comes from some part of the former Soviet Union. The Federal Government and the Federal States paid for schools, roads, staff, the Aussiedler built houses with credits from the banks and were soon integrated and respected as German citizens - and the little out-of-the-way place began to thrive.

But during the last two years things have changed dramatically. Most of the new Aussiedler are very different. They are housed either in a building for temporary accommodation run by the state Nordrhein Westfalen or in small lodging belonging to the town. Most of them are partly Russian, only few speak some German, they are a group apart and mentally different from the pioneers before.

The director of the social welfare center and the social workers who deal with the new immigrants express their uneasiness. They have doubts whether these people will have enough stamina and endurance to get on in the new surroundings, in other words if they are willing to change some of their present conditions by working hard. There are quarrels among the new comers, there are already gangs forming among the youth, there are aggression, theft, the beginning of a drug scene. The old Aussiedler have tried to establish contacts, mainly by their church activities with their youth centers. But there seems to be little response.

And Their opinion is that these people are more or less Russians. Accordingly they have coined a phrase which shows their resentment: "The first immigrants came because there was Communism in Russia, now they come, because there is no Communism there." They indicate that these new people have profited by the system in the old days.

But the real trouble is that the Federal Government has receded from important obligations by either canceling them or by transferring responsibilities to the communities. The language courses have been reduces to 6 months instead of 15 months. The young immigrants with their language deficiencies would need a thorough training to have the least chance on the working market. As it is they are doomed to unemployment, especially in a region that has not as many jobs to offer.

The present social status can be shown with two numbers: Whereas social support (=Sozialhilfe) had to be paid to 523 Aussiedler in 1993, by the end of 1994 their number was 2756.

The housing situation is bad, lodgings are overcrowded. Sometimes there is only one room for a family. Many youngster spend most of their time in the school-yard, even at night, and the janitor clears the away vodka bottles the next morning.

Now there is an effort of tackling the housing and employment problems by endeavors to distribute Aussiedler all over the country and to make them stay at the community where they have been sent to for two years. But as long as the perspectives for the future of the young newcomers seem so bleak, this idea will have little effect.

And as Klaus J. Bode warns in his article: The Russian Mafia has been spreading to Germany already and is only waiting for the desperate, offering employment and easy money for the frustrated young men.

Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
North Dakota State University Libraries
PO Box 5599
Fargo, ND 58105-5599

Our appreciation is extended to Alice Morgenstern for translation of this article.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller