Alien in Russia, Alien in Germany: Rebellion, Violence, Theft: Criminal offenses of young Aussiedlers are increasing

Fremd in Russland, fremd in Deutschland: Ein sprachloses Leben
Rebellion, Gewalt, Diebstahl: Die Straftaten jungendlicher Aussiedler nehmen immer mehr zu

Ramelsberger, Annette. "Alien in Russia, Alien in Germany." Süddeutsche Zeitung, 3-4 February 2001.

Translation from German to English by Alice Morgenstern

Rebellion, Violence, Theft: Criminal offenses of young Aussiedlers are increasing

Fremd in Russland, fremd in Deutschland: Ein sprachloses Leben
Rebellion, Gewalt, Diebstahl: Die Straftaten jungendlicher Aussiedler nehmen immer mehr zu

By Annette Ramelsberger, Süddeutsche Zeitung, February 3 and 4, 2001, Number 28

Translation from German to English by Alice Morgenstern

A preface for the reader of "A Mute Life" by Alice Morgenstern, Munich, Germany

At least once a year one of our leading newspapers, the "Süddeutsche Zeitung", informs the readers of the situation of the Russian German Aussiedler(s) and their old and new problems of integration.

So it is undoubtedly useful for the descendents of the Russian Germans in America to learn something of these developments, especially for those who plan to travel to Germany this summer and take part in the "Bundestreffen der Landsmannschaft der Russlanddeutschen" (the Meeting of the Aussiedler(s) in Stuttgart.

The greatest concern now days seems to be the increase of violence, registered among the young Russian Germans. But it must be added that acts of violence are being committed by many German adolescents and young men. They are partly due to a new wave of rightwing- radicalism and partly to a tendency to recklessness in general. And the problem is not restricted to Germany alone.

Violence of young Aussiedler(s) ought to be seen and judged in that context.

Lahr is a community of about 44,000 inhabitants, and the fourth part if them are Aussiedler(s). It lies in the Federal German State of Baden-Württemberg, and it might be interesting to know that it was precisely that part of Germany where many Russian Germans originally came from. Two years ago a general inquiry was started in Lahr: Which places were considered dangerous or unsafe. The majority named "Kanadaring", although "Kanadaring" is in no way more conspicuous than other streets, says Police Superintendent Heinz Siefert.

Apparently the citizens have derived their feeling of unsafety from the fact that "Kanadaring" is inhabited by 63% Aussiedler(s), most of whom speak Russian and Russian only. They remain within boundaries they have set up themselves, and to such an extent that a social worker recently said to Siefert: "We don't have to integrate them, they have found their own way of integration," meaning that they have established their own ghetto in the former military quarters left behind after the departure of Canadian Armed Forces who had been stationed there.

On the other hand: one example may suffice to show a common German attitude. A young German father said quite innocently: "We have found a very suitable building site for our family, it is well away from the Russians."
Social workers explain their situation: they don't find any contact to the groups of young Russians, who are loitering in streets and at corners, drinking, sometimes bawling and apparently with no desire to communicate with Germans.

According to police statistics the number of crimes committed by very young Aussiedler(s) is rising fast throughout Germany, whereas it can be said that Aussiedler(s) in general continue to be law-abiding citizens.

In Bavaria a tendency has been noticed during the last three years that the percentage of criminal offenses of Russian Germans has reached a two-digit number, most alarming among adolescents. Children aged between eleven and thirteen are more liable to be involved than children of foreigners, according to the Bayerisches Landeskriminalamt (the Central Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Bavaria).

The Kriminologisches Forschungsinstitut Niedersachsen (the Institute for Criminological Research), another Federal State, announced that thefts and acts of violence have been increasing in the rural districts with a considerable number of "Spätaussiedler(s)", the latest immigrants. Even in the prisons the Russian Germans form groups that stick together and appear as one body.

It must, however, be said that the Russian German immigrants had a reputation of being peaceful and extremely industrious, working hard even past working hours and building their houses for their large families with their own hands in no time. Crimes: below average, conspicuousness: nil. "On the whole this positive image still shows the truth," says Policeman Siefert, "they toil like coolies."

Flight after the Cultural Shock
But after the middle of the nineties integration became more difficult. That was when the number of immigrants who spoke no German increased. Consequently that gave rise to criminal offenses. In the Bayerisches Landeskriminalamt (the Central Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Bavaria) it has been ascertained that the first trespasses of youngsters occur about two years after arriving in Germany. This is exactly the time when they begin to be aware how hard it is to adapt themselves to the conditions in this country. It makes matters worse when they had no solid education and when their parents are unemployed.

Jochen Welt, the Federal German Government Representative for the Russian Germans doesn't make light of these difficulties. "The problem is smouldering," he says. The greatest temptation for the very young are drugs, the older ones commit acts of violence, the tendency is rising. Welt is convinced that in order to prevent crimes, more help is necessary. It is essential to prepare the Aussiedler(s) for their new country and home before they come to Germany. And together with politicians of the Opposition (CDU) SPDman Welt demands obligatory language courses for each member of a family of Spätaussiedler(s). So far only the head of the family had to prove his proficiency whereas his or her family--large as a rule--could immigrate without understanding any German. "Children and adolescents then experience that they are mute here", says Welt. "They get a cultural shock, and flee to their own language group. "Another idea is to send streetworkers who speak Russian to the young "Russians" to tear them away from their isolation and at the same time from the beginnings of a criminal career. The financial means for integration have been raised from 32 million DM two years ago to 53 million DM at present. "We must not lose patience", says Welt, "but integration takes its time."

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

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