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
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
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
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.