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We Have no Problem, we are the Problem

Riedl, Fritz and Uwe Ritzer. "We Have no Problem, we are the Problem." Süddeutsche Zeitun, 23-24 January 1999.

Translation by Alice Morgenstern, Munich, Germany


The boxing club 77 and streetworkers in Nuremberg show that young Aussiedlers may be integrated

Monday and Thursday evening in the Kliegl Gymnasium in Bad Kissingen. There is a smell of sweat and old gymnasium shoes. The scene is lively, fists are raised, orders shouted. Rudolf Vielwerth (62), the trainer of the boxing club 77, once a successful amateur boxer himself, is standing in the ring and trying to pass on what he knows about speed, footwork and blows. Waldemar Witzke (20) from Kasachstan is breathing hard. His arms feel heavy and tired. He has not dealt out many blows but mostly taken them. That is generally spoken not a new experience for a boy like him. Two and one-half years ago he came to that Bavarian region as an Aussiedler together with his parents, brothers and sisters. They live in a five-room apartment in a small community called Wildflecken. He has found work in the road building sector.

And he belongs to 2,500 others who have to get integrated in a new home-country. That is where Rudolf Vielwerth comes in. Vielwerth, a commercial agent, has been helping Waldemar and 5 other young Aussiedlers on that way. Not only does he train them to become successful amateur boxers, but he wants them to realize that they are accepted here. He wants them to be together working and sweating as a team.

His boxing club is not much more than a big family with perhaps 10 active members, and it is supported by the Landessportverband (the regional sports association) with money sponsoring the project: "Sports activities for Aussiedlers". In this tiny school for life Vielwerth teaches them virtues such as discipline and fairness, and that brutality has nothing to do with boxing. Boys who do not accept the rules will have to leave quickly.

"He is strict as a trainer, but okay as a man", says Waldemar. His club means a lot to him, even if he has not been very successful so far, because he has gained new experiences. "It is good to go to sports events with your team by bus to Suhl or Marktredwitz - small towns not too far away, you learn and see something new, you are not alone, you have friends," he says. It is not surprising that personal worries don't remain hidden in such a small world. Again Vielwerth feels responsible. If there is trouble at school, at work, if they look for other lodgings or have to go to an office, Vielwerth tries to help. "You see," says Waldemar, "There is nothing he would not do for us."

Four years ago Dani came to Nuremberg from Jekaterinburg, Russia, together with his family. But he still does not know where he belongs. He wants to become a cook, but so far he has not been accepted as an apprentice, nor did he find work. And so every day he is drawn to the streets, parks and underground stations where his buddies meet, young Aussiedlers like him standing idly around because they are unemployed. Manfred Hahn and Jutta Zier, streetworkers, working for a project of the Arbeiterwohlfahrt (laborers' welfare) came across Dani during one of their daily rounds and gave him a leaflet in Russian and German, offering help for all sorts of problems. Dani's spontaneous answer was: "We have not got a problem, we are the problem. Nobody wants to have us here."

"In Russia they were Nazis, here they are Russians," chief inspector Bruno Liebermann of the Nuremberg police explains their dilemma. Many employers won't have young Aussiedlers because they have heard of a high rate of criminality among them. Statistics in Nuremberg give no such proof. In 1998 only 3% of the alleged culprits (545) were Aussiedlers. "As far as we know they are not above the average number," says Walter Kimmelzwinger, vice director of the Nuremberg police department. This is remarkable in a city like Nuremberg where the greatest number of Aussiedlers in Bavaria lives; they were more than 30,000 between 1986 and 1995, 6% of the entire population.

Some of the boys were forced to immigrate by their parents, others lost their illusions: "They had been dreaming of a paradise in Germany that they did not find," says Jutta Zier. She and her colleague offer help to master their lives. In the streets and parks they get into contact with the young Aussiedlers. They offer to accompany them to administrations and offices, they help them fill out forms.

They have suggestions for a number of activities like excursions, sports and youth club activities. Manfred Hahn says: "In that way we try to counteract dangerous developments." And Kimmelzwinger rates the experiments of the streetworkers as very positive methods to achieve a gradual integration.

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

Reprinted with permission of Süddeutsche Zeitung.

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