The first thing Ugur Sahin remembers about Germany is the cold. When he left the plane at Cologne Airport in 1969, just eight years old, with his mother, the icy winter wind blew in his face. Sahin comes from Iskenderun near the Syrian border, where there is hardly any cold.
His father had come to Germany a few years earlier, and he and his mother followed. Father worked shifts on the assembly line, says Ugur Sahin. His childhood was with 1. FC Köln: Toni Schumacher, Pierre Littbarski, Konopka, Flohe, the big time.
When Sahin began his medical studies, he received an amulet from his mother, a Nazar Boncugu, which he still wears today. It keeps evil eyes away, said the mother. Maybe it brought him luck in other ways, but maybe luck wasn’t even necessary: On November 9, 2020, the fateful day in Germany, Sahin’s company Biontech published a press release: The vaccine against the corona virus he developed in Mainz is 90 percent effective .
It is stories like these that are told in “60 Years – How Germany Became Home”. The former Berlin member of the Bundestag Özcan Mutlu (Greens), himself a guest worker child, published the book. On the 60th anniversary of recruitment between Germany and Turkey, it brings together 27 stories of social climbers, mostly from the children of guest workers. From September the book will be published by the Federal Agency for Civic Education.
On almost 250 pages you can read very personal, anecdotal texts about growing up in a foreign country. One reads about the pain of arrival, a happy childhood, growing up between prejudice and the will to break new ground. Mutlu gives a deep insight into the Turkish community.
Three million people originally from Turkey live in Germany today. 50 percent have German citizenship. Almost a million live in their own homes. 103 000 companies were founded by people from Turkey – among others: Biontech.
Yes, it is the success stories that Mutlu’s book collects. In addition to Sahin, there is his wife Özlem Türeci, who founded Biontech with him. The NSU victims’ lawyer Mehmet Daimaguler tells how he had to fight his way from secondary school to high school as a “Turkish boy”.
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Hanover’s Lord Mayor Belit Onay writes how the attack in Solingen politicized him. In 1993, Nazis set fire to a terraced house there, killing five people. “I realized for the first time that in Germany it does matter where you come from and the color of your skin,” writes Onay.
At the time, the Turkish ambassador advised getting fire extinguishers and locking the doors tightly, and Chancellor Helmut Kohl refused to go to the funeral service. His parents considered returning to Turkey. Onay was 12 years old then. In 2019 he will become mayor.
We called workers and people came. The writer Max Frisch once wrote that. The entertaining portraits in the book also show that many guest worker children experienced this humanity at an early age, that they were warmly welcomed in the neighborhood and found friends.
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But there was always hatred, fueled by “Bild” and right-wing agitators. “Gastarbeiter comes from Gast. A guest who doesn’t behave like that should be thrown out the door,” wrote the tabloid at the end of the 1960s about a strike by guest workers.
Mutlu’s book shows how much more integration is than adjustment to circumstances, how much the “new Germans” shape the country today, as mayors, scientists or master chefs. No, not everyone was so lucky, clever, willful. Her stories too, those of the “nameless ones”, as Mutlu calls them, would be material for a book. But to make history you need winners. That’s the reality.