German culture does not exist and the nation’s history has been shaped by “immigration and diversity”, according to Federal Integration Commissioner Aydan Özoğuz, who has argued migrants should not be expected to assimilate.
Writing in Tagesspiegel, the Commissioner denounced the debate over Leitkultur (meaning ‘dominant’ or ‘guiding culture’) — in which conservative politicians have suggested migrants should assimilate to a shared set of cultural values — as “ridiculous and absurd”.
“And no wonder, because it’s simply not possible to identify any sort of culture that’s specific to Germany beyond the language.
“Even historically, it is regional cultures, immigration and diversity that have had a bigger role in shaping our history.”
Globalisation, and the ongoing transformation of Germany into a society of ever increasing numbers of different peoples and lifestyles, “leads to diversity being amplified and multiplied further”, Özoğuz added.
She conceded that “cultural diversity is perhaps tiresome”, but argued that it is “the strength of our open society”.
“Promoting the idea that there is a dominant culture doesn’t create common grounds but instead erects borders to exclude.
“Germany is diverse — a fact which seems too complicated for some”, she added.
Rather than expecting migrants to assimilate into German culture, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) commissioner argued the country should create a national identity based on a social contract based on the values of Germany’s constitution.
In November last year, Özoğuz demanded that the sentence, “The Federal Republic of Germany is a diverse country of immigration”, be enshrined in the constitution as Article 20b.
The proposal was one of a raft of measures to improve migrants’ participation in German life, in a document unveiled by the Commissioner at the country’s Integration Summit.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, who chaired the event, described it as “encouraging and exciting”.
But Historian Klaus-Rüdiger May warned the demands of the document, which was developed by more than 50 migrant organisations, would bankrupt businesses, pensions, and the country, and would make native Germans second class citizens in their own homeland.
“At its core [the paper seeks] the profound transformation of the Federal Republic of Germany” to the “considerable disadvantage” of the indigenous population, May said.
Gone is even the term “Germans” he noted, suggesting that for Özoğuz, the word “seems to have become unmentionable”.
Former Bundestag deputy Vera Lengsfeld was similarly scathing in her assessment of the proposals, writing: “No word of what the immigrants want to contribute to the receiving society. It is only about demanding the largest possible portion of a cake that hasn’t been baked yet.”