Immigrants from the Soviet Union to Germany

German late settlers and Jewish migrants and their integration

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2010

24 Pages, Grade: 3,0



1. Introduction

2. Bulk
2.1. Studied group of immigrants: German late settlers and Soviet Jews
2.1.1. Origin
2.1.2. Numbers and statistics
2.1.3. The situation - reasons to leave the Soviet Union, reasons to go to Germany
2.2. Legal situation
2.2.1. Concerning the immigration
2.2.2. Concerning the integration
2.3. Integration
2.3.1. Language skills
2.3.2. Education and work
2.3.3. Housing, criminality and other aspects
2.3.4. In particular: integration into the Jewish congregation
2.4. The public perception

3. Conclusion

4. Literature
4.1. Monographs
4.2. Articles
4.3. Webpages

1. Introduction

The fall of the Berlin wall and the reunification soon after was a significant event in the German history and the history of the 20th century in general. The fall of the wall that separated a nation for almost 30 years was a first relief to the people as the end of the Cold War was a relief for the participating parties.

But due to the Cold War and the separation of the world into East and West after the end of World War II, there were still brownfields to work on that were left behind the iron curtain.

One of these brownfields was the drawing of new German borders that came along with the formation of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR), both in 1949. Parts of the former German empire like Prussia, Silesia and Pomerania which made a third of the former country were cut off. A large amount of German citizens fled then to the west, others did not and most of them had to stay in Poland or elsewhere further east until 1989. Even more than 50 years after the end of World War II they were still considered as Germans and had therefore the right to live in the mother country͘ The fact, that they might have been “sovietized” in the meantime did not matter.

Another group that came along with these German late settlers was the Soviet Jews. Jews from the Soviet Union were invited to come to East Germany in 1990 shortly before the German reunification and the Federal Republic then held onto this invitation in order to let discriminated and persecuted Jews as refugees into Germany.

In the following paper I wish to regard the integration process of these two groups. Due to the fact that their motives to leave home and their situation in the Soviet Union was similar to each other I will regard this group mainly as one and will then focuse on the situation that awaited them in the new Germany. This is a convergent approach. I will work on legal aspects and their public reception aiming to study on the question whether their particular privileged status concerning legal acknowledgement and support had also a particular influence on their assimilation in the German society and their identity.

Concerning their identity, the Spätaussiedler and the Soviet Jews are in a different situation then other immigrants in Germany or Europe. Their ethnical identity was their legal reason to migrate, the Spätaussiedler for the fact that they were ethnic Germans and were supposed to be brought ‘home’ and the Soviet Jews due to their discrimination in the Soviet Union and to give them the possibility to live out their religion as they please to. For that matter, it would be interesting to see in what way the Jewish congregation and the programs by the German government furthered their integration process.

I decided to work on these two groups of immigrants as one by reason that they came to Germany at the same time under very similar condition but more important, they are regarded in the public perception as one group. They speak apparently all the same language or at least it sounds like to Germans, have the same habits and are simply not to distinguish easily. Public reception is an aspect not to under terminate because of the impact it has on the immigrant’s self-esteem and therefore his integration as well. The influence is mutual.

In the following paper I will refer to the immigrants as Russian or Soviet Jews and ethnic Germans respectively disregarding the fact that some Spätaussiedler might be of Jewish belief as well. Also, I will refer to ‘Germans’ contrary to the studied group of immigrants even though Spätaussiedler are technically German, too. In those cases that I refer to ‘other’ immigrants in Germany I mean mostly Turkish immigrants, only because they are the most discussed group in public and because I will mainly concentrate on Berlin as the centre of immigration.

2. Bulk

2.1. Studied group of immigrants: German late settlers and Soviet Jews

2.1.1. Origin

At the end of World War II the Allies downsizes the borders of Germany by almost a third of its original size from 1918 as this cut down had already taken place after World War I. It is to mention here that Prussia had annexed parts of Poland in the 18th and 19th century, mainly under Napoleon. Therefore not all of the people living in Pomerania, Eastprussia and Silesia were of German origin after all.

The first remarkable flow of Germans further East was due to the invitation by the empress Katharina II. in 1763 who summoned foreign colonists to come to Russia. The main settlements of these Germans were then in Wolhynien, at the black sea, the Caucasus, and at the Wolga. The last settlement was also declared as the ‘ utonom socialist Soviet Republic of Wolgagermans’ where they had their own system of administration and kept their cultural independence. This right was lost in 1941 when the Wolgadeutschen were deported to Siberia, middle Asia and Kazakhstan as suspected collaborators of the Nazigermans. After 1956 they were set free but still classified as members or descendants of the enemy’s country͘ That was the time when the Germans started intentionally losing their culture in order to assimilate. Others wished to leave the Soviet Union and did so, legally or illegally. In 1957, the Western German Embassy in Moscow received more than 100,000 requests to immigrate into the Federal Republic.

Nevertheless, after 1949 millions of Germans who had not fled towards west lived in Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic States and even further east. Before the German invasion in Poland there were already 1.5 million living in the area which was later known as the Soviet Union.1

Between 1951 and 1988 1.6 million people managed despite the iron curtain to immigrate into the west, most of them due the controversial “financial exchange”͘ The federal Republic paid western currency in exchange for the Spätaussiedler, it was basically human trafficking.

In 1990 the German and the Soviets made an agreement to improve the situation for Germans in the Soviet Union by allowing German to be taught and spoken in schools, support German culture centers, theatres etc. Still, these late improvement cold not break the flow of German migrants.

Jews were in a very particular situation in the Soviet Union. First, the Jewish victims of the Holocaust and the German occupation were not recognized as victims of persecution due to their religion but as victims of the Soviet people like everyone else. Then by the Soviet law, Judaism was not recognized as a religion but as a nationality and was therefore marked in their passports which made a classification easier. Due to the inadequate view on the connection of German occupation and genocide on the Jews, no regeneration could happen and the Jews lived in the same Anti-Semite surrounding as before the World War.

2.1.2. Numbers and statistics

Between 1951 and 1988 1.6 million people managed despite the iron curtain to immigrate to the west, most of them due the controversial “financial exchange”͘ The Federal Republic paid western currency in exchange for the Spätaussiedler, it was basically human trafficking. About 10,000 DM were paid for instance to the Romanian government in order to give ethnic German the permission to migrate.2 This habit was tolerated and even supported by the western states, it was regarded as a humanitarian duty; the west was the good after all.

Between the years 1991 and 2004, a total of 1.895 million Spätaussiedler entered Germany (not only from the Soviet Union); within the same time frame about 220 thousand Soviet Jews immigrated. Every year approximately 15.000 Jews arrived while the yearly amount of immigrating ethnic German diversifies remarkable: from 1991 to 1994 rose the number from about 150,000 to a peak of 220,000 and falls down to about 60,000 in 2004 which must have been caused by the changing of immigration law that brought the act to get the Germans ‘home to Germany’ to an end Not every immigrating Jew stayed in Germany, some went back after years, others went on to join their family in the U.S., Israel or elsewhere. By 2005, about 113,000 Jews of foreign origin still lived in Germany, their vast majority (111,000) was from the former Soviet Union. Another reason why the registered amount of Jewish immigrants counts only half of the immigrants as mentioned above is, that some of them had been nationalized and do not appear in the statistics anymore. A part from that, Jewish immigrants are kept in the statistics as regular foreigners, not specifically Jewish which is then the reason for a lack of statistical findings.3

About the refugees’ age: a quarter of applicants were 65 years and older, 12% less 18 years old and 65% between 18 and 65. bout the Spätaussiedlers’ age: only about 10% was older than 65 years, 23% under age and 67% between 18 and 65 years old.

Concerning the Spätaussiedler it is assumed that the vast majority remains in Germany although their German passport would allow them to settle in any other country within the European Union without further legal process. The numbers or these immigrants are constantly sinking as there were only 4.362 in total in the year 2008. One of the reasons might be that almost all of the ethnic Germans are in fact in their ‘home country’ by now or at least those who wanted to live as Germans among Germans. Another reason might be that the Russian government agreed to improve with support of the European Union the living condition of ethnic Germans in Russia actively by fostering German culture. This fostering includes teaching the German language in public schools as well as projects like German theatre performances and others.4 The climax of the immigrant flow was though in the year 1990, when almost 400,000 ethnic Germans entered the Federal Republic.

2.1.3. The situation - reasons to leave the Soviet Union, reasons to go to Germany

As minorities, none of these groups were sufficiently integrated into the Soviet society. Classified as ‘others’ they were cut out of major concerns of their country. They were discriminated and in worse cases persecuted. The fact that Jews were not regarded as Soviets created suspicion. There were no Jews in the Soviet Central Committee, it was almost impossible for Soviet Jews to join the party at all. The mistrust was justified insofar that Jews might leave to go to Israel at some point and could then give information to the enemy, the West. Also there were general Anti-Semite stereotypes about Jews as an ethnic minority.


1 Meier-Braun, Karl-Heinz: Deutschland, Einwanderungslnd, Frankfurt/Main 2002, p.148. 5

2 Heller: Migration, Segregation und Integration von Aussiedlern, p. 85.

3 juedische-zuwanderer,templateId=raw,property=publicationFile.pdf/wp3-juedische-zuwanderer.pdfjuedische- zuwanderer,templateId=raw,property=publicationFile.pdf/wp3-juedische-zuwanderer.pdf, 31.05.2010, 14:00h

4 ationsberichte/migrationsbericht-2008,templateId=raw,property=publicationFile.pdf/migrationsbericht- 2008.pdf, 25.05.2010, 23:00h.

Excerpt out of 24 pages


Immigrants from the Soviet Union to Germany
German late settlers and Jewish migrants and their integration
Leiden University  (Historisches Institut)
Migration and integration
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
942 KB
Spaetaussiedler, Migration, Integration, Berlin, Juden, Sowjetunion, Russen, Wiedervereinigung, Volksdeutsche, Kriegsfolgenbereinigungsgesetz, Bundesvertriebenengesetz
Quote paper
Katharina Hoffmann (Author), 2010, Immigrants from the Soviet Union to Germany, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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