In defense of Kreuzberg

A Muslim woman wearing a headscarf walks past a Turkish grocery store in the immigrant-heavy district of Kreuzberg on September 21, 2010 in Berlin, Germany. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Last Wednesday, I was listening to a discussion on KCRW’s To The Point about German chancellor Merkel’s announcement that integration has failed in her country. This comment, of course, was spawned from the brouhaha concerning Thilo Sarrazin’s book (Deutschland Schafft Sich Ab, which directly translated means “Germany abolishes itself”), which claims that immigrants have lower IQs and are dragging Germany down culturally and economically. At first Merkel spoke out against the book, but then she flip-flopped and now says the book has a point. Huh? Why is it when the economy goes down the toilet, people like to blame the foreigners?

My ears especially perked up when two of the guests on To The Point referred to Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighborhood as a “Turkish ghetto” that’s living proof immigrants have not assimilated into German society. They described it as a place where a family of six lives in a 2-room apartment, and street signs are in Turkish and Arabic. It’s “not an upwardly mobile environment,” one of them said!

I lived in Kreuzberg back in the 90s, and this area holds a very dear place in my heart. In fact, at the time it was the only neighborhood in Berlin where I truly felt at home, so I was a bit offended when they referred to it as a “ghetto.” In fact, in my opinion Kreuzberg is actually living proof that integration has succeeded in Germany. Kreuzberg is feisty and rebellious; however, the anti-establishment Germans and the more conservative Turks live side by side. These academics on KCRW look at Kreuzberg and see shabby buildings and lots of graffiti and maybe some trash here and there, but what they don’t understand is that Germans and Turks have lived together in this neighborhood for decades. It’s a place where Germans with purple hair stand next to women in burqas on the subway platform. In other words, the Germans in Kreuzberg don’t necessarily want to assimilate into mainstream German society either.

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~ by Valerie Palmer on October 26, 2010.

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