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My friend A. once said to me, ‘My parents can’t help being terrible people.’ Her words come back to me now as I look at the September 2018 ‘integration barometer’, a nationwide survey conducted every two years to gauge the ‘integration climate’ in Germany. A quick glance at this year’s survey reveals who is most likely to agree with the statement, ‘Refugees lead to increased levels of crime’. We are. Or rather, our parents. In no other section of the population are the approval ratings of the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) higher than among ‘ethnic German resettlers’.

People like A. and me were brought to Germany as children in the 1990s, somewhere between toddlerhood and adolescence. When questioned by our teachers, we said we were Volga Germans, German Russians, Russians, Ukrainians, Jews. (Back then, of course, we used the masculine forms; we hadn’t even heard of gender-neutral language.) Our teachers preferred to call us ‘quota refugees’ or ‘ethnic resettlers’. The other kids on the playground called us ‘quoties’.

We are not a homogeneous group, but we have one thing in common: our parents risked starting over in a new country in the hope of giving us a better life. They were as old then as we are now. We were children; we had no idea what was going on.


Trying to understand our parents

Now that we’re grown up, we try to understand how much our parents sacrificed for us back then. We see that they don’t feel at home in the place where they planned a future for us, and so we forgive them the bigoted remarks they make when we go to visit them. We know they come from regimes where it is common practice to call non-white people by animal names—regimes where a large part of the population believes that society needs a strong man to lead it and that feminism is a disease, like homosexuality (and other Western aberrations, such as gender-neutral language).

Our parents continue to consume news from their countries of origin and this news tells them what is going on in the country where they are now living. A few years ago, some of us discovered that our parents had been on the ‘Merkel must go’ marches. We were ashamed. We looked the other way. We tried to defend them, saying that they’d had trouble settling in Germany, that the country was too harsh on them.

To keep the family peace, we looked for excuses for their constant grumbling about refugees, their insistence that the wrong people were being looked after. To avoid having to confront our parents, we even agreed with them sometimes—though not in the bars and beds where we met to celebrate our ‘Western liberal’ lives: being able to fuck whoever we wanted, vote whichever way we liked. We tried not to talk about our parents because we didn’t think them relevant. What difference could they make? They were the first generation; we were the ones who were going to decide Germany’s future. How wrong we were.


There are more than two million of us

Our parents have German passports. Our parents vote. A few months ago, we persuaded ourselves that the story about Jews in the AfD was a spoof by the satirical magazine Titanic—though we knew that plenty of our parents wouldn’t baulk at voting for a fascist-leaning group. We stand and look on as they give their votes to alt-right parties that want to establish the same illiberal conditions they were so desperate to preserve us from. Our parents no longer march in twos and threes in straggling demonstrations; there are more than two million of us.

We are implicated in the rise of far-right parties and that means that it’s in our power to change things. Politics isn’t something that simply happens to you. We don’t have to look on apathetically as the AfD becomes the second strongest power in the country. This isn’t historical fiction on Netflix.

The prognoses are real; the next elections are approaching and the results are going to reflect on us. Not just on us ‘quoties’, but on those who used to call us that on the playground. But we can only influence those we love. We must take our parents in hand. We must argue with them.


Source: Ethnic German Resettlers and the AfD | Tageszeitung, October 2018 / taz.de

Tr. Imogen Taylor