The following essay by JLH was occasioned by his translation of the previous post.
What is Citizenship?
According to the Federal Statistical Office a person has immigration background if that person or at least one parent was not born a German citizen. The definition comprises the following individuals: 1) foreigners, whether immigrants or not; 2) naturalized citizens, whether immigrants or not; 3) (recent) ethnic re-settlers; and 4) progeny of the first three groups born with German citizenship.
I have been reading the phrase “German with immigration background” defined above, and not really understanding it. It is a way of looking at your citizens that is — pun intended — quite foreign to me. I did realize that “pure French” or “pure German” etc. meant something different to the citizens of an ethnically homogeneous country. But I did not understand how closely it was possible to examine that ethnicity. Some thoughtful Germans have been advocating a revision of the categories described above.
Germans have for some time been reacting to Muslim and other immigrants to their country, who have coined phrases for the resident population such “Scheissdeutsche” (S*** Germans). Unlike the French, Dutch, Swedes, et alii, they are also asked by their neighbors and their own self-appointed consciences to remember that they deserve this, because of what their parents and grandparents did or did not do.
I do not and never have denied the Holocaust. How could I? I was one of the children who got money for a ticket to the Saturday morning cartoon show at the local theater. In those days, you never got to see anything — cartoons, feature film, etc., without first seeing the News of the Day. And the news never ran in those days without a new clip on the liberated death camps.
And since I first heard of it through things like Franz Werfel’s gripping novel The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, I have never doubted or denied the Armenian Genocide. There are many terrible massacres in history, but these two are alive for me, because I have had friends and acquaintances who are the children of those who survived.
Knowing these things does not oblige me to hate Germans or Turks. My Jewish friends have taught me that much. I also do not hate the English because of my wife’s Scots and Irish Gaelic ancestry. I do reserve the right to be indignant at and even contemptuous of the modern-day deniers of Ataturk’s reforms or Churchill’s egalitarianism.
Being an American “of a certain age,” I grew up with the conviction that the Founding Fathers were heroes, the Constitution was a new way to look at the rule of law, and our prosperity came largely from our desire to work — and think — for ourselves.
Those who truly despise freedom of thought and speech have been hard at work to undo those “illusions” of mine. And seeing the tortuous attempts of German statisticians to come to grips with what it means and implies to be “German,” I ask myself, What is it that makes an American? Ethnicity? Don’t make me laugh!