Immigration > Germany
Immigration to Germany
Ethnic German Repatriates
A special group of immigrants to Germany is the "late repatriates", ethnic Germans from the former Soviet Union and Eastern bloc countries.
As a result of World War II, ethnic Germans in these areas faced persecution and serious discrimination for decades after the war's end. Persons who continue to face such discrimination today, along with family members who are not ethnic Germans, are eligible to relocate to Germany under special rules. By law, they acquire German citizenship when issued a repatriates certificate. Up to 31 December 1992, it was assumed that all ethnic Germans living in these areas had personally suffered discrimination due to their ethnicity. The same still applies to applicants from the territory of the former Soviet Union. All other applicants must demonstrate evidence of individual discrimination.
Germany took in more than 12 million expellees and other persons between 1945 and 1950. From 1950 to 1984, an average of 36,000 repatriates of German ancestry resettled in the Federal Republic each year from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
In 1987-88 this immigration started swelling; in 1988, the number of ethnic Germans moving to Germany rose to 203,000, and in 1990, the number was nearly 400,000. From 1987 to 1999, Germany took in a total of 2.7 million ethnic German repatriates from the territory of the Soviet Union. Starting in 2000, the annual figures sank to well under 100,000 and have now returned to their 1984 level.
Since the mid-1990s, the number of ethnic Germans arriving under this programme has shrunk steadily relative to that of their non-ethnic German spouses, children or other eligible family members (currently only about 20% annually). As a result, the proportion of "late repatriates" who do not speak German has grown. Their lack of German language skills has made it more difficult for members of this group to become integrated in Germany, which in turn has increased social concerns and reduced public acceptance for taking in additional ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
Following recommendations of the Independent Commission on Migration to Germany, effective 1 January 2005, non-ethnic German spouses and children must demonstrate a basic knowledge of German.
- Aussiedlerbeauftragten der Bundesregierung (English)
- Oltmer, Jochen. "'The Unspoilt Nature of German Ethnicity': Immigration and Integration of 'Ethnic Germans' in the German Empire and the Weimar Republic." Nationalities Papers 34:4 (September 2006): 429-446.
Last updated 24 May 2009.