Recruitment Ban in West Germany

1973

Germany

Labor & Economy Migrations

In the face of an impending economic crisis, the German federal government ends the active recruitment of foreign guest workers in January of 1973. The number of so-called guest workers (“Gastarbeiter*innen“) and their relatives had reached about four million. As a consequence, the Federal Republic “accidentally” became what official politics sought to prevent: an immigration country.

Because of the unfolding oil and economic crisis, which marked the end of the economic growth since the 1950s (the so-called “Wirtschaftswunder”), on January 23, 1973 the German Federal government ends the recruitment of workers from countries that are not part of the European Economic Community at this point. Legal immigration becomes possible primarily through family reunification and applications for asylum. About 500,000 return to their countries of origin between 1973 and 1975.

At the same time, a debate about the alleged flood of foreigners takes place in the media, which openly targets guest workers and immigrants and casts them as threats. The title of the weekly news magazine DER SPIEGEL from July 30, 1973, for instance, warns about “Ghettos in Germany – One Million Turks” (“Gettos in Deutschland – Eine Million Türken“), and the related article uses phrases like “The Turks are coming, run for your lives” and “Turkish Colonies.”

A few months earlier, in November of 1972, the decree to lift the prohibition to return for ethnic Germans was passed, which sparks immigration to the Federal Republic of Germany. Following this resolution, an increased wave of emigration from Soviet states begins in 1973. The group of emigrants who are presumed to be more similar to the imagined “German ethnic community,” receive immigration privileges and, at least on paper, are granted the status of desirable immigrants.