Home 9 Blog 9 The Germans as the great immigrants in Europe

Anyone walking through the streets of (large) German cities will have noticed how ethnically diverse the country is. According to the Central Register of Foreigners (AZR), around 11.4 million people were registered in the AZR in 2020. The website of the Federal Agency for Civic Education presented data showing that 26% of the German population has a migration background, of which 52.4% are Germans and 47.6% are first-generation migrants.
But if we look back into German history, we see that the situation was reversed a few years ago. In interwar Europe, Germans were the continent's great migrants. Historian Mark Mazower points out that in 1930, out of 36 million members of ethnic minorities in Eastern Europe, between 8 and 9 were Germans. Thone Ulf tells us that of the 31 European states in the post-World War I period, 21 had a German ethnic minority.
To explain this scenario, we must first understand the context of Europe after the end of the war. The Treaty of Versailles, which was responsible for ending the war, hit Germany particularly hard, as it imposed significant territorial losses on the country, in addition to some financial reparations and the blame for the conflict, and with the loss of these territories, the population was consequently deprived of German citizenship.
These territories were granted to other states; the Memel region was incorporated into Lithuania, the territory of Hulchin was incorporated into Czechoslovakia, Alsace and Lorraine were returned to France (this had been under German control since 1871, at unification), the French also took control of the Saar. Danzig, whose population was 96.5% German, also left the tutelage of the new German Republic and was given the status of a "free city" and even placed under the High Commissioner of the League of Nations. We can see the territorial losses on the map below.

 

Foto: © US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

We also have the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, which is responsible for the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and the creation of Austria. Both Germany and the newly formed Austrian nation claimed the unification of the two states. The claim was based on the fact that the vast majority of the "Austrian" population was German. But the request was not granted by the victorious nations.
The dissolution of the Austrian Empire also entailed territorial/population losses. Yugoslavia retained the regions of Styria and Carinthia, Bukovina was granted to Romania, the Germans of Bohemia, Moravia and Austrian Silesia were incorporated into Czechoslovakia, and in the southern region the territories of Tyrol, Trentino and Istria were granted to Italy (the latter two actually had an ethnic Italian majority, but Tyrol had a population of 86% Germans).
We can now understand why the ethnic German population was so prevalent in Europe in the early 1920s. Of course, such a situation would cause several conflicts a few years later, culminating in the outbreak of World War II. But this topic will be addressed in a later article. Here we can note that the European continent has always been a great amalgam of different nationalities coexisting peacefully or not at different moments of its history
 

Autorin: Bruna Doimo und  Marcela  Oliveira

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