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  • Konrad Werner: The Ministry For Being More German


Konrad Werner: The Ministry For Being More German

Feeling homesick? Can't work out what's happening in Tatort? Don't worry, Berlin has a new integration commissioner. She's here for you.

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Lorelei by Johann Köler

If you are reading this you may very well not be German, but are living in Germany. But before you fall to brooding upon your fate, you might like to know that the Berlin government, like the federal German one, has a designated “integration commissioner”.

She, for it is a she, is here to help. You. How? Does she explain the meaning and purpose of the Anmeldung ritual? Does she provide translators at the Ausländerbehörde? Does she point out which is the best €1.49 wine in Lidl? Does she provide weekly annotations to the plot of Tatort? Does she let you open your presents on Christmas Eve? Does she stroke you behind your ears, popping morsels of chocolate-covered gingerbread into your mouth while softly singing the lament of the Rhine maidens that shipwrecked the sailors on the Loreley?

Sadly, no. According to the official Berlin government website, Monika Lüke, newly appointed this month, is there to “formulate the basic questions of immigrant and integration policy of the Berlin senate, and to coordinate these with other state departments.” Wait! That’s not all! “Another important task is the analysis and the conception of measures to dismantle integration inhibitions in the legal, administrative and social spheres.” I think I’d prefer the Rhine maidens thing.

Indeed, the special integration tsar’s new tenure did not get off to a good start at all this month, since 13 of the 14 elected immigrant community representatives on the selection committee boycotted the meeting where she was introduced. This was because Berlin’s integration senator (let’s not start on what she does), Dilek Kolat, decided to cut a few corners and name Lüke as the candidate she wanted. The furious, slighted immigrant representatives condemned the whole ceremony as a “farce”.

The opposition parties also lined up to get their boot in at poor old Kolat, criticizing the senator for reducing the importance of the commissioner’s job, and concluding that Berlin effectively “no longer has an integration commissioner”, as the Green Party “participation” spokeswoman Susanne Kahlefeld said. But then, given that since the job was set up in 1981, all of Berlin’s integration commissioners – that’s three of them now – have been white German academics with no immigrant background, no one is likely to notice anyway. That’s not Lüke’s fault, because “integration” is about as useful a concept as “cheesey-peas”. What does it mean? Being more German? In which case, Mrs. Lüke, on behalf of all immigrants in Berlin, point us towards the best cheap booze and sing to us legends of the Rhine. Or leave us alone.