Immigration: A small town in Hesse shows how integration can be successful

This article is an acquisition from Capital, Capital's premium digital offering.

Immigration: A small town in Hesse shows how integration can be successful

This article is an acquisition from Capital, Capital's premium digital offering. For you as a stern PLUS subscriber, it is available exclusively here for ten days. It will then be available again exclusively for Capital subscribers at www.capital.de/plus. Like stern, the business magazine Capital belongs to RTL Deutschland.

The man who, half a century ago, gathered all his courage and set out on a 3,000-kilometer journey to a foreign country to seek his fortune, pulls a yellowed postcard out of his pocket.

Everything on it looks like it does in reality: the red gable roofs, the railway tracks, the factory buildings, the high-rise buildings. But it is a model. He sawed, filed and painted meticulously. Until everything was right, every building and every street was in the right place. The postcard shows a miniature of the city where Güner Özbalkan began his new life. One and a half square meters of new home made of plywood, he spent two years working on it. "Stadtallendorf'dan selamlar" is written in one corner of the map, the other is decorated with the Turkish flag. “I almost always carry them with me,” says Özbalkan. There is also a German version with "Greetings from Stadtallendorf" and the city coat of arms.

One might think that Özbalkan had created a monument to Stadtallendorf with his model. In fact, it is more likely that he has done away with the city, and perhaps the entire country. In fact, he still does to this day.

Güner Özbalkan is 78 years old. In 1969, when he got off the train at a small train station after three days of travel to work in an iron foundry, he was one of the first Turkish guest workers to come to the city. Countless other people followed, first from Turkey, Italy and Greece, later from many other countries, from Russia and Poland, for example, from Syria and Ukraine. Today people from 84 nations live here. There are three mosques, four churches and an Alevi community center. Stadtallendorf is multicultural in Central Hesse.

Stories that tell of immigration usually take place in big cities, in symbolically charged places like Duisburg-Marxloh or Berlin-Neukölln. It's often about clan crime, disoriented young people or parallel societies. The story from Stadtallendorf is different. It's about advancement through education, the integrating power of employment, but also about discrimination and disappointed hopes.

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