A migrant's tale of 250 years of German integration

Wed Dec 1, 2010 7:30am EST
 
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By Dave Graham

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - Percy MacLean can call on 250 years of experience to weigh up how immigrants integrate in Germany. Since his Scottish ancestor arrived in 1753, the family has produced mayors, members of parliament and even a Nazi.

Today, the 63-year-old MacLean, a chief judge in Berlin's administrative court, says Germany risks losing the openness that allowed his family to flourish for generations because of a divisive national debate over the integration of Muslims.

In an interview with Reuters, MacLean said tendentious arguments now being aired publicly contained the seeds of what could spawn the kind of right-wing populism and xenophobia Germany witnessed in the run-up to the Holocaust.

Muslims have been in the media spotlight since central banker Thilo Sarrazin stirred up a row this autumn by asserting Turkish and Arab families were dumbing down Germany, swamping it with a higher birth rate and threatening the indigenous culture.

"Things can get very explosive once you start mentioning genes and intelligence," MacLean said. "Talking down to them is totally wrong. We are the ones who invited them over here."

"Sarrazin has opened fire on these people in a way that marginalizes them, fuels prejudice, and worst of all, gets into genetics which creates people of first, second and third class."

Sarrazin later lost his job at the Bundesbank, but the book he wrote at the center of the row, "Deutschland schafft sich ab" (Germany does away with itself), became a record-breaking bestseller.

"That just goes to show how dangerous the subject has already become," said MacLean, who between 2002-2003 served as the inaugural director of the German Institute for Human Rights.   Continued...

 
<p>Percy MacLean, a chief judge in Berlin's administrative court, poses for a photograph at his office in Berlin November 25, 2010. MacLean can call on 250 years of experience to weigh up how immigrants integrate in Germany. Since his Scottish ancestor arrived in 1753, the family has produced mayors, members of parliament and even a Nazi. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz</p>