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Motivserie "Migrationsgeschichte in Bildern"

Motif series "Migration history in images"

Recruiting “guest workers” ("Gastarbeiter")

“Guest workers” ("Gastarbeiter") – this problematic term was used to designate foreign workers who were only supposed to work in Germany for a short time. In the German Liaison Office in Istanbul, these boards advertised job seekers. DOMiD was able to personally retrieve these objects, which are relevant in many respects, from the Istanbul liaison office, thus saving important testimonies of German migration history from being forgotten.

From uncontrolled to controlled migration

Photo: DOMiD-Archive, Cologne

In the German Liaison Office in Istanbul, these boards have been campaigning for workers since the recruitment agreement between the Federal Republic and Turkey in 1961. For example, "lathe operators", "milling cutters" and "spoolers" were wanted or, as on these signs, "factory workers" and "packers". Photo: DOMiD archive, Cologne

With the aim of closing gaps in the German labor market at short notice, the German government began to recruit workers from neighboring countries of the Mediterranean (and in 1963 also from South Korea) with the German-Italian recruitment agreement ("Anwerbeabkommen") in 1955. Workers had previously come from abroad, but the bilateral agreements now enabled the West German government to exercise a certain degree of control and recruitment on a larger scale. The Federal Republic concluded the contract with Turkey in 1961. A German Liaison Office has been set up in Istanbul to select coordinated migrant workers. In addition to the respective job titles, the advertising boards posted there also contained the current number of workers required for the various professions. It is interesting that many of the professions described at the time no longer exist today.

The "guest worker" ("Gastarbeiter") is born

The employment contracts that the migrant workers received at the liaison office in Istanbul provided for a contractual commitment of only one year. Following the so-called rotation principle, the workers should then be exchanged for other workers: the "guest workers" were born, and among them numerous women, who are often not mentioned in the historiography. The problematic term is still frequently used in everyday language for the former migrant workers. The continued existence of the term refers to a still existing exclusion of immigrants and their descendants who had previously immigrated as labor migrants.

Photo: DOMiD-Archive, Cologne

Typewriter of the pediatrician and radiologist Dr. Sukil Lee, on whom he wrote all correspondence for the recruitment of Korean nurses in the 1960s. Photo: DOMiD Archive, Cologne, E 1359.0046

Control migration

Photo: DOMiD Archive, Cologne, E 1382.2237, E 1382.2238

Telegrams from Dengin K. to Süheyla K., 1971. Süheyla K. also tried to bring her husband to Germany by name. In a first telegram from May 27th, 1971, he confirmed that the request had been received. In the second, he declares that he has “passed” - he has passed the health check-up and can leave Turkey the following Saturday. DOMiD Archive, Cologne, E 1382.2237, E 1382.2238

The recruitment process was fraught with hurdles: once foreign workers applied, they first had to undergo a strict health check. In addition, the German Federal Employment Service meticulously checked, on a case-by-case basis, whether there might be suitable German candidates for the respective recruitment concerns of a company (“national resident”). If this was the case, they were preferred as workers. Otherwise, the companies could choose from which country they wanted to recruit the required male or female workers.

Migration thus becomes an aspect that can be controlled and regulated.

The regime of "guest work" in Germany led to a "stratification" of the world of work. While the migrant workers took over the unpopular and poorly paid work in heavy industry, road or underground construction, the German employees rose to foremen by virtue of an “elevator effect”. Inequalities have been reinforced. Solidarity and a common commitment to better employment relationships were hardly possible.

Research suggestion

In addition to the "Eis-Boy", the DOMiD collection also includes interviews by Marina Galeazzi (E 1507.0043), whose grandparents ran the ice cream parlor, and an interview with a former visitor (E 1507.0042) to the ice cream parlor. Both interviews are permanently available in the Virtual Migration Museum.

Order and legal notice

This and all other motifs from our series "Migration history in pictures" are available as postcards from us at the DOMiD office. You are welcome to pick them up or order them at: presse@domid.org. We would be happy to send you a set free of charge. In our anniversary year 2020 (30 years of DOMiD), a total of twelve motifs with stories from our collection will be created. Update: Unfortunately out of stock!

DOMiD has endeavored to find and contact all rights holders regarding the motifs. If this is not successful in one case, we ask potential rights holders to contact us.

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