Turks in Germany

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Turks in Germany
Almanya'daki Türkler
A celebration of "Türkischen Tag"/"Türkgünü" (Turkish Day) near the Brandenburg Gate, located in Germany's capital city of Berlin.
Total population

(Official data:
The German census does not collect data on ethnicity. There are 1.55 million Turkish citizens (2013) and 2.71 million German residents have at least one parent from Turkey (2011 census).[1]

Academic estimates:
"Full or partial Turkish origin":
Estimates have varied between 2.5 million to 4 million[2][3] However, since the first decade of the twenty-first century, numerous academics suggest that there are 4 million or "at least" or "more than" 4 million people of Turkish origin[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13]
or 5% of Germany's 82 million inhabitants (accounting to 4.1 million)[11][13]

"Turkey-related population":
(including Kurds etc. but excluding the significant ethnic Turkish communities from the Balkans, Cyprus, and the Arab World):
5 million or "reaching" or "more than" 5 million[14][15][16] to 5.6 million[17]

 Turkey ("return"-migration from Germany to Turkey):
Official data: 2.8 million[18]
Estimates: 4 million (German Embassy in Ankara est.)[18])
Regions with significant populations
North Rhine-Westphalia · Stuttgart · Munich · Berlin · Frankfurt · Hanover · Nuremberg
German language, Turkish language [19]

Predominantly Islam

(Sunni · Alevi)

Turks in Germany, also referred to as German Turks and Turkish Germans, (German: Türken in Deutschland or Deutsch-Türken; Turkish: Almanya'da yaşayan Türkler, Almanya Türkleri) refers to ethnic Turkish people living in Germany. These terms are also used to refer to German-born individuals who are of full or partial Turkish ancestry. Whilst the majority of Turks arrived or originate from Turkey, there are also significant ethnic Turkish communities living in Germany who come from (or descend from) the Balkans (such as Bulgaria, Greece, the Republic of Macedonia, and Romania), Cyprus, and more recently as refugees from Lebanon, Iraq and Syria. The Turkish people form the largest ethnic minority in Germany.[20][21][22] Moreover, they form the second largest Turkish population in world, after Turkey.


Ottoman Turkish migration[edit]

Once the Ottoman army retreated from their unsuccessful campaign at the Battle of Vienna in 1683, many soldiers and camp followers that were left behind were made prisoners and forcibly settled in Germany.
Fatima was a Turkish captive who became the mistress of Augustus II the Strong. Her son, Frederick Augustus Rutowsky, became the commander of the Saxon army during the Siege of Pirna.

The Turkish people have been in contact with the German states since the sixteenth century when the Ottoman Empire attempted to expand their territories beyond the north Balkan territories. The Ottoman Turks held two sieges in Vienna: the first Siege of Vienna in 1529 and the Second Siege of Vienna in 1683. In particular, it was the aftermath of the second siege which provided the circumstances for a Turkish community to permanently settle in Germany.[23][24]

Many Ottoman soldiers and camp followers who were left behind after the second siege of Vienna became stragglers or prisoners. It is estimated that at least 500 Turkish prisoners were forcibly settled in Germany.[25] Historical records show that some Turks became traders or took up other professions, particularly in southern Germany. Indeed, some Turks fared very well in Germany; for example, one Ottoman Turk is recorded to have been raised to the Hanoverian nobility.[24] Historical records also show that many Ottoman Turks converted to Christianity and became priests or pastors.[24]

The aftermath of the second siege of Vienna led to a series of wars between the Ottoman Empire and the Holy League, known as the "Great Turkish War", or the "War of the Holy League", which led to a series of Ottoman defeats. Consequently, more Turks were taken by the Europeans as prisoners. Indeed, the Turkish captives taken to Germany were not solely made up of men. For example, General Schöning took "two of the most beautiful women in the world" in Buda who later converted to Christianity.[26] Another Turkish captive named Fatima became the mistress of Augustus II the Strong, Elector of Saxony of the Albertine line of the House of Wettin. Fatima and Augustus had two children: their son, Frederick Augustus Rutowsky, became the commander of the Saxon army in 1754-63[26] whilst their daughter, Maria Anna Katharina Rutowska, married into Polish nobility. Records show that at this point it was not uncommon for Turks in Germany to convert to Christianity. For example, records show that 28 Turks converted to Christianity and were settled in Württemberg.[26]

The Mosque-style Yenidze tobacco factory in Dresden is a symbolic reminder of the trading relations between the Ottomans and the Prussians. It was named after the importing tabacco region of Ottoman Yenidze in Western Thrace (now part of modern-Greece).

With the establishment of the Kingdom of Prussia in 1701, Turkish people continued to enter the German lands as soldiers employed by the Prussian kings.[23] Historical records show that this was particularly evident with the expansion of Prussia in the mid-18th century. For example, in 1731, the Duke of Kurland presented twenty Turkish guardsmen to King Frederick William I, and at one time, about 1,000 Muslim soldiers are said to have served in the Prussian cavalry.[24] The Prussian king’s fascination with the enlightenment was reflected in their consideration for the religious concerns of their Muslim troops. By 1740 Frederick the Great stated that:

Berlin's Turkish cemetery alongside an Ottoman style mosque, which was built in 1863.

"All religions are just as good as each other, as long as the people who practice them are honest, and even if Turks and heathens came and wanted to populate this country, then we would build mosques and temples for them".[27]

By 1763 an Ottoman legation existed at the Prussian court in Berlin. Its third envoy, Ali Aziz Efendi, died in 1798 which led to the establishment of the first Muslim cemetery in Germany.[28] However, several decades later, there was a need for another cemetery, as well as a mosque, and the Ottoman sultan Abdülaziz I was given permission to patronize a mosque in Berlin in 1866.[23][24]

Once trading treaties were established between the Ottomans and the Prussians in the nineteenth century, Turks and Germans were encouraged to crossover to each others lands for trade.[29] Consequently, the Turkish community in Germany, and particularly in Berlin, grew significantly (as did a German community in Istanbul) in the years before the First World War.[24] These contacts influenced the building of various Turkish-style structures in Germany, such as the Yenidze cigarette factory in Dresden and the pumping-station in Potsdam.

Mainland Turkish migration[edit]

A Turkish woman working in a market in Berlin.
German Turks holding the flag of Turkey in Kiel.

In the mid-twentieth century West Germany experienced the Wirtschaftswunder ("economic miracle"); however, the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 exacerbated West Germany’s labour crisis by restricting the flow of immigrants from East Germany. Consequently, in the same year, the West German government signed a labour recruitment agreement with the Republic of Turkey on October 30, 1961, and officially invited the Turkish people to emigrate to the country. By 1961-62 German employers played a crucial role in pressuring the State to end the two-year limitation clause of the "Gastarbeiter" ("guest worker") agreement so that Turkish workers could stay in West Germany for longer.[30]

Most Turkish people who immigrated to West Germany intended to live there temporarily and then return to Turkey so that they could build a new life with the money they had earned. Indeed, return-migration had increased during the recession of 1966-1967, the 1973 oil crisis, followed by the policy of giving remigration bonuses in the early 1980s.[31] However, the number of Turkish migrants who returned to Turkey ultimately remained relatively small compared to the number of Turkish immigrants arriving in Germany.[32] This was partly due to the family reunification rights that were introduced in 1974 which allowed Turkish workers to bring their families to Germany.[33] Consequently, between 1974–88 the number of Turks in Germany nearly doubled, acquiring a normalised sex ratio and a much younger age profile than the German population.[34] Moreover, once the recruitment of foreigner workers was reintroduced after the recession of 1967, the BfA (Bundesversicherungsanstalt für Angestellte) granted most work visas to women. This was in part because labour shortages continued in low paying, low-status service jobs such as electronics, textiles, and garment work; and in part to further the goal of family reunification.[35]

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the reunification of East and West Germany, was followed by intense public debate around the articulations of national identity and citizenship, including the place of Germany’s Turkish minority in the future of a united Germany. These debates about citizenship were accompanied by expressions of xenophobia and ethnic violence that targeted the Turkish population.[36] Anti-immigrant sentiment was especially strong in the former eastern states of Germany, which underwent profound social and economic transformations during the reunification process. Turkish communities experienced considerable fear for their safety throughout Germany, with some 1,500 reported cases of right wing violence, and 2,200 cases the year after.[37] The political rhetoric calling for foreigner-free zones (Ausländer-freie Zonen) and the rise of neo-Nazi groups sharpened public awareness of integration issues and generated intensified support among liberal Germans for the competing idea of Germany as a "multicultural" society. Citizenship laws that established eligibility according to place of birth rather than according to descent have been slow in coming and restrictions on dual citizenship are still onerous. However, increasing numbers of second-generation Turks have opted for German citizenship and are becoming more involved in the political process.[38]

The official number of Turks with Turkish citizenship in Germany is falling, partly because about 30-70,000 are taking on German citizenship per year (with a downward trend, however[39]), and since the year 2000, children born in Germany are entitled to adopt German citizenship if at least one parent has lived for eight years in Germany and has a perpetual residence permit.[40][41] In 2005, there were 840,000 German citizens of Turkish origin.[42]

Turkish migration from the Balkans[edit]


Initially, some Bulgarian Turks arrived in Germany during the introduction of the family reunification laws of 1974. The Bulgarian Turks were able to take advantage of this law despite the very small number of Bulgarian citizens in Germany. This is because some Turkish workers in Germany who arrived from Turkey were actually part of the Bulgarian-Turkish minority who had left Bulgaria during the communist regime during the 1980s and still held Bulgarian citizenship, alongside their Turkish citizenship.[43]

The migration of Bulgarian Turks to Germany increased further once communism in Bulgaria came to an end in 1989. Bulgarian Turks who were unable to join the massive migration wave to Turkey in 1989, during "big excursion", were faced with severe economic disadvantages and faced discrimination through State policies of Bulgarisation. Hence, from the early 1990s onwards many Bulgarian Turks sought asylum in Germany.[44][45] Their numbers in Germany have significantly increased since Bulgaria was admitted into the European Union, which has allowed many Bulgarian Turks to use the freedom of movement to enter Germany. The Bulgarian Turks have generally been attracted to Germany because they rely on the well-established German-Turkish community for gaining employment.[46]

According to the National Statistical Institute of Bulgaria, in general, Bulgarian citizens of Turkish origin living abroad make up makeup 12% of short term migration, 13% of long term migration, and 12% of the labour migration.[47] However, Bulgarian citizens of Turkish origin often make up entire majorities in some countries in Europe.[48] For example, in the Netherlands Bulgarian Turks make up about 80% of Bulgarian citizens.[49] Moreover, academics have pointed out that most Bulgarian Turks who migrate to Europe choose to live in Germany and that they outnumber those living in the Netherlands.[46]


From the 1950s onwards, the Turkish minority of Greece, particularly the Turks of Western Thrace, began to immigrate to Germany alongside other Greek citizens.[50] Whilst many Turks had intended to return to Greece after working for a number of years, a new Greek law was introduced which effectively forced the minority to remain in Germany. Article 19 of the 1955 Greek Constitution essentially stripped off the Western Thrace Turks living abroad (particularly those in Germany and Turkey) of their Greek citizenship.[51] According to Article 19 of the Greek Constitution "A person of non-Greek ethnic origin leaving Greece without the intention of returning may be declared as having lost Greek nationality". Indeed, many Western Thrace Turks who did intend on returning back to Greece were discriminated against and were refused the right to a hearing. Estimates of the number of Western Thrace Turks who lost their citizenship range between several hundred to several thousand.[51]

The migration of Western Thrace Turks to Germany continued to increase in the 1960s and 1970s. This was because the Thracian tobacco industry was affected by a severe crisis and many tobacco growers lost their income. Consequently, between 25,000-40,000 Western Thrace Turks immigrated to Europe, of which 80% arrived in Germany - accounting to 20,000 to 32,000 immigrants.[52] They have approximately 20 societies gathered under an umbrella called the "Federation of Western Thracian Turk Associations in Germany". In particular, they have been particularly adamant in pressuring the Greek State to resolve the legal issues in regards to Article 19 of the Citizenship Law.[53] According to a publication by the Human rights Watch in 1990, those who had tried to return to their homes found that they were not permitted to come back to Greece.[51]

In 2013 Cemile Giousouf became the first Western Thrace Turk to become a member of the German parliament. Moreover, she was the first Muslim to be elected for the Christian Democratic Union of Germany.


Turkish migration from Cyprus[edit]

Turkish Cypriots began to immigrate from Cyprus to Western Europe, mostly to the United Kingdom but also a few to Germany, during the Cyprus conflict (1950s-1974) and its immediate aftermath. Today there is approximately 2,000 Turkish Cypriots living in Germany.[54]

Turkish migration from the Arab world[edit]


Due to the numerous wars in Lebanon since the 1970s onwards, many Lebanese Turks have sought refuge in Turkey and Western Europe, particularly in Germany. Indeed, many Lebanese Turks were aware of the large German-Turkish population and saw this as an opportunity to find work once settling in Europe. In particular, the largest wave of Lebanese-Turkish migration occurred once the Israel-Lebanon war of 2006 began. During this period more than 20,000 Turks fled Lebanon, particularly from Beirut, and settled in Germany.[55]

Syria and Iraq[edit]



Although 1.55 million people in Germany hold Turkish citizenship,[56] this figure is not a true representation of the total Turkish population. This is because the German state does not categorise immigrants, or their descendants, in terms of ethnicity. Consequently, ethnic Turks who have German citizenship are categorised as "German" rather than "Turkish". Similarly, those with Turkish citizenship are categorised as "Turkish" irrespective of their ethnicity. Hence, ethnic minorities from Turkey, who have also immigrated to Germany, are not distinguished as a separate group. Furthermore, the significant ethnic Turkish communities who have arrived in Germany from the Balkans, Cyprus, and the Arab World are recorded according to their citizenship, such as "Bulgarian", "Cypriot", "Greek", "Iraqi", "Lebanese" "Macedonian", "Romanian", "Syrian" etc. rather than by their Turkish ethnicity. Indeed, whilst these ethnic Turkish communities have different nationalities, they share the same ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious origins as mainland ethnic Turks.[57]


Estimates of the total Turkish population in Germany, including those of partial descent, have ranged considerably because the German census does not collect data on ethnicity. Academic estimates have often ranged between 2.5 to 4 million.[2][3] However, since the first decade of the twenty-first century, numerous academics have suggested that there are 4 million people, or "at least" or "more than" 4 million people, of full or partial Turkish origin in the country,[3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13] or forming 5% of Germany's total population of 82 million inhabitants (which accounts to 4.1 million).[3][11][13] In addition, several academics have also distinguished the "Turkey-related population", which includes ethnic minorities from Turkey (such as Turkish Kurds), but does not include the significant populations of ethnic Turkish communities from the Balkans, Cyprus and the Arab world, and have suggested that the total number of people living in Germany who originate from Turkey only reaches, or is more than, five million people[14][15][16] to 5.6 million people.[17] Indeed, ethnic minorities from Turkey represent perhaps one-fourth[58][59] to one-fifth[60][61][needs update] of the Turkey-related population.


The Turkish community in Germany is concentrated predominantly in urban centers. The vast majority are found in the former West Germany, particularly in industrial regions such as the states of North Rhine-Westphalia, and Baden-Württemberg and the working-class neighbourhoods of cities like Berlin (especially in Neukölln), Hamburg, Bremen, Cologne, Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Mannheim, Mainz, Nuremberg, Munich, and Stuttgart.[62][63]

Return migration[edit]

In regards to return-migration, many Turkish nationals and German Turks have also migrated from Germany to Turkey, for retirement or professional reasons. Official German records show that there are 2.8 million "returnees"; however, the German Embassy in Ankara estimates the true number to be four million, acknowledging the differences in German official data and the realities of the under-reporting by migrants.[18]


A group of German Turks.

The Turkish people who immigrated to Germany brought their culture with them, including their language, religion, food, and arts. Indeed, these cultural transfers have been passed down to their descendants who maintain these traditions. However, German-born Turks have also been exposed to the German culture from an early age in state schools and through employment. Similarly, German society has been exposed to the Turkish culture in numerous ways. For example, Turkish food is widespread throughout Germany, such as the döner kebab. In particular, Turkish restaurants, green grocers, teahouses, as well as communal spaces and mosques, are scattered throughout most cities and towns in Germany. This reflects the Turkish influence on the urban landscapes of the country but also its influence on German society. Indeed, these changes in Germany, as well as the recently introduced nationality law(Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz), shows that the Turks are no longer merely "foreigners" (Ausländer) in Germany but rather permanent residents who are increasingly making their voices heard, whether it be in local and national politics, civic actions, religious organisations, or in cinema, literature, and music.


The Turkish cuisine first arrived in Germany during the sixteenth century and was consumed among aristocratic circles.[64] However, Turkish food became available to the greater German society from the mid-twentieth century onwards with the arrival of Turkish immigrants. By the early 1970s the Turkish community began to open fast-food restaurants serving popular kebap dishes. Today there are Turkish restaurants scattered throughout the country selling popular dishes like döner kebap in take-away stalls to more authentic domestic foods in family-run restaurants. Moreover, since the 1970s, the Turkish community have opened grocery stores and open-air markets where they sell ingredients suitable for Turkish home-cooking, such as spices, fruits, and vegetables.


An advertisement by the IKEA branch in Berlin written in both the German and Turkish languages.
A May Day banner in Kreuzberg written in both the Turkish and German languages.

The Turkish language is the second most spoken language in Germany, after the German language. It was brought to the country be Turkish immigrants who spoke it as a first language and passed it down to their children and descendants. German-born Turks often speak the Turkish language with a German accent or a modelled German dialect.[65] It is also common within the community to modify the Turkish language by adding German grammatical and syntactical structures. German-born Turks are generally encouraged by their parents to improve their language skills by attending private Turkish classes or choosing Turkish as a subject at school. In some states of Germany the Turkish language has even been approved as a subject to be studied for the Abitur.[65]

Evidently, the Turkish language has also been influential in greater German society. For example, many advertisements and banners in public spaces are written in the Turkish language. Hence, the Turkish language is also familiar to other ethnic groups - including ethnic Germans and people with foreign backgrounds. The Turkish language even serves as a vernacular for some non-Turkish children and adolescent in urban neighbourhoods with dominant Turkish communities.[66]

The German language is also increasingly being used within the Turkish-German community. Turkish immigrants generally learned the language through employment and the media. On the other hand, German-born Turks have acquired the language at a young age in state schools. The influence of the Turkish language whilst speaking German is evident and many German Turks often code-switch between the two languages. By the early 1990s a new sociolect called "Kanak Sprak" or "Türkendeutsch" was coined by the German-Turkish author Feridun Zaimoğlu to refer to the German-dialect spoken by the Turkish youth. However, today this co-called dialect is also used by other ethnic groups, including ethnic Germans, in urban areas with a high concentration of migrants.


The interior of the Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque in Mannheim. It was the largest mosque in Germany until 2008.
The Cologne Central Mosque is the largest mosque in Germany.

The Turkish people in Germany are predominantly Muslim and form the largest ethnic group which practices Islam in Germany.[67] Since the 1960s, the Turks were seen as synonymous with the term "Muslim", this is because Islam is considered to have a "Turkish character" in Germany.[68][69] This Turkish character is particularly evident in the Ottoman/Turkish-style architecture of many mosques scattered across Germany. Approximately 2,000 of Germany's 3,000 mosques are Turkish - of which 900 are financed by the Diyanet İşleri Türk-İslam Birliği, an arm of the Turkish government, and the remainder by other political Turkish groups.[70] Indeed, the religious practices of the Turks are often intersect with their political persuasions. For example, Turks who follow the Kemalist ideology tend to be more secular and often do not practice their religion. On the other hand, followers of more conservative ideologies, such as the Millî Görüş and Gülenists movements, are more likely to practice their religion. Nonetheless, in general, religion within the Turkish community has been particularly important for ethnic reassurance in order to retain the Turkish culture rather than solely practicing the Islamic faith.[71] There are also some Turks who do not practice a religion at all and identify as atheists or who have converted to other religions.[72]

Popular culture[edit]



Fatih Akin is one of the most influential film directors in Turkish-German Cinema.
Sibel Kekilli has played a leading role in several Turkish-German films.

The first phase in Turkish-German Cinema began in the 1970s and lasted through to the 1980s; it involved writers placing much of their attention on story-lines that represented the living and working conditions of the Turkish immigrant workers in Germany. By the 1990s a second phase shifted towards focusing more on mass entertainment and involved the work of Turkish and German-born Turkish German filmmakers. Critical engagements in story-telling increased further by the turn of the twenty-first century. Numerous films of the 1990s and the 2000s onwards launched the careers of many film directors, writers, and actors and actresses.[73] For example, Fatih Akin’s films have won numerous awards and have launched the careers of many of its cast including Short Sharp Shock (1998) starring Mehmet Kurtuluş and İdil Üner; Head-On (2004) starring Birol Ünel and Sibel Kekilli; Kebab Connection (2004) starring Denis Moschitto; The Edge of Heaven (2007) starring Baki Davrak; and Soul Kitchen (2009) starring Birol Ünel. By 2011 Yasemin Şamdereli and Nesrin Şamdereli's comedy film Almanya: Welcome to Germany, starring Aylin Tezel and Fahri Yardım, premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and was attended by the German President and the Turkish Ambassador to celebrated to fifty years since the mass migration of Turkish workers to Germany. Indeed, stories confronting Turkish labour migration, and debates about integration, multiculturalism, and identity, are reoccurring themes in Turkish-German cinema.[74]

Not all films directed, produced or written by German Turks are necessarily about the "Turkish-experience" in Germany. Several German Turks have been involved in other genres, such as Bülent Akinci who directed the German drama Running on Empty (2006), Mennan Yapo who has directed the American supernatural thriller Premonition (2007), and Thomas Arslan (de) who directed the German Western film Gold (2013).[75][76]


The award-winning German television comedy-drama series Türkisch für Anfänger ("Turkish for Beginners") became one of the most popular shows in Germany. The critically acclaimed series was also shown in more than 70 other countries.[77] Created by Bora Dağtekin, the plot is based on interethnic-relations between German and Turkish people. Adnan Maral plays the role of a widower of two children who marries an ethnic German mother of two children - forming the Öztürk-Schneider family. The comedy consisted of fifty-two episodes and three seasons.[78]

Many German Turks have also starred in numerous critically acclaimed Turkish soap operas. For example, numerous actors and actresses in Muhteşem Yüzyıl were born in Germany, including Meryem Uzerli, Nur Fettahoğlu, Selma Ergeç, and Ozan Güven. Other popular German-Turkish soap opera performers in Turkey include Fahriye Evcen who has starred in Yaprak Dökümü and Kurt Seyit ve Şura.


One of the first comedians of Turkish-origin to begin a career as a mainstream comedian is Django Asül who began his career in satire in the 1990s. Another very successful comedian is Bülent Ceylan who performed his first solo show "Doner for one" in 2002. By 2011 the broadcasting agency RTL aired Ceylan's own comedy show The Bulent Ceylan Show. Other notable comedians include Fatih Çevikkollu (de), Murat Topal (de), Serdar Somuncu (de), Kaya Yanar, and female comedian Idil Baydar (de).[79]


Since the 1960s Turkish people in Germany have been producing a range of literature. Their work became widely available from the late 1970s onwards, when Turkish-origin writers began to gain sponsorships by German institutions and major publishing houses. Some of the most notable writers of Turkish origin in Germany include Akif Pirinçci, Alev Tekinay (de), Emine Sevgi Özdamar, Feridun Zaimoğlu, Necla Kelek, Renan Demirkan, Zafer Senocak (de). These writers approach a broad range of historical, social and political issues, such as identity, gender, racism, and language. In particular, German audiences have often been captivated by Oriental depictions of the Turkish community.[80]


Bahar Kızıl is a founding members of the German pop group Monrose.
Kool Savas is one of the most popular rappers in Germany.

In the mid-twentieth century the Turkish immigrant community in Germany mostly followed the music industry in Turkey, particularly pop music and Turkish folk music. Hence, the Turkish music industry became very profitable in Germany. By the 1970s, the "arabesque" genre erupted in Turkey and became particularly popular among Turks in Germany. These songs were often played and sang by the Turkish community in Germany in coffee houses and taverns that replicated those in Turkey. These spaces also provided the first stage for semi-professional and professional musicians. Consequently, by the end of the 1960s, some Turks in Germany began to produce their own music, such as Metin Türköz (de) who took up themes of the Turkish immigration journey and their working conditions.[81]

By the 1990s the German-born Turkish community became more influential in the music industry in both Germany and Turkey. In general, many German-born Turks were brought up listening to Turkish pop music, which greatly influenced the music they began to produce. However, the German-born Turks was also influenced by hip-hop music and rap music. German Turkish rap groups sold hundreds of thousands of albums, particularly in Turkey, expressing their views on the integration problems and discrimination they faced in Germany.[82] Notable rappers include Alpa Gun, Bass Sultan Hengzt, Ercandize, Eko Fresh, and Kool Savas. There are also several female rappers of Turkish-origin, most notably Reyhan Şahin who holds a post-doctorate fellowship with the University of Hamburg.

Since the twenty-first century, German Turks have also been more active in producing popular German music, rock music, and electronic music. Notable German-born Turks in the German music industry include Alev Lenz, Bahar Kızıl (from the former girl-group Monrose), Martin Kesici, and Muhabbet. Several German-born Turks have also launched their careers in Turkey, such as Aylin Aslım, İsmail YK, Pamela Spence, and Tarkan. Moreover, there are also some singers who sing English songs, such as Ateed.


Mesut Özil plays for the German national football team. In 2014 Germany won the World Cup with Özil being the top scorer in the qualifications round.


Many German-born people of Turkish origin have been successful in first-division football clubs in Germany, Turkey, as well as other European countries such as Spain and the United Kingdom. However, in regards to playing for national teams, many players of Turkish origin who were born in Germany have chosen to play for the Turkish national football team. This is partly due to Germany's strict rules on dual citizenship which forces players to choose whether to have German or Turkish citizenship. Those who have chosen to retain their Turkish citizenship and who have competed for Turkey in either the UEFA European Championship or the FIFA World Cup include Halil Altıntop, Hamit Altıntop, Volkan Arslan, Hakan Balta, Yıldıray Baştürk, Hakan Çalhanoğlu, Ümit Davala, Tayfur Havutçu, Umit Karan, Tayfun Korkut, Yunus Mallı, İlhan Mansız, Olcay Şahan, Nuri Şahin, Ogün Temizkanoğlu, Gökhan Töre and Cenk Tosun.[83] The first person of Turkish origin to play for the German national football team was Mehmet Scholl in 1993, followed by Mustafa Doğan in 1999.[84] Since the twenty-first century there has been an increase in German-born individuals of Turkish origin opting to play for Germany, including Emre Can, İlkay Gündoğan, and Mesut Özil.[85]


German politics[edit]

In 2011 Aydan Özoğuz was elected as deputy chairperson of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. Since 2013 she is also the Minister of State in the German Chancellery and Commissioner for Immigration, Refugees and Integration.
In 2008 Cem Özdemir was elected as co-chairman of the Green Party.

The Turks in Germany began to be active in politics by establishing associations and federations in the 1960s and 1970s – though these were mainly based on Turkish politics rather than German politics. The first significant step towards active German politics occurred in 1987 when Sevim Çelebi became the first person of Turkish origin to be elected as an MP in the West Berlin Parliament.[86] With the reunification of East Germany and West Germany, unemployment in the country had increased and some political parties, particularly the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), used anti-immigration discourses as a political tool in their campaigns. To counter this, many people of Turkish origin became more political active and began to work in local elections and in the young branches of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the Green Party. Several associations were founded by almost all German parties to organised meetings for Turkish voters; this played an important gateway for those who aspired to become politicians.[86]

In 2008 Cem Özdemir became co-chair of the Green Party. By the next year, there was a Turkish MP in every party for the 2009 elections, with the exception of the CDU. However, by 2010 the Prime Minister of Lower Saxony, Christian Wulff of the CDU, appointed Aygül Özkan as the Women, Family, Health and Integration Minister, making her the first ever minister of Turkish origin and Muslim faith. In the same year, Aydan Özoğuz was elected as deputy chairperson of the SPD party. Moreover, by 2011, Bilkay Öney (de) from the SPD was appointed as Integration Minister in the Baden-Württemberg State.[87]

Since the 2013 German elections, Turkish-origin MPs have been elected into Federal Parliament from four different parties. Cemile Giousouf, whose parents immigrated from Greece, became the first person of Western Thracian Turkish-origin to become an MP. Moreover, Giousouf became notable for being the first ever Turkish-origin and first ever Muslim to be elected as an MP from the CDU party.[88] Five MPs of Turkish-origin were elected from the SPD party including Aydan Özoğuz, Cansel Kızıltepe (de), Gülistan Yüksel (de), Metin Hakverdi (de) and Mahmut Özdemir. Özdemir is particularly notable for being the youngest MP in the German Parliament. For the Green Party, Cem Özdemir, Ekin Deligöz and Özcan Mutlu were elected as MPs, and Azize Tank (de) for the the Die Linke.[89]

Turkish politics[edit]

In regards to Turkey, 60% of the 570,000 Turkish voters in Germany voted for Erdogan, making him more popular in among Turkish Germans than in Turkey itself, but their numbers effectively making Germany Turkey's 4th largest electoral district.[90] Following the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt, enormous pro-Erdogan demonstrations were held in German cities; 40,000 supporters turned out in Cologne alone.[90] According to The Economist, this makes it difficult for Germany politicians to criticize Erdogan's policies and tactics.[90]


For Turks in German society, patterns of discrimination maintain disadvantages of low economic and social status, whilst also restraining social advancement.[91] In 2009, The Local and Der Spiegel reported that a new study reveals Turks in Germany lag behind other migrant groups when it comes to education and jobs. Immigrants of Turkish origin were also found to be the least successful in the labour market: they were often jobless, the percentage of housewives was high and many were dependent on welfare.[92][93]


Further information: Nationality law

Under previous German law, children born to foreigners in Germany were not entitled to German citizenship by birth. This was modified in 1991.[94] In 2000, legislation was passed which conferred German citizenship on the German-born children of foreigners (born after 1990), and the naturalisation process was made easier, although dual citizenship is only permitted to citizens of the EU and Switzerland and any other national possessing it (including citizens of Turkey) by virtue of birth must choose between the ages of 18 and 23 which citizenship she or he wishes to retain, and renounce their other passport.[95] If one parent is German, a dual citizen is not required to give up the German citizenship if they keep the other citizenship.[citation needed] These strict limits on dual citizenship are criticised by liberal parties in Germany and institutions which promote German-Turkish relations. Former Turkish citizens who have given up their Turkish citizenship can apply for the "Blue Card" (Mavi Kart), which gives them some citizens' rights back, e.g. the right to live and work in Turkey, the right to possess land or the right to inherit, but not, for example, the right to vote.



Attacks on the Turkish minority[edit]

Demonstration in support of the Turkish victims of the Solingen arson attack of 1993.
A memorial for Turkish victims of the 1993 arson attack showing two large metal figures ripping apart a swastika.

The fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and the reunification of Germany saw a sharp rise in violent attacks against the Turkish minority, as well as other ethnic minorities. Indeed, the rise of xenophobia was evident by the numerous right-wing extremist riots that occurred in the country, particularly the Rostock-Lichtenhagen riots which took place in August 1992. Thereafter, a series of arson attacks, bombings, and shootings have targeted the Turkish community; consequently, many victims have been killed or severely injured.

The first major neo-Nazi attack occurred on November 22, 1992, when three Turkish women were killed in an arson attack by neo-Nazis in their homes in Mölln.[96]

By May 28, 1993, four neo-Nazi German men set fire to the house of a Turkish family in Solingen. Three girls and two women died and 14 other members of the family were severely injured in the attack. The Solingen arson attack led to protests in several cities and many ethnic Germans participated in large demonstrations to express their solidarity with the Turkish victims. The attack was also was highly publicised by the German and Turkish media. However, the German Chancellor Helmut Kohl did not attend the memorial services - for which he was criticised by the media and academics alike.[96]

On June 9, 2004, a neo-Nazi group targeted the Turkish community in the city of Cologne. The Cologne bombing injured 22 Turkish people.[97]

A memorial plaque, in Nuremberg, in remembrance of the victims of the "Bosphorus serial murders".

On February 3, 2008, nine Turkish people, including five children, died in a blaze in Ludwigshafen.[96] The cause of the fire was said to have been an electrical fault; however, the German police found neo-Nazi graffiti at the scene of a fire at the Turkish Cultural Centre which was home to the two families living there.[98] The Chancellor Angela Merkel was criticised for not attending a demonstration held in memory of the victims by 16,000 people.[96]

Between 2000 and 2006 several Turkish shopkeepers were attacked in numerous cities in Germany. The attacks were popularly called the "Bosphorus serial murders" (Bosporus-Morde) or the "Döner murders" (Dönermorde), which saw eight Turks and one Greek killed. Initially, the media suspected that Turkish gangs were behind the murders. However, by 2011 it came to light that the perpetrators were in fact the neo-Nazi group the National Socialist Underground.[99]

Not all attacks on the Turkish community have been perpetrated by neo-Nazi right-wing Germans. For example, the perpetrator of the 2016 Munich shooting was an Iranian-German who deliberately targeted people of Turkish and Arab origin.

Turkish gangs[edit]

In 2014, the annual report into organized crime, presented in Berlin by interior minister Thomas de Maizière, showed that there were 57 Turkish gangs in Germany. According to the report, alongside their more traditional fields of drug smuggling, gangs are also increasingly turning their attention to burglary, car theft and fraud. Ten percent of Germany's gang members were reported to be Turkish and according to statistics, the activity of Turkish gangs in Germany had decreased.[100][101]

In 2016, the Die Welt and Bild reported that new Turkish motorbike gang, the Osmanien Germania is growing rapidly. The Hannoversche Allgemeine newspaper claimed that the Osmanien Germania is advancing more and more into red-light districts, which increases the likelihood of a bloody territorial battle with established gangs like the The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club and the The Mongols Motorcycle Club.[102][103][104][105][106][107]


Time Events
1961 Bilateral Recruitment Agreement with Turkey. A Central Recruitment Office is established in Istanbul, and by the year’s end, 7,000 Turkish workers are living in Germany.
1962 Founding of the first Turkish social and political organization in Germany, the Union of Turkish Workers in the Cologne Region.
March 1962 Conflicting information about taxation rates of salaries leads Turkish miners in Essen and Hamburg to stage a strike. 26 workers are fired and deported.
June 15, 1963 The International Committee for Information and Social Action founds monthly newspaper Anadolu—a newspaper for Turks living in Germany.
1964 West German Radio begins Turkish language broadcasts under the name Köln Radyosu throughout the West German territory.
September 30, 1964 Renewal of the Gastarbeiter (guest worker) agreement between West Germany and Turkey.
1965 WDR and ZDF begin to produce television series such as Neighbors, Our Homeland/Your Homeland, and later Babylon, geared towards the Turkish viewership.
1965 2,700 Turks live in West Berlin. Guest workers who have been employed in West Germany for five years may now receive an automatic five-year renewal of their work permit, regardless of whether they are citizens of a European country.
1967 Founding of the Turkish Union (Türk Federasyonu).
1971 Three daily Turkish newspapers: Akşam (Evening), Tercüman (The Interpreter), and Hürriyet (Liberty) print editions for migrant readership in Germany.
July 21, 1972 Turkish General Consul Metin Kusdaloglu greets Necati Güven, the 500,000th guest worker recruited at the Istanbul Recruitment Office, at Munich Airport.
1973 Turks account for 23% of all foreigners living in Germany. A strike at the Cologne Ford factory leads to press debates on the "politicization of foreign workers".
July 30, 1973 Spiegel magazine’s cover headline reads "Ghettos in Germany - 1 Million Turks".
November 23, 1973 West Germany halts recruitment of Guest workers. Many Guest workers, fearing imminent anti-immigration laws, arrange for family members to join them in Germany, thus leading to an increase in immigrant populations, rather than the decrease sought by the West German government.
1975 The West German government decrees that no foreigners may move to a neighborhood or region where the percentage of foreigners exceeds 12% of the entire population.
December 8, 1981 West German law prohibits children over the age of 16 from joining their parents in Germany. Younger children who have at least one parent in the home country also may not immigrate to Germany.
May 26, 1982 Semra Ertan lights herself on fire in the Hamburg Marketplace to protest an increase in xenophobia.
November 28, 1983 A new law for the Promotion of Readiness to Return (Das Gesetz zur Förderung der Rückkehrbereitschaft) offers jobless guest workers 10,500 DM to return to their country of origin. Only 13,000 individuals make use of this option.
Time Events
November 9, 1989 Fall of the Berlin Wall
1990 TRT, Turkey’s state-run television and radio corporation, begins daily broadcasts to Germany.
1991 Emine Sevgi Özdamar, a Turkish writer/actress living in Berlin, wins the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize. Great controversy over the state of “German" literature ensues.
November 22, 1992 An arson attack in Mölln (Schleswig-Holstein) kills three Turkish women.
May 29, 1993 An arson attack in the city of Solingen, kills five Turkish residents, all members of a family that had lived in Germany for 23 years. The attack leads to many pro-Turkish/anti-xenophobia demonstrations and to a public discussion about right-wing activities and skinheads in Germany.
June 30, 1993 The naturalization of foreigners is governed by the Nationality Act of 1913 and a number of special acts. In order to facilitate the integration of foreigners who were born in Germany, have grown up there or have lived there for at least 15 years, they have a legal entitlement to naturalization under sections 85ff. of the Aliens Act as amended on this day.
1993 Teams of the German Soccer League participate in the “Peacefully With One Another" project by wearing a slogan on their uniforms which reads 'My friend is a foreigner'.
1994 Leyla Onur and Cem Özdemir become the first elected Bundestag representatives of Turkish descent.
January 1998 According to the Ministry of the Interior, 9.37 million foreigners live in Germany, 2.11 million are Turks.
July 1998 CDU election platform seeks to reduce immigration by reducing government subsidized housing for foreigners, and rejecting the possibility of dual citizenship.
November 1998 Newly appointed Commissioner for Foreigners Marieluise Beck (Greens) plans to develop an image for Germany as a 'country of immigration'. Berlin schools may legally provide Islamic education to pupils, after a court battle between the school district and the Islamic Federation in Berlin. Failed appeal to the Federal Constitutional Court to prohibit Bavaria from deporting a 14-year-old legal offender born in Germany to Turkey.
1999 Mustafa Doğan was also first Turkish descent player at Germany national football team.
2000 7.3 million legally resident foreigners in Germany; 2 million are Turkish citizens, 750,000 of whom were born in Germany.
2000 New citizenship law takes effect. Children born to foreigners in Germany automatically receive German citizenship, as long as one parent has been a legal resident for at least eight years. Children can also hold the nationality of their parents, but must decide to be citizens of one country before the age of 23.
2010 Chancellor Angela Merkel claims that Germany being a multicultural nation has "utterly failed".[108]
2013 Eleven people of Turkish origin are elected to the 18th Bundestag. The new grand coalition government intends to simplify the requirements for dual citizenship.

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]



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Further reading[edit]

  • Green, Simon (July 2003), "The Legal Status of Turks in Germany", Immigrants and Minorities, 22 (2–3): 228–246, doi:10.1080/0261928042000244844. 
  • Pécoud, Antoine (July 2003), "Self-Employment and Immigrants' Incorporation: The Case of Turks in Germany", Immigrants and Minorities, 22 (2–3): 247–261, doi:10.1080/0261928042000244853. 
  • Şen, Faruk (July 2003), "The Historical Situation of Turkish Migrants in Germany", Immigrants and Minorities, 22 (2–3): 208–227, doi:10.1080/0261928042000244835. 
  • Söhn, Janina; Veysel Özcan (March 2006), "The Educational Attainment of Turkish Migrants in Germany", Turkish Studies, 7 (1): 101–124, doi:10.1080/14683840500520626.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
  • Watzinger-Tharp, Johanna (October 2004), "Turkish-German language: an innovative style of communication and its implications for citizenship and identity", Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 24 (2): 285–294, doi:10.1080/1360200042000296663. 
  • Yukleyen, Ahmet. Localizing Islam in Europe: Turkish Islamic Communities in Germany and the Netherlands (Syracuse University Press; 2012) 280 pages; explores diversity with a comparative study of five religious communities in the two countries.

External links[edit]