Although he had anticipated feeling happy in his homeland, Erdem was “shocked” to find himself the target of discrimination when he visited Turkey in 1991. A second-generation Turkish migrant born and raised in West Germany, the longhaired 21-year-old who played in a garage band called Apocalyptica stuck out from the local Turks. “You can’t imagine how crazy these people were,” he recalled. “They had an olfactory sense. They could smell that I was from Germany.” Twice, this prejudice turned to violence. Erdem was “lynched,” in his words, once at a discotheque and once while strolling along the sea- side. In the latter encounter, a group of men encircled him, took out pocketknives, and attempted to cut his hair. When Erdem reported the incident, the police officers told him to “F*** off, you Almancı! This is Turkey, not Germany!” The insults never stopped. Only when he returned to Germany could he breathe a sigh of relief.1

While certainly an extreme case, Erdem’s story captures the ten- sions between Turkish-German migrants and their home country. As Erdem vividly explained, the migrants’ time spent in Germany was marked on their bodies — in their fashion choices and hairstyles, in their behaviors, mannerisms, accents, and patterns of speech — making them the targets of scorn, derision, and ostracization. This sense of otherness is best captured in the police officers’ calling Erdem an Almancı. Translating literally to “German-er” — or, as I use it, “Germanized Turk” — this derogatory Turkish term evokes not only physical but also cultural estrangement: the perception that the migrants living in Germany (Almanya) have undergone a process of Germanization, rendering them no longer fully Turkish. Many migrants perceive Almancı as the flipside of the German word Ausländer (foreigner), which excludes them from the German na- tional community even if they have lived there for decades and have obtained citizenship.2 Indeed, whereas Germans have lambasted the migrants’ insufficient assimilation, the idea of the Almancı reveals that Turks in the homeland have often worried about precisely the opposite: excessive assimilation.

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2020

Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2020, German Historical Institute Washington. Bulletin of the German Historical Institute, no. 66 (Spring 2020): 53–82.

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