Since German reunification in 1989, about 185,000 former Soviet Jews have been granted refugee status in Germany. Drawing on my observations and in-depth interviews with recent immigrants in five German cities, this qualitative study explores the identity dilemmas faced by Russian Jews who moved to the lands of the historic nemesis loaded with the memories of the Holocaust. The findings suggest that for most informants migrating to Germany (rather than Israel or North America) was a pragmatic decision based on the anticipated benefits from the German welfare system, security and comfort of living in Europe. All but a few informants were secular and had limited interest in the Jewish life, keeping in touch with the Jewish communities only inasmuch as it proved useful for their resettlement. Most middle-aged informants were traumatised by their occupational downgrading and/or chronic unemployment, but many also believed that the welfare aid they receive from the German state is morally justified as a continuing retribution for the wartime crimes. Older immigrants did not even try to narrow a cultural gap with German society, kept to their co-ethnic social circle, and were permanently intimidated by the shadow of anti-Semitism. Conversely, many younger informants opined that past grievances were no longer relevant, tried to adopt some cultural features of the mainstream, and saw themselves as citizens of unified Europe, rather than Germany as such.
|Original language||American English|
|Journal||Immigrants & Minorities|
|State||Published - 2005|