“We called for workers, but people came”: 60th anniversary of the Recruitment Agreement with Turkey

Rapper Eko Fresh presents the song 1994

Rapper Eko Fresh presents the song “1994”, © dpa

29.10.2021 - Article

On 30 October 1961, the Recruitment Agreement was concluded between the Federal Republic of Germany and Turkey. The Agreement governed the recruitment of Turkish workers to Germany. It is now turning 60.

Three men reading books in German
“Guest workers” from Turkey learning German at an adult education centre in Berlin.© dpa

After lengthy negotiations, the foundation for an important chapter in Germany’s post-war history was laid with an agreement consisting of just two pages in Bonn on 30 October 1961. The Recruitment Agreement facilitated state-regulated labour migration from Turkey to Germany. The two-year restriction on the duration of the Turkish workers’ stay in Germany was abolished in 1964. The Agreement thus became a cornerstone of a common German-Turkish migration history.

Agreement continues to shape Germany to this day

It was not possible to foresee in 1961 what would become of this initially pragmatic agreement, which continues to shape Germany, Europe and Turkey to this day. Since the Agreement was signed, a total of around 876,000 people have come to Germany from Turkey as so-called “guest workers”. The success story of the German economic miracle was also thanks to them. Many of them have stayed, brought their families with them, and their children and grandchildren call Germany their home. There are many touching stories of freedom, advancement and prosperity. However, at the same time, many faced and continue to face prejudice and racism.

It is impossible to imagine modern-day Germany without people of Turkish origin. They work in a wide variety of professions, from the police service, the Bundeswehr, the teaching profession in schools to the health service. They are engaged in pioneering scientific work, host television programmes, and are politically active and volunteer. They shape Germany both economically and culturally. Their perspective of Germany and Europe has a significant impact on the image of Germany in Turkey. German images and perceptions of Turkey are also strongly influenced by them.

Numerous projects to mark the anniversary

“We’re from here” photo exhibition at the Ruhr Museum
“We’re from here” photo exhibition at the Ruhr Museum© Auswärtiges Amt

The Federal Foreign Office is taking the anniversary as an opportunity to launch numerous projects. Deutschlandlieder (German songs) – Almanya Türküleri is just one example. Since the 1960s, countless songs and pieces of music have been penned by migrants of Turkish origin. Twelve stars from then and now and an 11-strong band sing songs about longing and arriving, about wanderlust and love, life and their struggles – and about celebrating. The project brings the musical creations of artists from a wide variety of musical genres and generations from the last 60 years live to the stage and documents them on camera.


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