Man at PEGIDA demonstration with jacket bearing the words: “Unsere Regeln – Unsere Tradition” : “Our rules – Our traditions”. Photo by gruenenrw on flickr.com
Often when I write posts about ‘untranslatable’ German words I try to include references to German culture (where applicable) or add in extra information relating to those words.
Today I’ve chosen a word that is relevant to the current political situation in Germany.
What does Überfremdung mean?
Überfremdung describes excessive immigration in a town, city, country, etc., or the excessive influence of a foreign culture onto one’s own.
What does Überfremdung literally translate to?
It consists of the words Über: Over/overly and Fremd: Foreign/strange. Together, and with ‘ung’ on the end, the word Überfremdung literally means ‘over-foreignisation’.
How would you use it in a sentence?
Ich habe Angst vor Überfremdung. – I am scared of Überfremdung.
What is the nearest English equivalent?
The terms ‘excess immigration’ and ‘foreign influence’ are thrown around a lot – but I’m no expert on it! So if anyone has any more appropriate terms to describe Überfremdung, please let us know!
Relevance to Germany today
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, you’ll probably have heard of the German political group known as PEGIDA. Over the past few months, Germany has been the centre of media attention due to this radical group’s activities in Germany.
Who are PEGIDA?
PEGIDA, which stands for Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West), is a German right-wing political organisation founded by Lutz Bachmann (who has since stepped down after a picture of him impersonating Adolf Hitler was leaked) in Dresden in October 2014. As its name suggests, its main focus is protesting against what it calls the ‘Islamisation’ of Germany and the West.
PEGIDA banner urging people to “come forward” with their “missing” country. Photo by blu-news.org on Flickr.com
How did PEGIDA come about?
What started out as a Facebook group created by founder Lutz Bachmann became a series of weekly protests (which they call ein Abendspaziergang – ‘An evening stroll’), which soon attracted media attention. Though they started out with just a few hundred members, the number of protesters in support of PEGIDA peaked at 25,000 on January 12, 2015 – 5 days after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris. The group continues to march, and its huge presence has stirred up political debate regarding immigration in Germany.
Simply put, PEGIDA believes that the West is experiencing Überfremdung, and is trying to counteract it.
There are many anti-PEGIDA groups across Germany and in other countries, and more often than not the number of people turning up to the anti-PEGIDA rallies by far outnumbers those in support of PEGIDA.
PEGIDA held their first UK protest in Newcastle on Saturday, February 28th. Here, too, they were outnumbered by anti-PEGIDA protesters: 2,000 to 375.
In Germany, the lights of the Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral) and the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) in Berlin were also switched off during PEGIDA protests in these cities in protest of the far-right group’s message, and to show that Germany is a peaceful country that opposes the ‘darkness’ that comes from racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia.
In PEGIDA’s words
Here are the first few lines from PEGIDA’s “About” page on Facebook, with a translation underneath:
“Wir möchten. dass alle Kinder in einem friedlichem und weltoffenem Deutschland und Europa aufwachsen können!
Wir sind nicht “politisch korrekt”…!
Wir beugen uns NICHT dem medialen Mainstream und somit auch nicht den “Gutmenschen”!
Wir nehmen unser verfassungsgemäßes Recht auf freie Meinungsäußerung wahr.
JEDER Mensch, gleich welcher Nationalität oder Religion ist uns willkommen !!!
Wir wollen einfach KEINE GEWALT auf unseren Straßen wie z.B. in Hamburg oder Celle !!!
Unsere Städte, Dörfer und Gemeinden sind KEINE Orte zum Austragen von Stellvertreter- oder Glaubenskriegen!!!”
“We want our children to be able to grow up in a peaceful, liberal Germany and Europe!
We are not “politically correct”…!
We do NOT submit to the mainstream, nor the “do-gooders”!
We exercise our constitutional right to freedom of speech.
We welcome EVERY person, regardless of their nationality or religion !!!
We simply do not want ANY VIOLENCE on our streets, eg. like in Hamburg or Celle !!!
Our cities, villages and communities are NO place to carry out proxy wars or religious wars!!!”
The latest on PEGIDA is that they marched in Antwerp, Belgium on Monday 2nd March. The rally attracted just 200 protesters.
Whether it rises or falls from here on in, the effect that PEGIDA (and its anti-rallies) has had on Germany and German politics is undeniable.