This is the final installment in a five-part series of articles from the German news site Bild based on excerpts from Heinz Buschkowsky’s new book, Neukölln ist Überall (“Neukölln is everywhere”), and interviews with the author.
Part 5 was translated by Hermes.
What Are You Doing to Further Integration?
The book written by the mayor of Neukölln is being discussed in Germany. What are you doing to further integration, Mr. Buschkowsky?
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|BILD:||Your chauffeur is Turkish. Coincidence?|
|Buschkowsky:||I do not pay attention to the passport when looking for a chauffeur. But his cultural competences help us in this or that situation, for sure. And also that he is 1.95 metres (6'5") tall.|
|BILD:||Is it a problem if a town hall employee wears a headscarf?|
|Buschkowsky:||There is no female employee in the town hall of Neukölln who wears a head scarf. What’s more, I find that these kind of symbols have no place in public institutions. The state must remain neutral|
|BILD:||You denounce many deplorable situations. Some accuse you of not having done anything as mayor…|
|Buschkowsky:||It’s OK if people who don’t know the competences of a district mayor say this. It’s annoying when people say that they know the political system. We cannot decide here over the size of a group of children.|
|BILD:||So what do you yourself do in favor of integration?|
|Buschkowsky:||I hope you’ve got a thick pad!|
We have since 2006 trained 70 immigrants as administration staff, which is 40% of our trainees.
The Rüttli school, the most infamous one in Germany, has been changed in a way that now 30% of those finishing the 10th class have a recommendation for high school.
Or here’s the example of the “district mothers” — jobless female migrants that we’ve trained in healthy nutrition, what is a childcare center, or how a school works. They go as ambassadors to families lacking proper education.
|BILD:||What would you do if you could really decide all this?|
|Buschkowsky:||First, I would introduce the compulsory kindergarten from the age of 13 months. Second, every school would be an all-day one. Third, quit investing in family budgets, and start investing in the infrastructure of the families, for example free childcare centers and meals in the schools.|
|BILD:||Is the low level of pressure a reason that there is no considerable advance?|
|Buschkowsky:||Too low? There is no pressure at all! In Berlin, for a long time the authorities have planned to inform the parents by SMS. The thing fails if we have to ask the parents if we are allowed to write them an SMS. We are crazy! And how mad is a society in which child benefits are being paid to somebody who is in prison for having killed another person?|
|BILD:||You are called chatterbox politician by your colleagues — are you really that?|
|Buschkowsky:||We politicians all are fond of chattering. I could recite you a number of people who do not stop blabbering: One could, one should, one had to. But they cannot show anything except a seminar paper.|
|BILD:||Here in the town hall you have already naturalized 6500 new inhabitants of Neukölln? Why is it so important for you to sing the national anthem with them?|
|Buschkowsky:||It causes no loss that the new nationals acquire knowledge at least once of the melody of their new country.|
|BILD:||Which were the reactions to the excerpts from your new book?|
|Buschkowsky:||Criticisms come only occasionally through e-mail. It is something else which upsets me: there is a kind of culture based on remaining silent. There are people who do not dare open their mouths anymore. This is what a teacher from Dortmund has written me just today. There is an atmosphere in which it seems wiser to talk no more. They live in fear.|
|BILD:||People long for politicians who speak openly and clearly. Why is that you never got involved in federal politics?|
|Buschkowsky:||When I wanted to, there were no vacancies. When people talked to me about it, I was too old. One does not begin a career of backbencher. I’ve done well with my fate.|