Ethnic Minorities

Germany Table of Contents

In the early 1990s, there were between 50,000 and 60,000 Gypsies in Germany. They were divided into two groups: the Sinti, who have lived for hundreds of years in Germany and who have largely adopted conventional modes of living and employment; and the Roma, many of whom fled Romania following the 1989 revolution that toppled the Nicolae Ceausescu regime. The lifestyle and work habits of the mobile Roma clash with those of most Germans. As a result, in 1992 the German government signed an agreement with Romania providing for the repatriation of thousands of Roma in exchange for cash payments to be used for housing and job training.

Several other minority groups, officially recognized and their languages protected, also live in Germany. For more than 1,000 years, the Sorbs, a Slavic nationality, have lived as an ethnic minority in Brandenburg and Saxony. As of 1993, there were about 120,000 Sorbs in Germany. In addition, about 60,000 Danish speakers live in Schleswig-Holstein, a reminder of the area's Danish past; and about 12,000 speakers of the Frisian language live on the Frisian Islands and on the northwestern coast.

Germany once had a prosperous and largely assimilated Jewish population of about 600,000. In the 1930s and 1940s, most German Jews were exiled, were imprisoned, or perished in Nazi death camps. By the early 1990s, Germany's Jewish community was only about 40,000. Its numbers were growing, however, as the result of the immigration of some Israelis and Russian Jews. One of the most eloquent spokespersons for the rights of minorities and a tireless advocate for greater tolerance is the community's leader, Ignaz Bubnis.

More about the Population of Germany.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress