Court Rules that East Germans are not an Ethnic Group

This Der Spiegel article follows up on the Stuttgart labor court case charging a West German company with discriminating against a woman born in the former GDR. The court ruled that East Germans are not an ethnic group, a conclusion that many journalists seem to support. (See the excepted reaction articles.)

However, as the writer for the Sueddeutsche Zeitung has also noted, not constituting a separate legal identity does not take away from the possibility of discrimination. In any place where a heterogeneous population is divided into a hierarchy, injustices are bound to occur. The journalist writes, “we also have the German constitution. Article 3, paragraph 3 of the constitution clearly states that no one should be discriminated against ‘because of sex, race or language and’ — wait for it — ‘due to his homeland and origin’. Without a doubt, the label ‘Ossi’ refers to origin and homeland.”

The peoples of any country are going to share identifications and history as well as draw lines of difference amongst each other. This writer has claimed German-ness for this group of marginalized people while maintaining their specific history. This practice of discrimination recalls the idea of a leitkultur, a dominant culture that assumes a privileged position. When people do not occupy this privileged identity and are subject to injustices, the question should not be one of a legal ethnic identity but the constitutionality of these blatently discriminatory acts.

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