Book review by UC Berkeley undergraduate Sara Sellami:
Deutschland allein zu Haus is a novel written by the Turkish-German author, Osman Engin, and was published in 2013. The book tells the story of a Turkish-German family coming back from vacations in Turkey to find out that the neo-Nazi party was elected and plans on getting rid of all foreigners. Osman, the father, tries to deal with the consequences of the revival of the neo-Nazi party and must at the same time hide the political situation from his uncle, who is visiting him from Turkey. The novel depicts, with humor, what life in Germany would be like were the far-right party the second largest party in the Bundestag, highlighting the importance of foreigners and people with a migratory background in German society today.
The story takes place in 2013, an election year, but Osman Engin deviates from current events and instead of raising the question of a possible third term for Angela Merkel, he decides to focus on the consequences of the neo-Nazi party, the NEP in the book, coming second in the elections. New laws are immediately passed. Naturalizations from the past 50 years are to be re-examined and foreigners are expelled from their homes. Reactions from the international community are the expected ones: Germany is banned from the European Union and also from the UEFA. The German landscape changes: skinheads (hilariously spelled Skinhääds) take over the streets whereas people with a migratory background flee the country. The rise of the NEP, as described in the novel, follows an expected schema but is not representative of the situation of the National Democratic Party of Germany (NDP), the actual far-right party. Since its foundation in 1964, the NDP has never won a seat in the Bundestag, because of the 5-percent-clause. The clause states that any party must gather at least 5% of votes to be represented in the Bundestag, in order to prevent the rise of extremist parties. The unpopularity of the neo-Nazis amongst the vast majority of Germans is hinted at in the book when Osman thinks many times he is being discriminated against in a café or at the hospital because of his Turkish origins, when in fact he is treated as a regular German citizen.
In the novel, the rise of the neo-Nazis provokes a massive flight of people with a migratory background out of Germany. The consequences that follow are quite interesting. The lack of workforce makes it impossible to receive medical treatment at the hospital. The elderly are forced to go and live with their children because their usual nurses no longer live in Germany. Osman’s wife, Eminanim, quotes a newspaper saying that the average age of the German population is 62.7 now that all the foreigners, who helped slow down population ageing, are gone. All these facts are reported by the author with humor and sarcasm as a way to highlight the importance of foreigners and non-ethnic Germans: they are as necessary a part of German economy as they were in the 1960s when West Germany was recruiting guest workers. The German population is no longer made of white ethnic Germans. It is now a multicultural society that results from the diverse migrations happening since the end of WWII.
To conclude, Deutschland allein zu Haus is a satirical novel that emphasizes the diversity of German society and points out the fact that Germany is now a country of immigration, in which immigrants have become an important part of society.