Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Thoughts of an Italian Writer: Article #2

Dr. Antonio Castaldo, Sociologist and Journalist, Brusciano, Italy

"The Half-Century Italian Emigration in Germany. Recollections of a Gastarbeiter "Working Guest." (1)

In the late '70s, with the self-confidence of my twenties, I launched myself onto the circuit to discover Europe's emigration to Germany. For two years I lived the special condition of the migrant people in the multicultural of Italians, Turks, Greeks, Yugoslavs, Kurds, Pakistanis and others. I remember a substantial amount of Italians from Sicily and Sardinia, some Neapolitans and rare northerners.

Each one of us was a Gastarbeiter, guest worker, in the productive panorama of the industries, construction sites and services, provider of arms and sweat that was feeding the unrestrainable boom in Germany ,who came out destroyed from World War II, but was reflecting its revenge with a safe revenge in terms of social, economic and cultural competitiveness with other rich nations in the race for supremacy of the society of well-being.

The indelible images of my short but intense migratory experience, among many others, of those living in Wolfsburg, the city of the Volkswagen on the Mittelland Kanal and of the celebrations for the fiftieth anniversary of the building whose first stone for the foundation was laid on May 26th, 1938.

In 1934 Hitler and the Austrian Ferdinand Porsche (1875-1951) met for the first time. The German dictator illustrated the necessity of a "machine for the people" according to specific conditions. Quite soon the prototype was presented with the required characteristics: speed of 100 km/h, consumption of 7 km with one liter of gasoline, air-cooled engine, robustness and reliability, transport capacity for 2 adults and 3 children, and for the military event, 3 soldiers and a machine gun. The cost of less than 1,000 Reichsmark, the profit of 5 monthly salaries of a skilled worker reflected the demands of Hitler.

Success was immediate and exceeded even the war to become a symbol of the German economic rebirth together with the largest factory in the world the Volkswagenwerk. The attention of Disney, in 1969, helped make it a cultural phenomenon through film production.

The assembly line on which I worked for just over a year no longer produced the Beetle whose assemblage had been moved to the factory in Mexico, while the Queen had become the Golf. I remember how I worked very hard behind the colored carcasses alternating with a Turkish guy while a Neapolitan sang "O sole mio" and the German workers with the pride of participating in a common national enterprise without distinction of roles and responsibilities, while feelings of nostalgia for family and friends in Italy was growing inside of me.

The production of Käfer, ceased in 2003, showing a total sales count in the record of 22,000,000 models placed on the world market. This figure was surpassed by the Golf model.

To be continued: The Half-Century Italian Emigration in Germany. (2)
Translation from Italian into English by Miriam Medina
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