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Germany

Ex-Chancellor's Guest Worker Remarks Spark Outrage

Former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt touched off controversy this week when he suggested that it was a mistake to let immigrants into Germany in the 1960s. In an interview with the Hamburger Abendblatt daily Schmidt said that the ideal of a "multicultural society" is impossible in Germany. "As a result, it was a mistake that we began bringing people in from foreign cultures," the Social Democrat said. The former chancellor (1974-1982) was referring to the cheap "guest workers" invited into the country from abroad -- primarily from Turkey -- in the 1960s. The remarks earned angry replies from politicians, some of them immigrants and the children of immigrants themselves. "It is a slap in the face," Social Democratic parliamentarian Lale Akgün, who came to Germany in 1962, told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper. "This an insult to my parents' generation," said Green party parliamentarian Ekin Deligöz. "Foreign workers contributed a lot to the well-being of our country," said Cardinal Karl Lehmann. Lehmann said there were mistakes: "The integration of the so-called guest workers was ignored for far too long."