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Germany

Objections to Citizenship Test Continue to Mount

The citizenship test to be introduced for would-be Germans has met with broad resistance. It's too hard, too ideologically biased, historically unsound and littered with errors, say its detractors.

A woman sitting over a book

If applicants do their homework, they should pass -- according to the government

The Central Council of Jews in Germany has voiced concern about the test's handling of the country's Nazi past, pointing out that the word "Holocaust" is conspicuous in its absence.

This reflects a "strange understanding of history," said secretary general Stephan Kramer.

Moreover, he observed, Judaism is absent from the list of multiple choice answers to a question about the main religions in Europe and Germany.

Representatives from the Muslim community, meanwhile, insist that many of the questions are ideologically biased, with the Central Council of Muslims in Germany objecting to what it sees as a testing of applicants' attitudes.

Some say test is too hard

Elderly woman walking her dog

Should immigrants be required to know about dog tax?

The government rejected the accusation.

"There are no questions that test attitudes," said a spokeswoman from the Interior Ministry on Wednesday, July 9.

Green party leader Claudia Roth added her voice to the chorus of indignation resounding across Germany, dismissing the test as a "grotesque multiple choice exam."

"Questions about dog tax have absolutely no relevance to citizenship," she said.

But since the test was first unveiled in June, the main complaint it has drawn is that it is simply too difficult -- in terms of both language and content.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble of the Christian Democrats has consistently come to its defense: "No one should be too stretched by this test," he told the daily Stuttgarter Zeitung on Wednesday.

German Integration Commissioner Maria Boehmer agreed that the questions were not too demanding, as long as applicants did the necessary revision.

Some 70 to 80 percent of applicants should be able to pass it once it is introduced in September, she maintained.

Mistakes found in test

Meanwhile, mistakes in the test have already been discovered.

According to the test, the state office for political education is the right answer to the question: Where in Lower Saxony can you find information on political issues? However, the office was closed in 2004.

Another question about the state's flag has no correct answer, say the experts.

Other questions have been deemed equally spurious. The supposed answer to one question relating to tenancy rights was described as a moot point by the German Association of Tenants.

People sitting an exam

Most Germans wouldn't pass the test, say critics

"It's a stupid question and the answer is even more stupid," the organization's spokesman Ulrich Ropertz told the AP news agency.

The catalogue of questions encompasses a total of 310 questions on German institutions and society. To pass, 17 of 33 questions need to be answered correctly.

Too many obstacles

According to the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB), the recent drop in the number of people gaining German citizenship indicated that applicants face too many hurdles.

In 2007, 113,000 would-be Germans gained citizenship, 9.5 percent fewer than the year before.

"Germany does not have the sort of atmosphere that makes immigrants feel welcome," said Annelie Buntenbach from the DGB.

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