Minorities and their fundamental rights in Cologne Porz from 1870 until today -


The longitudinal section through 140 years of local history in Porz has shown considerable violations of the fundamental rights of minorities. The African prisoners of war, occupational soldiers, foreign labourers and forced foreign labourers, and particularly the Jewish inhabitants between 1933 and 1945, were affected.

Between 1870 and the end of the 1920s the integration of Jewish citizens was without any problems. We haven’t detected any violations of their fundamental rights. We have found countless proof that Jewish citizens, especially during the empire, were highly regarded by society and have taken many public offices and functions. It was favourable for this development that the Jewish population in Porz was distributed throughout the city area and thus a concentration of a minority in a certain living area / part of town was avoided, in contrast to the concentration of migrants in the Finkenberg district today

Because of this the Jewish citizens were perceived differently from other minorities in Porz. Forced labourers and foreign labourers lived either in camps next to the factory grounds or in the outskirts of the city (Grengel, Elsdorf, Libur).

The African soldiers and the prisoners of World War I and World War II were forced to live in camps in the Wahner Heide woods, which prevented any contact to the local population of Porz. Only the African soldiers were allowed to leave their camp on the weekends. Apart from this, because of the separation from the local population, there were hardly any contacts to the local people and the minorities in the camps.

Although the Belgian occupational troops lived in different areas of the city, they had less opportunity to contacts with the locals due to their nearly perfect Belgian infrastructure and a self-sufficient supply with food. Thus we couldn’t detect any violations of their fundamental rights caused by the local government. However, the children of the soldiers who were transferred to Porz with their families were forced to leave their Belgian hometowns for a couple of years and had to live rather secluded in Porz, away from their usual environment, and then had to return to areas in Belgium where they didn’t have any social contacts either. Many pupils who attended a Belgium school in Rösrath said they had suffered considerably from this, although, these circumstances are, admittedly, part of the life of many families in the army.

The local population’s attitude towards the various minorities has always differed according to the minority group.

Between 1933 and 1945 the fundamental rights of the local population as a whole were violated by the Nazis, too. This, however, would have been a field for an independent research project. We have found sources that clearly prove that the locals were victims of the Nazi intimidation and terror as well, especially when the Nazis seized power and at the end of the war. In the interviews with our witnesses of the Third Reich and their children we learned that the Nazis intimidated local citizens openly (for example damaged the printers at the printer’s Gantenberg) to prevent them and others from showing solidarity with the persecuted minorities. In spite of this many local citizens showed their courage when a highly regarded Jewish citizen of Porz was buried in 1942 and they attended the funeral against the authorities’ prohibition and explicit warnings

Most of the minorities only lived in Porz temporarily during the period of time we investigated. They were either forced to live in Porz or have come to Porz due to the demands of their jobs. All of these groups have in common that they didn’t want to settle down permanently in Porz, which is the major difference to the Jewish citizens and the migrants of the Finkenberg district today.

The integration of the migrants in the Finkenberg district who have been living in Porz in the second generation depends basically on the modernization and redevelopment plans of the 1980s. As the houses have fallen into disrepair, many people abandoned the district and often only of the lowest social classes moved there. At the same time the infrastructure declined and empty spaces were dilapidated, so that today vandalism, violence, gangs and a lack of police presence dominate the area. This problem can now only partly be solved by measures of the authorities, as preventive measures would have been necessary to reinstall a feeling of security and belonging in the population.1)

As the buildings have private owners, the local authorities cannot decide on a redevelopment of the area. The first measures aim at developing a district more attractive to other social classes through modernization and even demolition, in order to achieve a mix of different social classes in this area, and to make it more attractive for business. Social organization and charity are a decisive factor in this development as they work on an integration of the constantly arriving new migrants from Eastern Europe.

From the point of view of the positive experience with the Jewish and Belgian minorities in Porz it would be advisable to house new migrants arriving from Turkey and Eastern Europe in other districts of Porz and not only in Finkenberg to avoid a segregation of the population.

Regardless of individual decisions the district management has established new integrative and decentralized structures to redevelop this problematic area and thus to facilitate the integration of the migrants there. It’s a beacon of hope that the local population in Porz has proven to be non-aggressive towards migrants and not as likely to fall for extreme right-wind propaganda as the population of other areas of Cologne, mainly because they have always lived together with minorities due the different armies having been stationed in Porz. People who are used to deal and live with new and foreign people are more flexible, relaxed and open for new views.



1)  Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA): Setting a good example

       Get the details here [pdf]

2)  Sozialraumanalyse – Soziale, ethnische und demografische
    Segregation in den nordrhein-westfälischen Städten, Gutachten
    für die Enquetekommission „Zukunft der Städte in NRW“ des
    Landtags Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dortmund und Bochum, Januar
    2003, S. 180ff.

      Excerpt (German, p. 180ff.)

      Complete version [German, pdf, 3 MB]