The modern migration of Greeks within Europe as a phenomenon begins with the economic development of the industrial countries of Western Europe and especially Germany. Unemployment and underemployment in Greece contributed to this migration
September-October 2022 Greek Business File, Issue No 139
by George Vailakis
A prerequisite for the entry of immigrants into Germany was the recruitment of those interested, following a process of selection of workers by the recruitment offices (Anwerbeburos) set up for this purpose in the capitals of the sending countries, in accordance with the interstate labour conventions.
This legal framework was in force until Greece’s accession to the European Community, when restrictions on free movement were gradually abolished. The first generation of Greeks was essentially unskilled labour, which, especially from the 1960s onwards, was essential for Germany’s economic boom and its rapidly expanding industry. At that time, West Germany began to call in labour from abroad, mainly for its factories, as ‘guest workers’ (Gastarbeiter), many of whom were Greeks.
Thus, the Greeks in Germany were to become the fourth largest group of immigrants in the country, after the Turks, the Italians and the Poles. The German Federal Statistical Office estimates the number of citizens of Greek origin, regardless of nationality, at 453,000 in 2019. The General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad and Public Diplomacy estimates for 2020 that there were 364,285 people born in Greece living in Germany.
The first Greek community in Leipzig
Immigration from Greece to Germany began around 1700, when the Ottoman Empire opened its borders to traders, with the first community being located in Leipzig, which at the time was an important trading centre.
It was then that the first Greek Orthodox services were held in the “Greek House” (Griechenhaus) and soon the social importance of Saxony’s Hellenism became more widely accepted. Many Greeks studied at the University of Leipzig. Indeed, even Johann Wolfgang Goethe met several Greek fellow students and became friends with them. In the 19th century, Prince Friedrich August I of Saxony awarded a title of nobility to the son of the Greek merchant George Karagiannis, Theodor von Karajan, for his work in the Saxon textile industry — one of his descendants was the famous conductor Herbert von Karajan.
Another Greek community was creat ed in the early 19th century in Munich. For its worship needs, the philhellene King Ludwig I of Bavaria granted in 1828 the Holy Church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour in Munich, known as the Salvatorkirche.
At that time, numerous Bavarian craftsmen and intellectuals immigrated to Greece. From the Munich School, a Greek painting school of high academic level was created in the 19th century. Together with Konstantinos Volanakis, the main representatives of the Munich School are the late 19th century painters Nikiforos Lytras, Nikolaos Gyzis and Georgios Jakobides. The creation of the Romantic School of Munich is mainly due to the special ties that were established between Greece and Bavaria during the years of Otto — the Bavarian prince who became the first king of Greece.
As for the Greeks of Leipzig, they settled after World War II in West Germany, but also in other European countries. Many went to the city of Frankfurt, where they continued their trading activity. Τhe community was dissolved in 1952 due to lack of members…
The full article is published in the September-October 2022 Greek Business File, here.