On October 25, 2000, a major German daily newspaper, Die Welt, published the article “Immigration and Identity” from which the above quote is taken.2 The author, Friedrich Merz, was at the time chairman of the conservative block CDU/CSU [Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union] in the Bundestag [German Parliament]. By his own admission, Merz never anticipated the extent of the debate on Deutsche Leitkultur that his article provoked in the following months.3 Media attention was so intense that Leitkultur made it to eighth place in the category “Word of the Year” for 2000, although first prize for “Unwort [Non-Word] of

the Year” went to Deutsche Leitkultur.4 Literally, the term translates as “guiding culture” and implies, as in the quote by Merz, a need for a set of “core” values as a basis for a culturally pluralistic society, setting the foundations of Robinson’s ‘meaningful life’ in a multi-ethnic environment. While conservatives quickly mobilized around the concept to reinforce their notion of Deutschtum [Germanness], liberals and those on the left expressed strong opposition, admonishing the German public not to repeat “historical mistakes”, by giving in to cultural chauvinism, xenophobia, and the rhetoric of assimilation.5 Almost immediately, Leitkultur became a euphemism in public discourse for the country’s ambivalent attitude towards immigration, with Germany’s revised citizenship law (2000) based no longer on blood, but on residency and birth; and recognizing finally, that the country had become de facto a multicultural society. Nevertheless, after a couple of months of polemical if unresolved discussion of the term’s meaning, origin, and usefulness, the initial media attention gradually subsided although the word never disappeared from public discourse. Then, in 2005, Leitkultur made an unexpected come-back when Norbert Lammert became President of the Bundestag and called for a “revival of the Leitkultur debate.”6 This time around, however, the culture in question was referred to as “European” rather than “German,” and his efforts resulted in a collection of essays, which he edited and published in 2006, under the title “Constitution, Patriotism, Core Cultural Values: What Holds our Society Together.” The solicited contributions certainly represent a wide spectrum of opinions on the subject by leading German intellectuals and politicians from the left as well as the right (Lammert 2006). Since then, however, a less impassioned and more substantive debate focusing on “integration” and “cultural plurality” has emerged, this time with noticeable participation from so-called deutsche Ausländer [German foreigners] or Deutschländer [Germaners], the second and third generations.7