The Greeks of Germany
The Greeks of Germany is the fourth largest immigrant group in the country, after the Turks, Italians and Poles. In late 2006 303,761 citizens of Greek citizenship lived in Germany. The German Federal Statistical Office (Statistisches Bundesamt) estimated for the year 2005 the number of citizens of Greek descent regardless of citizenship to be 351,100 people. In 2003 the average stay of Greek nationals in Germany was estimated to be 22 years. The Greeks are not the largest immigrant group in Germany, but they are one of the oldest.
In the 17th century the great political and social restrictions against the Turks led Greeks to participate to rather hidden social activities such as typography, schools, etc.. However when the borders of the empire opened for traders, many Greeks decided to leave the Ottoman Empire. Leipzig which was at that time an important commercial hub, became the centre of Greek immigration. Around 1700 the first Greek Orthodox ceremonies take place in the famous "Greek House» (Griechenhaus).
Soon the social importance of Hellenism in Saxony increased and many Greeks began to study at the University of Leipzig. Even Johann Wolfgang Goethe met several fellow Greeks. In the 19th century the Prince Elector Friedrich Augusto awarded a title of nobility to the son of a Greek merchant George Karagiannis, "Theodor von Karajan", for his contriubution in the textile industry of Saxony (one of his descendants was Herbert von Karajan the famous maestro).
The Greeks of Leipzig settled in West Germany and other European countries after the division of Germany (after WWII). Many settled in the city of Frankfurt, where they continued their operations but the community was disbanded in 1952 due to lack of members. Another Greek community was founded in the early 19th century in Munich. In 1828 the philhellene King of Bavaria Ludwig I, offered the Church of the Transfiguration of Munich, known as "Salvatorkirche" for the religious needs of the community. The first Orthodox Divine Liturgy was held on December 6, 1829. That time numerous Bavarian craftsmen and intellectuals migrated in Greece as well.
During the National Socialist dictatorship, many Greek of Jewish faith were used as forced laborers. From the thriving Jewish community of Thessaloniki only about a thousand people came back. During the Greek civil war, many Communists sent their children to the German Democratic Republic and other eastern countries. Also a stream of immigration of Greek communists in Eastern Europe (including Eastern and Germany) followed even after the Civil War ended. At that time West Germany began to call for workers from abroad to work as "Guest workers» (Gastarbeiter) in its factories, and many of whom were Greek.
In 1967 the policies of the military junta resulted in a stream of Greek civil migration towards both German states. After the dictatorship ended , many of them returned to Greece, such as the later Prime Minister Konstantinos Simitis, who was a professor of Commerce and Civil Law at the University of Giessen from 1971 to 1975. Also after the accession to the EEC there was a brief increase of Greek migration to Germany. The improved economic situation of Greece in the beginning of the new millennium, led to the return of many Greek immigrants and their descendants back home. Many retirees among them prefer to stay only in the spring and summer in Greece and the rest of the year in Germany, where many have children and grandchildren.