Glossary / General vocabulary

© D Nutting

This list is alphabetical. The letters (m), (f) and (nt) indicate that the noun is masculine, feminine or neuter. You can search this page for a specific adjective or phrase by using the combination of Ctrl and F on your keyboard. If you want to enter a German word that contains an Umlaut, you can copy and paste from one of these here:
ä ö ü ß
Arbeitserlaubnis (f)
- work permit. Asylum-seekers who have been in Germany for more than a year while waiting for their case to be heard can get a work permit and seek work.
Arbeitsplatz (m)
- job
Asyl (nt)
- asylum
Asylant, Asylbewerber (m)
- a person seeking political asylum in Germany. Germany's Asylrecht (right of asylum legislation) is freer than that of many countries, and particularly after unification many asylum seekers came to Germany, some attracted by the prospect of a higher standard of living. Stress on Germany's ability to accept such large numbers and public opinion that some Asylanten were not politisch Verfolgte (victims of political persecution) but seekers of an economically better life, led to a tightening of the fairly open-house Asylrecht in 1993, so that only those people were accepted whose safety would be in danger in their home-land and who had not come to Germany via a European Union country or any other country considered to be 'safe'. This reduced the number of applications considerably.
Asylantenheim (nt)
- a hostel for housing asylum-seekers before their case is heard (also Asylbewerberheim).
Asylantrag (m)
- application for political asylum.
Asylberechtigter (m)
- a person recognised as having the right to asylum in Germany.
Ausländerfeindlichkeit (f)
- racist hostility to foreigners, which became a serious problem in the early 1990s, with violent attacks on Asylanten [see entry] (asylum-seekers), Jewish cemeteries and foreigners in general. The huge unemployment in eastern Germany resulting from the collapse of former DDR companies caused right-wing minorities to attack and abuse foreigners. At the time of unification in 1990, foreigners made up about 1.5% of the East German population and almost 8% of the population in West Germany.
Aussiedler (m)
- ethnic Germans from eastern Europe and Russia; from the Middle Ages through to the 19th century Germans had emigrated there, where they were welcome as settlers and as a labour source. Over the centuries they maintained their German identity and cultural traditions. Aussiedler are people who chose to return to Germany once the eastern borders were open. The German government recognises them as Germans and provides help to integrate them into modern German life.
- to apply for
- to insult, abuse
Brandanschlag (m)
- fire bombing
Bürgerkrieg (m)
- civil war. Some asylum-seekers come from countries where a civil war is being fought.
Flüchtling (nt)
- refugee, someone who has fled from their home country fearing for their safety.
Fremdenhass (m)
- hatred of foreigners
Gastarbeiter (m)
- foreign worker from mainly southern-European countries such as Turkey, Italy, the former Yugoslavia or Greece who started coming to (West) Germany in the 1960s to work on a temporary basis. Germany welcomed them as they often took jobs which Germans were not keen to do. The intention was that they return to their home country after a set period; however, many have stayed and their grown-up children regard Germany as home rather than the place of their parents' origin. German government financial incentives for Gastarbeiter to return home have not had a big effect.
Gewalt (f)
- violence
- violent
Grundgesetz (nt)
- The Basic Law, or written constitution of Germany. It takes precedence over all other laws.
Kundgebung (f)
- declaration; demonstration, rally
- peaceful mass demonstrations against hostility to foreigners held in many German cities in the evenings in 1992, where chains of candle-holding people stretched for kilometres.
- human rights.
Menschenwürde (f)
- human dignity. Germany's constitution insists that both the state and individuals protect and uphold Menschenwürde.
- right-wing groups of people who abused and attacked foreigners particularly in the early years after German unification in 1990. The general population protested against them through peaceful mass marches in many cities and participation in Lichterketten [see entry].
Sammelunterkunft (f)
- camp accommodation for refugees, necessary at the time when very large numbers of refugees arrived in Germany in the early 1990s due to the open asylum policy [see Asylant].
Sozialhilfe (f)
- welfare payments, unemployment benefits
Staatsangehörigkeit (f)
- nationality, citizenship
Staatsbürgerschaft (f)
- nationality, citizenship
�bersiedler (m)
- person who, during the time of the two Germanys, escaped from or was able to move from the DDR and settled in the BRD.
Verfassung (f)
- constitution; Germany has a national constitution and each state has one also.
- verfassungswidrige Organisationen, organisations that have been declared illegal under the constitution by the Bundesverfassungsgericht (constitutional court; highest court in Germany).
Verfolgung (f)
- persecution
Vergangenheitsbewältigung (f)
- the mental process of confronting and coming to terms with the past, usually referring to Germany's efforts to face up to its Nazi past. Many Germans were deeply concerned about neo-Nazi groups' abuse of foreigners in the early 1990s.
Verständigung (f)
- understanding, eg between peoples of different groups.
Vertreibung (f)
- expulsion (from a country, or region)
Vorurteil (nt)
- prejudice
Zuflucht (f)
- refuge, shelter
Zufluchtsort (m)
- place of refuge, asylum, safe sanctuary