Their Battle Is Our Battle

Aurora Rodonò

Introduction to Pierburg: Ihr Kampf ist unser Kampf

When the German government signed the first post-war agreement with Italy on the recruitment of »foreign workers« in December 1955, it did not expect that by the time recruitment stopped in 1973, around 5 million people from Italy, Greece, Spain, Turkey, Morocco, Portugal, Tunisia, Yugoslavia and South Korea would come to Germany as so-called »guest workers«, including of course women. »The industrial reserve army« – as a documentary film on this subject by Helma Sanders-Brahms from 1971 is called – was to sell its labour and provide a short-term solution to the shortfall in the West German labour market following the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961, doing so on the principle of rotation and specifically in lower-paid jobs. But: the migrant workers refused to acquiesce to the subordinate role given to them. As early as the 1950s and 1960s, almost 90% of the initial migrants returned to their countries of origin due to the disastrous working and housing conditions, or went to Switzerland, the Netherlands and France, where wages were higher – especially for women. The others remained, and, from the early 1970s, migrants in Frankfurt’s west-end district battled against investors and poor housing, demonstrated for kindergarten places as well as against the dictatorships in Spain and Portugal. They also downed tools in factories due to the exploitative and discriminatory working conditions, for example at BMW (1972), Ford, or at Pierburg (1973), then the largest carburettor manufacturer for cars and aircraft, in Neuss in North-Rhine Westphalia. Segregation and racism manifest themselves, and in 1973 alone the editorial collective »express« recorded 334 on-the-spot strikes. A protest movement from which the protagonists’ contemporaries can draw no small amount of inspiration.
– Aurora Rodonò

Aurora Rodonò

Aurora Rodonò is a freelance curator and currently works as a research associate at the Institute for Art and Art Theory at the University of Cologne. She is a programme planner at the Cologne »Filmclub 813«. From 2012 to 2014, she was a project consultant at the Academy of the Arts of the World (Cologne) and between 2003 and 2006 a research  associate in the research and exhibition project »Project Migration« (Cologne 2005). In May 2017, she helped create the Tribunal »Unravelling the NSU Complex« (at the Schauspiel Köln theatre). She has published several works on Italian migration history and German and Italian migration cinema.