German Language Blog

Die Überfremdung and PEGIDA Posted by on Mar 4, 2015 in Culture, Language

Guten Tag! Often when I write posts about ‘untranslatable’ German words I try to include references to German culture (where applicable) or add in extra information relating to those words.

So sehen sie aus: DÜGIDA

Man at PEGIDA demonstration with jacket bearing the words: “Unsere Regeln – Unsere Tradition” : “Our rules – Our traditions”. Photo by gruenenrw on under CC BY-SA 2.0


Today I’ve chosen a word that is relevant to the current political situation in Germany.

Die Überfremdung.

What does Überfremdung mean?
Überfremdung describes excessive immigration in a town, city, country, etc., or the excessive influence of a foreign culture onto one’s own.

What does Überfremdung literally translate to?
It consists of the words Über: Over/overly and Fremd: Foreign/strange. Together, and with ‘ung’ on the end, the word Überfremdung literally means ‘over-foreignisation’.

How would you use it in a sentence?
Ich habe Angst vor Überfremdung. – I am scared of Überfremdung.

What is the nearest English equivalent?
The terms ‘excess immigration’ and ‘foreign influence’ are thrown around a lot – but I’m no expert on it! So if anyone has any more appropriate terms to describe Überfremdung, please let us know!

Relevance to Germany today

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, you’ll probably have heard of the German political group known as PEGIDA. Over the past few months, Germany has been the centre of media attention due to this radical group’s activities in Germany.

Who are PEGIDA?

PEGIDA, which stands for Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West), is a German right-wing political organisation founded by Lutz Bachmann (who has since stepped down after a picture of him impersonating Adolf Hitler was leaked) in Dresden in October 2014. As its name suggests, its main focus is protesting against what it calls the ‘Islamisation’ of Germany and the West.

How did PEGIDA come about?

What started out as a Facebook group created by founder Lutz Bachmann became a series of weekly protests (which they call ein Abendspaziergang – ‘An evening stroll’), which soon attracted media attention. Though they started out with just a few hundred members, the number of protesters in support of PEGIDA peaked at 25,000 on January 12, 2015 – 5 days after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris. The group continues to march, and its huge presence has stirred up political debate regarding immigration in Germany.

Simply put, PEGIDA believes that the West is experiencing Überfremdung, and is trying to counteract it.

Anti-PEGIDA protests

There are many anti-PEGIDA groups across Germany and in other countries, and more often than not the number of people turning up to the anti-PEGIDA rallies by far outnumbers those in support of PEGIDA.

Vielfalt für Freiheit - Demonstration gegen Dügida 12.1.2015

Anti-PEGIDA demonstrators in Nordrhein-Westfalen. Photo by gruenenrw on under CC BY-SA 2.0

PEGIDA held their first UK protest in Newcastle on Saturday, February 28th. Here, too, they were outnumbered by anti-PEGIDA protesters: 2,000 to 375.

In Germany, the lights of the Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral) and the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) in Berlin were also switched off during PEGIDA protests in these cities in protest of the far-right group’s message, and to show that Germany is a peaceful country that opposes the ‘darkness’ that comes from racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia.

Vielfalt für Freiheit - Demonstration gegen Dügida 12.1.2015

“For tolerance and humanity” Photo by gruenenrw on under CC BY-SA 2.0

In PEGIDA’s words

Here are the first few lines from PEGIDA’s “About” page on Facebook, with a translation underneath:

“Wir möchten. dass alle Kinder in einem friedlichem und weltoffenem Deutschland und Europa aufwachsen können!

Wir sind nicht “politisch korrekt”…!
Wir beugen uns NICHT dem medialen Mainstream und somit auch nicht den “Gutmenschen”!
Wir nehmen unser verfassungsgemäßes Recht auf freie Meinungsäußerung wahr.

JEDER Mensch, gleich welcher Nationalität oder Religion ist uns willkommen !!!

Wir wollen einfach KEINE GEWALT auf unseren Straßen wie z.B. in Hamburg oder Celle !!!
Unsere Städte, Dörfer und Gemeinden sind KEINE Orte zum Austragen von Stellvertreter- oder Glaubenskriegen!!!”


“We want our children to be able to grow up in a peaceful, liberal Germany and Europe!

We are not “politically correct”…!
We do NOT submit to the mainstream, nor the “do-gooders”!
We exercise our constitutional right to freedom of speech.

We welcome EVERY person, regardless of their nationality or religion !!!

We simply do not want ANY VIOLENCE on our streets, eg. like in Hamburg or Celle !!!
Our cities, villages and communities are NO place to carry out proxy wars or religious wars!!!”

The latest on PEGIDA is that they marched in Antwerp, Belgium on Monday 2nd March. The rally attracted just 200 protesters.

Whether it rises or falls from here on in, the effect that PEGIDA (and its anti-rallies) has had on Germany and German politics is undeniable.

Tags: , , , , , ,
Keep learning German with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze and I live in the UK. I'm half English and half German, and have been writing about German language and culture on this blog since 2014. I am also a fitness instructor & personal trainer.


  1. Allan Mahnke:

    Many thanks for this. We in the US were relieved when Lutz Bachmann self-destructed in such a spectacular manner. We know that we can’t assume this will always happen. We see similar (but obviously different) racism in this country and know that people like those in PEGIDA are everywhere. It was heartening to see the large counter-demonstrations (against PEGIDA).

    • Constanze:

      @Allan Mahnke Thanks for your comment, Allan. I feel the same. The one positive thing is, as you said, the huge numbers of anti-PEGIDA demonstrators across the world!

  2. MrSea:

    I am from the U.S. but with a strong German family background.I think Mr. Mahnke is being a bit presumptuous to say “we in the US”. He does not speak for all of us. Also, I feel his playing of the race card is out of place. Islamic people are not of a different race they are of a different religion. “Ich habe Angst vor Überfremdung”. This has nothing to do with race. It is about loss of culture and economic destruction. These people are pouring into Germany and signing up for every assistance program and free money handout that they can find. This is economically unsustainable.If, instead of Islamic peoples, Germany was suffering a major influx of, lets just say, Irish or Americans, there would be some form of PEGIDA to stand up and voice a warning. We call these people Patriots.

  3. Diana Wulf Langie:

    Like Mr. Mahnke and Mr.Sea, I too am from the USA. As is the case with Mr.Sea, my family also has a strong cultural heritage connection with Germany (I am 3rd generation German migrant). I am a member of the Wulf family, of the Gothic Wulf dynasty begun by the granddaughter of the mysterious historical figure Beowulf
    (the literary work “Beowulf,” an epic poem, is largely fictional. Strangely, while championing the foreign relations strategy of Beowulf the Goth as many did during his actual lifetime, the epic poem depicts Beowulf as fitting into a Herculean-warrior archetype. While the man himself did wield weapon every so often, he is famous among Gothic-Germanic peoples for his diplomatic skills.
    Examples include Beowulf’s visit to ancient Denmark, during which time he acted as an ambassador of Goths and prevented escalation of tension when Danes and Goths were on the verge of war by emphasizing the Nordic heritage shared by both Danes and Goths. He is also known for acting as a mediator between allied Gauls & Vandals and Catholic Rome, as well as for intervening diplomatically to reduce hostilities among Saxons, Britannic clans, Frankish Celts, Frisians and Jutes).
    The Wulf dynasty and subsequent Wulf aristocracy in what is today known as Germany caused Wulf ancestry to be meticulously documented for over a millennium (this cultural characteristic of the Gothic Wulfs is also found among Nordic peoples). I am directly descended from Beowulf the Goth, who was born in what is modern-day Germany. The recording and passing on of ancestral records through generations inevitably results in the learning of history.
    While “racism” certainly exists today, as Mr. Mahnke mentioned, the concept of “race” itself is, biologically speaking, nonexistent. I respectfully disagree with Mr.Sea in his assertion that Mr. Mahnke was, “playing the race card;” no “race card” is included in the deck from which our cards are dealt (though a “racist card” does), and thus, no “race card” can actually be played.
    Racism is based on any number of arbitrary demographic factors, including but not limited to country of origin, continent of origin, primary language, religion, first and/or surname, socioeconomic status, statelessness status, historically strained foreign affairs, skin tone, regional customs, and so on.
    Mr.Sea asserts that the influx of refugees in Germany is problematic because it will result in “loss of culture and economic destruction.” Mr.Sea also defines aforementioned refugees as being “of a different religion.” This raises questions in my mind:
    -If Muslim people are “of a different religion” (I presume this is meant to be relative to Germany), what religion is it from which those of Islamic faith are different?
    -German law is not based upon the laws of religious doctrine (in contrast, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the State of Israel are theocracies). Germany has no state-sponsored religion either, and its constitution guarantees religious freedom and protection from religious discrimination. Furthermore, a 2011 poll revealed that approximately 55% of German citizens are non-religious. Why would the religion of inbound refugees cause a “loss of culture and economic destruction,” or even be relevant at all?
    -Historically, in large part due to Germany’s physical geographic location at a crossroads of Slavic, Germanic, Baltic, and Romantic national cultures, German culture has been somewhat anomalous and difficult to define. The large population of immigrant citizens is acknowledged in Germany. Culturally speaking, Germany is known for its contributions to literature, art, and engineering. Why would these cultural achievements be affected by migration when Germany has always been a heavily trafficked area for immigrants?
    -No government on Earth ever gives a “free money handout” to anyone. Registering for financial assistance programs is purposely made to be tedious and difficult (with the exception of financial assistance in the Nordic Council nations) so that the registration process is only worth the time and effort of those who are truly in desperate need. In addition, registration for financial assistance certainly does not guarantee receipt of government financial assistance. Refugees to not leave their hometowns and possessions behind, hand over all their financial assets as demanded by the Syrian government in order to emigrate, to risk life and limb traveling across dangerous borders to unfamiliar nations within which they are socially ostracized, just to fill out stacks of paperwork in a new language they must quickly learn, in order to obtain a tiny amount of money from a prejudiced government that just barely covers the cost of feeding their families. Refugees only flee their home countries in the most tortuous, life-threatening circumstances. Without initial financial assistance, refugees would be completely unable to survive, let alone become productive contributors to their host nations. Wouldn’t denial of financial assistance to refugees be more likely to cause “economic destruction?” Would refugees not be forced to become petty theft criminals in order to feed their families if they were forced to live with absolutely nothing?
    There have been a handful of historic incidences of sudden influx of Irish immigrants to Germany in the past few centuries; yet never has militant rejection of Irish people been considered characteristic of German “Patriots.” Though American immigrants to Germany are comparably small in number, Americans (such as myself, Mr. Mahnke, and Mr.Sea) do not face gatherings of hundreds of anti-American protesters spreading nationalist hatred. Would Mr.Sea, if visiting Germany, were to encounter protesters yelling at him to leave Germany and never come back because of his American citizenship, would he call these people “Patriots?”
    History remembers crises and this refugee crisis faced by Europe will be described in the textbooks of European schoolchildren. Every action, from the individual to the national level, counts right now and will go on record. The way Europeans respond right now (or fail to respond) will define and characterize exactly the way their great-grandchildren will perceive them.