This article puts forced migration at the center of the Federal Republic's history. Forced migration to Germany has often been understood as an unprecedented crisis, but, far from being an aberration, such migration has been a necessary component of the classic legitimating narratives of the Federal Republic and a crucial support for its postwar “economic miracle.” The official reception of forced migrants has been structured by a categorical distinction between genuine refugees and ersatz “economic refugees.” The former are lauded for their economic contributions to Germany, whereas those alleged to have migrated mainly for economic reasons are condemned as fraudulent opportunists. These categories have been continually transposed onto new groups of forced migrants, whose arrival is invariably grasped as a crisis. The unfolding of refugee “crises” and their resolutions have continually shown the artificiality of the distinction between genuine and economic refugees-while simultaneously redrawing it.
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