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Does Sorb’s election win point to a more multicultural Germany?


Under Adolf Hitler, the Nazis tried to extinguish the culture and language of the Sorbs.

This week, a member of Germany’s indigenous Slavic minority won a state election for the first time. Stanislaw Tillich’s victory puts him firmly in control of Saxony, the most populous eastern state – and looks likely to catapult the 50-year-old to the front ranks of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU).

“It was a historic day for the Sorbs,” Alfons Wicaz-Lehmann, deputy editor-in-chief of Serbske Nowiny, the country’s only Sorbian language daily, said of Tillich’s win. “It also shows that members of a minority really can rise to such a high office in this democracy.”

Although they now number only 60,000 and have lived in eastern Germany for well over 1,000 years, Sorbs have retained a distinctive culture and language, despite efforts to suppress them under Prussian domination and then Nazi oppression. Partly because of this they have kept a relatively low profile in Germany, a country whose ageing population and low birth rates could leave it heavily dependent on immigration in the years ahead.