The Case for Delinquency

The Case for Delinquency

it is believed in New York that Puerto-Rican immigration is one of the main causes of the city’s rapidly increasing juvenile delinquency. In London, a similar social phenomenon has been attributed, at various times and in various neighborhoods, to the recent immigration of relatively large numbers of West Indians, West Africans, Pakistanis, Maltese or Cypriots. In Paris, it is similarly attributed to the vast influx of North African Arabs; in most West German cities, to the influx of refugees from Eastern Germany; in Rome and Milan, to the influx of desperately poor, underprivileged and unskilled young people from Southern Italy.

In America, England, France, Western Germany and Italy, public opinion thus attributes increases in juvenile delinquency to a recent influx of immigrants, generally boys and young men seeking employment, of a different race or a darker complexion, which actually applies, in Italy, to Calabrians and Sicilians too, but does not apply, in Western Germany, to refugees from the East.

A CERTAIN PROPORTION of the young people who arrive as political refugees from Eastern Germany are actually petty criminals on the run or unstable and unruly young people who have simply failed to adjust themselves to the strenuous life of totalitarian Eastern Germany and been attracted to the West by the legend of its prosperity and of its easier way of life. The number of juvenile delinquents from Eastern Germany, especially in West Berlin, is quite shockingly high in many of the published statistics. But the families of refugees from the East have also been far more cruelly disrupted, first in the exodus that was caused by the Soviet invasion in 1945, then by the social upheaval and the police-measures that accompanied the collectivization of the East-German economy. These young East-German refugees have much in common with the Besprizorni of the post-revolutionary era in Soviet Russia; they are to a great extent the psychoneurotically maladjusted by-products of a vast social and economic upheaval. In West Berlin, many of those apprehended are still residents of East Berlin who commute to commit crimes in an economy where crime pays more. Yet West-German public opinion, in blaming the increase of the nation’s juvenile delinquency on the influx of refugees from the East, actually reflects the same kind of basic guilt feelings as does public opinion in other nations, where this phenomenon is blamed on an influx of darker and less privileged immigrants from warmer climates. Immediately after the unconditional surrender of the defeated Third Reich, all crime was blamed, throughout Western Germany, on the Displaced Persons, former forced laborers from occupied foreign countries or former prisoners of war and concentration-camp inmates. Of course, the accumulated resentments of these victims of the Nazi regime tended to express themselves, for a while, in occasional acts of violence. But the numbers of these displaced p...


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