It was love at first sight when Manfred Müller saw the young woman in a Munich restaurant and bar for the first time in 1971. Mongia Souiadi came from Tunisia and had heard in her native country that young women were being sought for well-paid jobs in Germany. Upon receiving her father’s permission with difficulty, she risked the venture and traveled to Munich where she found work at Siemens in the unit that manufactured storage cores.
Manfred Müller and Mongia Souiadi became a couple after a few months. The two wanted to marry but marriage at a German civil registrar’s office was not valid in Tunisia and an intercultural wedding ceremony was not possible, either. Manfred decided to convert from Catholicism to Islam. Four years later, Manfred and Mongia married twice, once in a civil marriage ceremony in Munich and once in an Islamic ceremony in Tunisia. Manfred’s colleagues from the police also came to the wedding in Munich – and formed an honor guard in full dress before the civil registrar’s office.
Mongia was one of the millions of “guest workers” recruited from abroad to cover the demand for labor in booming West Germany. The first labor recruitment agreement was concluded with Italy in 1955, the last one with Yugoslavia in 1968. At the time recruitment was halted in 1973, roughly four million foreign workers were living in Wet Germany. Around one third of them came from Turkey. The term “guest worker” common at the time embodied the expectation that the workers would return to their home countries one day – there were not any strategies for integrating the foreigners living here yet at that time.
The Müllers now live with their family near Munich for one half of the year and in Tunisia for the other half. The certificate of conversion Manfred received after his examination by the Mufti attests his radical decision. He donated the impressive document to the Museum of Bavarian History.
Sources/Literature: Eyewitness interview by the Haus der Bayerischen Geschichte