To acquire German citizenship, foreigners living in Germany already have to fulfil a number of conditions. But as of September 1, prospective Germans will face a challenging further hurdle: a new citizenship test.
Anyone who wants to become a German national will have to demonstrate a basic knowledge of the country. In total, prospective Germans will have to tackle 33 questions on politics and democracy, history and responsibility and man and society -- of which they need to answer 17 correctly.
The test was developed for the Interior Ministry by academics at Berlin's Humboldt University. They came up with 1,000 questions, which after being tested on 5,000 people were reduced to around 300. Seven sample multiple-choice questions were revealed Tuesday, with the rest of the questions due to be presented within the next few weeks. The sample questions include such brain teasers as: What's the job of the opposition in the German parliament? When was the Federal Republic of Germany founded? Why did former Chancellor Willy Brandt kneel down in the former Warsaw Ghetto in 1970?
The questions are meant to test the applicants' knowledge and understanding of German society, but not to address matters of conscience, as one test developed for the German state of Hesse did. As well as questions about the country as a whole, each state can test whether applicants can name the state's governor and capital.
However opposition parties in Germany's parliament have criticized the test, which was commissioned by Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who belongs to Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Prominent Green Party politician Hans-Christian Ströbele told the Wednesday edition of the regional newspaper Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung he had fundamental concerns about the test. "I worry that many Germans would not pass the test either," he said. "Questions about the age of legal responsibility, or Willy Brandt kneeling down, miss the point."
Meanwhile, the business friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) criticized the fact that the test questions will be published. "Those who are good at learning things by heart will be able to pass such a formulaic test will ease," Sibylle Laurischk, a FDP spokeswoman on integration and migration, told German news agency DPA. She added that other people, however, could be at a disadvantage.
An attempt by the CDU to introduce a far more ambitious citizenship test in the German state of Hesse in 2006 ended in failure. Some of the questions in that test -- such as one about the work of German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich -- were deemed simply too hard. The test also envisaged asking questions on matters of conscience. For example, applicants were supposed to say what they thought about women going out on the street without being accompanied by a male relative.
As well as passing the new test, anyone who wants to become German has to fulfil several other conditions. An applicant needs to have lived in Germany for eight years, have a sufficient grasp of the German language, have no previous convictions, earn a secure living and commit to upholding Germany's constitution.
In recent years the number of people wanting to become a German citizen has fallen. In 2000 186,688 people took up German nationality compared to only 126,000 last year.
Do you have what it takes to become a German citizen? Try the sample questions from the new test in our citizenship quiz.