Until the late 1950s, the population was 99% German; the Danes in Schleswig-Holstein were the sole national minority. The influx of foreigners as "guest workers" beginning in the late 1950s led to an upsurge in the number of permanent foreign residents. Germans constituted 91.5% of the total population in 1998. Of the foreigners in Germany, Turks were by far the largest group, numbering 2.4% of the population. Italians accounted for 0.7%; Greeks for 0.4%; Poles made up 0.4%; and various other groups—made up largely of people fleeing the war in the former Yugoslavia—made up the remaining 4.6%. Even persons born and reared in Germany are considered foreigners unless ethnically German or naturalized.
As joblessness increased in the 1980s and early 1990s, tensions arose between minority residents and young working-class youths, described as skinheads, who were influenced by neo-Nazi propaganda. This was true even in the former GDR.