Between National Socialism and Soviet Communism
Displaced Persons in Postwar Germany
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University of Michigan Press
Note on Sources
This study draws on a diverse array of sources, including letters, memoranda, reports, petitions, speeches, newspaper articles, memoirs, and fiction. They were written in many different languages: Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, Yiddish, German, and English. A word is in order about the German and English used by displaced persons. Eager to communicate with...
In a story entitled “The January Offensive,” the Polish writer and concentration camp survivor Tadeusz Borowski provides a fictionalized account of life in Germany in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. His story focuses on “displaced persons” (DPs), the multinational population of concentration camp survivors, forced laborers, prisoners of war,...
Part 1. Care and Control: The Administration of Displaced Persons
1. The Invention of the Displaced Person
The Second World War set in motion an unprecedented series of population displacements that dramatically transformed the demographic map of Europe. According to Eugene Kulischer, some 55 million Europeans were displaced between 1939 and 1947, 30 million during the expansion of Nazi power and 25 million as a result of...
2. Displaced Persons and the Question of Persecution
Allied planning for the postwar had focused on displacement rather than persecution or genocide. Thus, by the time Germany surrendered, the concept of a displaced person was well defined. However, this concept took little account of why people had been displaced. In particular, it took little account of displacement as a prelude to or consequence of persecution....
Part 2. The Threat of Communism
3. The Repatriation Debate and the Anticommunist “Political Explanation”
While Allied planners were establishing the framework of care and control for displaced persons and persecutees, DPs were themselves debating the future. The majority took for granted that they would soon return home and that their time as displaced persons would be short. Some, however, were adamantly opposed to the idea of return, while many others were uncertain...
4. Between Federalists and Separatists: The Anticommunist Movement(s)
Opposition to communism was one of the main reasons displaced persons gave for refusing to return home. In numerous polls, they expressed unwillingness to return to countries under Soviet or communist domination, criticized the lack of political and religious freedom, wondered how they would survive economically, and expressed fear of being deported or otherwise...
Part 3. The Legacy of Nazism
5. Jewish Survivors and the Reckoning with the Nazi Past
In “The Battle of Grunwald,” Tadeusz Borowski interweaves the story of liberated Polish political prisoners with that of Polish Jewish Holocaust survivors. While the politicals are debating the Polish future in the DP camp, a group of Polish Jews arrives. They are on their way to Palestine. The story’s narrator Tadek makes the acquaintance of a young Jewish...
6. Displaced Jews and the German Question
Most Jewish DPs had no desire to remain in Germany. As German agencies gained more control over civil and political affairs, however, the question of how to live among Germans assumed greater prominence, especially for those no longer certain when and if they would leave. This chapter looks at the relationship between Jewish DPs and their German...
7. Political Prisoners and the Legacy of National Socialism
For displaced Jews, the legacy of National Socialism was central. This was not, as we have seen, the case among displaced Poles, Ukrainians, and Russians. Although most of them had also been displaced by National Socialist policies, their collective identifications centered on experiences of Soviet oppression and the Soviet threat in postwar eastern Europe. However,...
8. Recognition, Assistance, Wiedergutmachung: The Claims of Displaced Political
Displaced politicals were deeply preoccupied with their experiences under National Socialism. This preoccupation not only generated a wealth of organizations, commemorations, and testimonies: it also served as the basis for material claims. Three claims took center stage. First, DP politicals sought official recognition of their status as persecuted persons. Second,...
Most displaced persons viewed their time in Germany as a waiting period. They viewed Germany itself as a temporary abode, a way station between past and future. Those who could leave were only too happy to do so. The majority had in any case lived in relative isolation from the rest of the population, in the extraterritorial setting of the DP camps. However, even those...
Page Count: 376
Illustrations: 12 images
Publication Year: 2011
Series Title: Social History, Popular Culture, and Pol
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