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Between National Socialism and Soviet Communism

Displaced Persons in Postwar Germany

Anna Holian

Publication Year: 2011

"Though its primary focus is on the immediate postwar, Between National Socialism and Soviet Communism will surely illuminate the contemporary crisis around citizenship and definitions of Germanness in the context of European Union and globalization." ---Geoff Eley, University of Michigan In May of 1945, there were more than eight million "displaced persons" (or DPs) in Germany---recently liberated foreign workers, concentration camp prisoners, and prisoners of war from all of Nazi-occupied Europe, as well as eastern Europeans who had fled west before the advancing Red Army. Although most of them quickly returned home, it soon became clear that large numbers of eastern European DPs could or would not do so. . In the aftermath of National Socialism, Germany thus ironically became a temporary home for a large population of "foreigners." Focusing on Bavaria, in the heart of the American occupation zone, Between National Socialism and Soviet Communism examines the cultural and political worlds that four groups of displaced persons---Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, and Jewish---created in Germany during the late 1940s and early 1950s. The volume investigates the development of refugee communities and how divergent interpretations of National Socialism and Soviet Communism defined these displaced groups. Combining German and eastern European history, Anna Holian draws on a rich array of sources in cultural and political history and engages the broader literature on displacement in the fields of anthropology, sociology, political theory, and cultural studies. Her book will interest students and scholars of German, eastern European, and Jewish history; migration and refugees; and human rights.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Social History, Popular Culture, and Pol


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p. ix

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Note on Sources

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p. xi

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...

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pp. 1-26

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

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1. The Invention of the Displaced Person

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pp. 29-55

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...

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2. Displaced Persons and the Question of Persecution

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pp. 56-77

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

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3. The Repatriation Debate and the Anticommunist “Political Explanation”

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pp. 81-119

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...

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4. Between Federalists and Separatists: The Anticommunist Movement(s)

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pp. 120-149

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

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5. Jewish Survivors and the Reckoning with the Nazi Past

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pp. 153-185

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...

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6. Displaced Jews and the German Question

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pp. 186-210

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...

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7. Political Prisoners and the Legacy of National Socialism

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pp. 211-243

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,...

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8. Recognition, Assistance, Wiedergutmachung: The Claims of Displaced Political

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pp. 244-266

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,...

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pp. 267-271

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...


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pp. 273-326


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pp. 327-345


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pp. 347-367

E-ISBN-13: 9780472027675
E-ISBN-10: 0472027670
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472117802
Print-ISBN-10: 0472117807

Page Count: 376
Illustrations: 12 B&W illustrations
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Social History, Popular Culture, and Pol
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OCLC Number: 759006774
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Between National Socialism and Soviet Communism

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Jews -- Germany -- History -- 20th century.
  • Refugees -- Germany -- History -- 20th century.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Refugees -- Germany.
  • Ukrainians -- Germany -- History -- 20th century.
  • Russians -- Germany -- History -- 20th century.
  • Refugees -- Political activity -- Germany -- History -- 20th century.
  • Polish people -- Germany -- History -- 20th century.
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