In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

142 In May 1948, a high-level meeting took place in Frankfurt between representatives of the International Refugee Organization (IRO), UNRRA’s successor organization, and officials of the American Military Government . More than a year after the disastrous DP camp riots, the situation in Germany looked very different. As rebuilding continued apace, IRO officials faced an increasingly difficult task in convincing anyone that they needed more time and supplies for DPs in their care. When an IRO administrator pressed the Americans for more food aid, a clearly frustrated American official named Hatch worried that such a gesture would infuriate expellees who received no such aid. “It might produce an unrest factorwiththe Sudeten Germans ifmore food were taken into these people.” Hatch’s irritated retort highlighted the dwindling range of options. “The greatest solution to this problem,” he suggested, “[is] in getting these people out of the country.”1 The frustration and anger of an American official provides a small windowintothedramatictransformationofrefugeeaffairsinAmericanoccupiedGermany .Between1947and1949,therelativepositionsofrefugeegroupsintheRh önandinoccupiedGermanychangedconsiderably. DPs,legallyvictimsofaterriblewaranditsuncertainaftermath,became simply “these people.” Expellees, on the other hand, assumed a new centrality in emerging visions of a rebuilt and western-oriented Germany. This shift took place at the intersection of several trends that profoundly affected Wildflecken and places like it across the region. The deepening Cold War crisis assumed an uneasy permanence that undercut previous hopes for a resolution to the DP problem. At the same time, rural comThese People, 1947–1949 four These People, 1947–1949 143 munitiesinwesternGermanyrespondedtothechallengeoftheexpellee problem with what Paul Erker characterized as a “growing modification and ‘modernization’ of norms and values toward a mobilized, dynamic, industrial society.” As a German state in the west emerged from under American “enlightened hegemony,” the outlines of a liberal, exportdriven economy emerged.2 Wildflecken provides an excellent example of how this complex process worked on the ground. Four things happened more or less simultaneously, each influencing and influenced by the others. First, IRO tried to speed the process of DP emigration, largely in order to get the DPs out of Germany before they became a permanent nuisance or before aid from the occupiers ran out. Second, local elites began to see disused bases like Wildflecken as potential centers of economic activity if they could be converted to civilian use. In rural western Germany, this had everything to do with the integration of expellees. Third, American policy toward refugees changed, placing greater importance on the successful integration of expellee populations.Finally,WestGermany moved towardlimited sovereignty , taking major steps like the 1948 Currency Reform that had an enormous impact on the refugee problem. For Wildflecken, the results of these transformations proved decidedly mixed. American policy and Bavarian institutions converged with the interests of local elites to produce a vision for economic development. An uneasy coalition of modernizers at the local and state levels, with support from the Americans, began to articulate a coherent vision of rural economic transformation that promised to fix the intractable problems of the Rhön region and to provide material support for the expellees. These goals proved to be utterlyquixotic ,butthatdoesnotmeanthatanumberofinfluentialpeople did not believe in them. As a result, local communities, government officials , and expellees made common cause with each other in an effort to push forward with a plan to remake the area around Wildflecken. The DP camp stood in the way. Administrative responsibility for the DP camp system changed on July 1, 1947. With UNRRA’s mandate expiring, the United Nations establishedaneworganization ,theIRO,totakechargeoftheDP campsystem. ThenewagencyfacedthetaskofmanagingtheremainingDP population and ensuring their safe passage out of Germany. Crucially, the Soviet 144 Strangers in the Wild Place Union and the Eastern European native states of most remaining DPs did not join the IRO. For the new organization, this meant that there was considerably less political pressure from member states to continue to urge repatriation.3 UNRRA, though beset from the start by staffing problems, inadequate training, and a lack of clear mission, accomplished a great deal during its few years of existence. Principally, UNRRA staffers helped to manage the mammoth homeward migration during the summer and fall of 1945 and the great rounds of repatriation thereafter. Ultimately, the task of handling postwar rehabilitation proved too great for such an ad hoc administrative entity. The great cartoonist David Low captured this sense of overwhelming responsibility in a brilliant 1946 cartoon depicting two exhausted relief workers handing boxes of supplies from the back of a truck into a sea of outstretched hands. “Phew,” remarks one of themen,wipingsweatfromhisforehead,“it’stimesomeoneprovidedan UNRRA for UNRRAs.”4 Ephraim...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.