At the end of the Second World War, some 12 million German refugees and expellees fled or were expelled from their homelands in Eastern and Central Europe into what remained of the former Reich. The task of integrating these dispossessed refugees and expellees in post-war Germany was one of the most daunting challenges facing the Allied occupying authorities after 1945. The early post-war years witnessed the publication of many works on the refugee problem in the German Federal Republic (FRG). This book explores the origins of the refugee problem and shows that the flight and expulsion of the refugees and expellees from their homelands from 1944 onwards was a direct consequence of National Socialist policies. It outlines the appalling conditions under which the expulsions were carried out. The book then examines the immensity of the refugee problem in the Western Occupation Zones in economic and social terms. An analysis of the relations between the refugee and native populations in the Western Occupation Zones of Germany in the period 1945-1950 follows. The book also focuses on the attitude of the political parties towards the refugees and expellees in the early post-war years and analyses the newcomers' voting behaviour up to 1950. It argues that while economic and political integration had been largely accomplished by the late 1960s, social integration turned out to be a more protracted process. Finally, the book examines political radicalisation: despite disturbances in refugee camps in 1948-1949 and the emergence of expellee trek associations in 1951-1952.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book explores the origins of the refugee problem and shows that the flight and expulsion of the refugees and expellees from their homelands from the autumn of 1944 onwards was a direct consequence of National Socialist policies. It demonstrates that the task of integrating the refugees and expellees was one of the most urgent facing the Allied Occupying authorities and German State Governments after the Second World War. The book analyses the relations between the refugee and native populations in the Western Occupation Zones of Germany in the period 1945-1950. It focuses on the attitude of the political parties towards the refugees and expellees in the early post-war years and also analyses the newcomers' voting behaviour up to 1950. The book examines the issue of political radicalisation.
The flight and expulsion of German refugees and expellees from Eastern and Central Europe in 1944-1945 was a direct consequence of National Socialist policies. Even before the end of the Second World War, German refugees and expellees began to flood into Central Europe from the eastern territories of the Reich. The privileges enjoyed by the Ethnic German minorities located in Eastern and Central Europe were generally eroded during the nineteenth century and their relations with other ethnic groups became increasingly strained. The rulers of Bohemia and Moravia encouraged the settlement of economically valuable German colonists such as farmers and coal miners from the beginning of the thirteenth century. In accordance with the Paris Peace Settlement, the League of Nations was responsible for protecting the rights of these minority groups, who were to be granted a degree of cultural autonomy and the same rights as the indigenous inhabitants.
The task of integrating the refugees and expellees into the Western Occupation Zones of Germany represented one of the most formidable problems facing the Allied and German authorities after the Second World War. The 'newcomers' exerted pressure on German politicians to employ the terminology which reflected the circumstances under which they had arrived in the Western Occupation Zones of Germany. The acute material distress suffered by the newcomers in the early post-war years is illustrated graphically by examining the three main economic indicators, their food situation, housing conditions and employment prospects. The chaotic economic conditions prevailing in post-war Germany increased the severity of the food shortage. The employment prospects of the refugees and expellees up to the Currency Reform varied widely between the different occupational groups. There were generally good opportunities for refugee teachers because many of the original incumbents had been suspended pending the decisions of the denazification tribunals.
German politicians have been apt to play down the difficulties involved in integrating the refugees and expellees into West German society since the Second World War. Many factors helped to determine the relations between the refugee and native populations. Although the background, traditions and characteristics of the refugees influenced their capacity to establish good relationships in a new environment, the compatibility of these characteristics with those of the indigenous inhabitants in the community in which they found themselves was also important. The response of the native population to the refugees was influenced by the example set by the political elites at both regional and local level. The local case studies make it possible to trace the course of refugee-native relations between 1945 and 1950. It also provides interesting evidence about the nature and causes of the friction which developed between the two population groups in both rural and urban areas.
The emergence of a 'refugee party' threatened to intensify the conflicts between the expellee and indigenous populations. This chapter analyses the attitude and policies of the political parties to the German refugees and expellees. It explores the tensions which often developed within the parties between refugees and their indigenous counterparts. The chapter focuses on the Social Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, SPD), the Christian Democratic Union (Christlich-Demokratische Union, CDU)/Christian Social Union (Christlich-Soziale Union, CSU), and the Free Democratic Party (Freie Demokratische Partei, FDP). It evaluates the strenuous efforts of the Communist Party of Germany (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands, KPD) to win support among the newcomers, and examines the attitude of radical rightwing parties to the refugees and expellees. The chapter also analyses the newcomers' voting behaviour between 1946 and 1950 in the three main refugee states of Bavaria, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein.
This chapter discusses the progress made in the newcomers' economic integration during the 1950s and 1960s. It examines the political dimension of the refugee problem, and analyses the fall of the Bloc of Expellees and Dispossessed Persons (Block der Heimatvertriebenen und Entrechteten, BHE). Waldemar Kraft, the BHE party's leader between 1951 and 1954, was willing to form a coalition with any of the major parties, arguing that the BHE could only improve the refugees' economic and social position if it was in government. The chapter explores the changing relationship between the expellees and the major political parties from 1950 to 1972. It assesses the role of the expellee associations during the post-war period. The chapter also discusses the relations between the refugee and native populations from the early 1950s until the present day, exploring the newcomers' search for a new identity in post-war Germany.
This chapter presents the activities of the trek associations established in Bavaria, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein in 1951-1952 in protest at the slow progress of the Federal Government's refugee resettlement programme. It assesses the importance of the role played by the political and ecclesiastical elites. The chapter evaluates the mood of the refugees and expellees. The mood of the refugees became increasingly volatile as a result of the deterioration in their economic position following the Currency Reform of June 1948. Therefore, the second half of 1948 witnessed protests, demonstrations and hunger strikes. The chapter suggests that the prevailing climate of anti-communism in the German Federal Republic (FRG) in the 1950s acted as an important deterrent to political radicalism and served as a unifying ideology for both natives and refugees. It examines the reasons for the absence of widespread unrest.
The Soviet Occupation Zone (SBZ) was hardest hit by the refugee influx as a result of its geographical position. The Soviet authorities euphemistically referred to the refugees and expellees who flooded into their Occupation Zone as 'resettlers'. The Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) elites attempted to convince the expellees in the SBZ that their economic position was superior to that of their compatriots in the Western Occupation Zones. The 1950s and 1960s witnessed a gradual, though sporadic, improvement in expellee housing, but this occurred despite rather than because of the SED's housing policy. The discriminatory practices of local housing officials provoked great resentment among the expellees and contributed to their poor relations with the native population. It is clear that the expellees in the SBZ/German Democratic Republic (GDR) received more financial help in the early post-war years than their counterparts in the Western Occupation Zones/German Federal Republic (FRG).