This article discusses the respective origins and developments of the German expellee organizations' chief days of commemoration, the Tag der Heimat and the Volkstrauertag, and investigates key elements of the commemorative ceremonies that take place on these occasions, in particular, their liturgical setups, thematic mottos, recitations of Totenehrungen, and the performance of "Ich hatt' einen Kameraden." Despite assertions that the expulsion has been insufficiently commemorated in the Federal Republic, and in spite of recent calls for a national day of remembrance to rectify this commemorative lacuna, this article shows how the expulsion has been memorialized on various levels for decades. Moreover, it argues that the expellee organizations' historical narratives have been one-sided and de-contextualized and sheds light on how the ceremonies bring these understandings of the past to life by highlighting German wartime suffering.
Heimat is commonly theorized as an entity both co-extensive with the nation and easily describable in terms of its regional peculiarities (Eigenart). To challenge this view, this article turns to sociolinguistic discussions in the press of Sudeten German expellees in the early 1950s. Rather than speaking as experts on local dialects or folklore, these newcomers resorted to Sprachkritik, a widespread postwar public form of sociolinguistic criticism, to fashion Heimat into a prescriptive, normative authority over the High German standard that they found missing in the Federal Republic. Their attacks on the West German parlance focused on inability of its consumerist diminutives to produce a coherent narrative of the period. By suggesting that Heimat's parameters superseded those of the nation, their interventions countered the widespread cliché of inarticulate, rural expellees at the same time as they put Sprachkritik on the map of West Germany's “miracle years.“
This paper seeks to investigate the role played by memory in the Federation of Expellees (Bund der Vertriebenen, BdV) professed attempts to enter into dialogue with Polish society. It also seeks to assess why on occasion mutual recrimination continues to tarnish the wider framework of German-Polish relations and explain the reasons for this phenomenon. The initial focus lies with explaining the continued importance of key, often disputed, elements of the historical encounter between Germans and Poles. To complement this analysis, the latter part of the article considers whether the BdV and its associated organizations have contributed to the wider process of German-Polish reconciliation, or whether the activities of the BdV act as a brake upon full resolution. The paper argues that although in recent years the BdV has attempted to make a positive contribution to German-Polish relations, its chances for success are constrained by its inability to move away from positions that are themselves the product of memory.
Daniel Levy and Natan Sznaider
Images of German victims have become a ubiquitous feature of political debates and mass-mediated cultural events in recent years. This paper argues that changing representations of the Holocaust have served as a political cultural prism through which histories of German victimhood can be renegotiated. More specifically, we explore how the centrality of the Holocaust in Germany informs how the postwar expulsion of twelve million ethnic Germans has been remembered during the last sixty years. Most interpretations of the destruction of European Jewry and the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Poland and Czechoslovakia and their corresponding memory cultures treat these memories as mutually exclusive manifestations of competing perceptions of national self understanding. We suggest that memories of both the Holocaust and expulsions are entwined. The Holocaust remains a specific event but also spans a universalizing human rights discourse that conceals the magnitude of the Holocaust as a particular historical occurrence; at the same time, the expulsion stops being a particular event and is being reframed as a universal evil called "ethnic cleansing." Examining recent political and public debates about how the expulsions of ethnic Germans are politicized and remembered reveals how comparisons to other incidents of state sanctioned violence and claims of singularity shape the balance of universal and particular modes of commemoration.
As a result of Nazi race politics, World War II, and the restructuring
of Europe in the postwar era, the painful experience of forced migration
became a reality in the lives of many Europeans. About 12 million1
ethnic Germans shared the fate of being forced to leave their
ancestral areas of settlement in Eastern and Eastern/Central Europe
between 1939 and 1948. These people were either forced to move
“back to the Reich” by the Nazi government, fled from advancing
enemy forces in 1944/45, or were forced out of their homes by Eastern
and Central European postwar governments.
This article analyzes Sabrina Janesch's 2010 novel Katzenberge through the lenses of Heimat and spatial theory. Katzenberge, which is told from the perspective of the third generation (i.e., grandchild) of expellees, narrates the story of Polish flight out of the Polish-Ukrainian border region of Galicia into the German-Polish border region of Silesia. I argue that Katzenberge chronicles a generational shift in relationships to the verlorene (lost) Heimat from the expellee generation's static view (Heimat as the physical territory itself) to the third generation's more fluid conceptions (Heimat as memories, stories). The purpose of this article is to illustrate changing ways of engaging with the verlorene Heimat over time and particularly to show the role that literature plays in facilitating and explaining these changes while also opening up new avenues of understanding both across generations and across German-Polish national borders.
Film history marks the various transformations in the material and imaginative relations between Germans and Poles in the postwar era. This article explores how film—the primary contemporary vehicle for imaginative communities—has played an important role in envisioning various spatial relationships, as well as the political and cultural shifts in the general population of Germany, West and East, and Poland. The article surveys the representation of flight and expulsion from the East first in the fictional feature film and then in the documentary genre. It then turns to contemporary productions that offer new visions of contemporary German-Polish relationships. It considers different strategies of filmmaking, such as big budget historic event films, the melancholic frame of expellee videos, the contemporary interzonal film, among others.
Rainer Münz and Ralf Ulrich
In Germany, as in many other European democracies, immigration
and citizenship are contested and contentious issues. In the German
case it was both the magnitude of postwar and recent immigration as
well as its interference with questions of identity that created political
and social conflict. As a result of World War II, the coexistence
of two German states, and the persistence of ethnic German minorities
in central and eastern Europe, (West) Germany’s migration and
naturalization policy was inclusive toward expellees, GDR citizens,
and co-ethnics. At the same time, the Federal Republic of Germany,
despite the recruitment of several million foreign labor migrants
and—until 1992—a relatively liberal asylum practice, did not develop
similar mechanisms and policies of absorption and integration of its
legal foreign residents.
One of the most important developments in the incipient Berlin Republic's memory regime has been the return of the memory of German suffering from the end and aftermath of World War II. Elite discourses about the bombing of German cities, the mass rape of German women by members of the Red Army, and, above all, the expulsion of Germans from then-Eastern Germany and elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe have gained massive visibility in the last decade. Although many voices have lauded these developments as liberating, many others within Germany and especially in Poland—from where the vast majority of Germans were expelled—have reacted with fear. Yet, do these elite voices resonate with mass publics? Have these arguments had demonstrable effects on public opinion? This paper delves into these questions by looking at survey results from both countries. It finds that there has been a disjuncture between the criticisms of elites and average citizens, but that the barrage of elite criticisms leveled at German expellees and their initiatives now may be affecting mass attitudes in all cases.
Despite decades of official denial, modern Germany has always been a
country of immigration. From Poles migrating to the Ruhr in the late nineteenth
century, to German refugees and expellees after World War II, to
Italians and Greeks in the 1950s, to ethnic Germans from the former
Soviet Union and refugees from Bosnia in the 1990s, the country has a
long history of attracting newcomers. In fact, according to the recently
released 2011 census data, approximately 19 percent of the Federal Republic’s
population of around 80 million has a “migration background.”1 Of
course, this national average masks substantial variation at the state or city
level—places like Hamburg, Berlin and Baden-Württemberg have shares of
residents with such a background of a quarter or more, whereas the eastern
Länder have proportions under 5 percent. This sizeable population is
also very different than a generation ago—increasingly rooted and diverse:
60 percent of this group has German citizenship and about half of this subgroup
was born in Germany. Regarding countries of origin or ancestry,
17.9 percent have origins in Turkey, 13.1 percent in Poland, and about 8.7
percent in both Russia and Kazakhstan.