Historical Social Research

Jannis Panagiotidis: “Not the Concern of the Organization?” The IRO and the Overseas Resettlement of Ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe after World War II. [Abstract]

This article examines the postwar trajectories of ethnic Germans (Volksdeutsche) from Slovenia, Romania, and Ukraine who had ended up in Germany and Austria due to Nazi resettlement. Their story is usually told within the context of German “flight and expulsion,” but is also part of the history of international refugee management. Although ethnic Germans were not eligible for care by the International Refugee Organization (IRO), some of them did seek assistance. This article analyzes the bureaucratic negotiation between IRO officials and applicants using different strategies of “ethnic conversion.” Individual strategies consisted of claiming a nationality other than German, and trying to back up this claim with a convincing narrative. These efforts usually failed, petitioners living in mixed marriages being a partial exception. Collective conversion worked in the case of the Mennonites, thanks to their well-connected international relief organization, the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). The article also traces the overseas resettlement of ethnic Germans, focusing on supporting institutional and family networks. Taken together, these perspectives open a window on the postwar negotiation of violence-induced migration at the margins of the supposedly clearly distinguished categories of Germans and non-Germans.

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