Historical Social Research

Christian Höschler: “Those People Who Actually Do the Job…” Unaccompanied Children, Relief Workers, and the Struggle of Implementing Humanitarian Policy in Postwar Germany. [Abstract]

The youngest survivors of Nazi persecution had experienced a variety of tragic fates: children lived through the horrors of the concentration camps, endured forced labor, and even kidnapping for the so-called Germanization agenda of the Nazis. From 1945 onwards, the military and relief agencies in occupied Germany witnessed the aftereffects of hitherto unparalleled crimes against children. They devised strategies aimed at their care, repatriation, and resettlement. As this article will show, it was by no means always possible to carry out this task successfully. Policies created at the administrative level frequently clashed with the reality of everyday relief work. This article reflects on the current state of historical research regarding displaced children, and in particular the potential of microhistory as a means of improving our knowledge about this aspect of the postwar period. By drawing upon the example of the IRO Children’s Village in Bad Aibling, Upper Bavaria, the discrepancy between official policy and the actual struggle in the field – including ideological factors, practical challenges, and the human element – is illustrated. In doing so, the aim is to help refine previous narratives regarding the care for displaced children in the postwar period.

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