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A fifth of West Germany's post-1945 population consisted of ethnic German refugees expelled from Eastern Europe, a quarter of whom came from Silesia. As the richest territory lost inside Germany's interwar borders, Silesia was a leading objective for territorial revisionists, many of whom were themselves expellees. The Lost German East examines how and why millions of Silesian expellees came to terms with the loss of their homeland. Applying theories of memory and nostalgia, as well as recent studies on ethnic cleansing, Andrew Demshuk shows how, over time, most expellees came to recognize that the idealized world they mourned no longer existed. Revising the traditional view that most of those expelled sought a restoration of prewar borders so they could return to the east, Demshuk offers a new answer to the question of why, after decades of violent upheaval, peace and stability took root in West Germany during the tense early years of the Cold War.Read more
- A neglected instance of ethnic cleansing, though the second-largest case on record
- Based on archival and private sources virtually untapped in past scholarship
- Bridges the end of Europe's most violent war to the peaceful postwar Europe we know today by featuring twelve million refugees who helped make this transition possible
Reviews & endorsements
"The millions of Silesians who fled their homes in the closing months of the Second World War or who were expelled in its aftermath have most often been remembered - if they have been remembered at all in the English-speaking world - as caricatures: symbols of either German victimization or German revanchism. Andrew Demshuk’s book is among the first scholarly works to move beyond the statements of official expellee spokesmen and to explore, sympathetically but critically, the complicated processes through which flesh-and-blood individuals gradually came to terms with the loss of the former homeland. His nuanced analysis of this history is an important contribution not only to understanding West German politics and German-Polish relations in the Cold War era, but also to the comparative study of forced migration and its aftermath."
Jim Bjork, King’s College LondonSee more reviews
"Through a careful and perceptive consideration of an impressive amount of evidence, Andrew Demshuk fundamentally reorients the study of the German expellees away from a preoccupation with leaders and movements to a deeper examination of how the expellees themselves understood their experience. Thanks to a focus on memory and not politics, Demshuk demonstrates that the expellees were not a dwindling band of inveterate revanchists, but rather a large and diverse community committed to preserving common images of their past. Persuasively argued and elegantly written, The Lost German East does more than force us to rethink the Silesian German experience; it offers a template for understanding how refugees throughout the world have and can come to terms with their losses."
Benjamin Frommer, Northwestern University
"This persuasive work is a significant contribution to understanding postwar German memory culture, as well as the stability of democracy in the early Federal Republic. Highly recommended."
"… Demshuk’s book provides an important reappraisal of expellee memories and illuminates some of the more ambivalent ways in which postwar West Germans have related to Poland."
Michael Meng, Slavic Review
"Demshuk’s book brings together a new reading of expellee history in the early years of the Federal Republic … It also makes an important contribution to the wider fields of memory and migration studies. By its unusually close focus upon those expelled from a specific area, The Lost German East produces exactly the kind of detail that challenges simple generalizations and suggests the complexity of these processes. For these reasons this book deserves to be read by all who are interested in the experiences of expellees and of those dislocated by forced migration, as well as by those who seek insights into histories of the integration of migratory populations into new societies."
"This very interesting history of Silesian expellees in the Federal Republic of Germany from 1945 to 1970 traces twenty-five years of refugees' constant longing, and charts the changing emotional states that also evolved in that period … The broad variety of sources that the author draws on is admirable: personal interviews by the author and correspondence with expellees about their experience, travel accounts, slide shows, memoirs, advertisements, political speeches, physical monuments, and visual sources … This monograph is clearly written, vigorously argued, and ambitious in its revisions of accepted wisdom. It is a notable contribution to the literature on modern Germany."
Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, H-German
"… a detailed account of the ways in which expellees from Silesia came to terms with the loss of their Heimat in the years 1945–70 … Demshuk’s book provides not only a wealth of exciting findings but also an excellent basis for further discussion. It will surely be of interest to a variety of readers from different backgrounds, and it might help to encourage more research on the role of private life in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany."
Corinna R. Unger, The Journal of Modern History
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- Date Published: April 2012
- format: Hardback
- isbn: 9781107020733
- length: 326 pages
- dimensions: 231 x 152 x 28 mm
- weight: 0.65kg
- contains: 10 b/w illus. 2 maps
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
1. From colonization to expulsion: a history of the Germans in Silesia
2. The quest for the borders of 1937: expellee leaders and the 'right to the homeland'
3. Homesick in the Heimat: Germans in postwar Silesia and the desire for expulsion
4. Residing in memory: private confrontation with loss
5. Heimat gatherings: recreating the lost East in West Germany
6. Travel to the land of memory: homesick tourists in Polish Silesia
7. 1970 and the expellee contribution to Ostpolitik
8. The forgotten East.
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