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Title:The Lost East: Silesian Expellees in West Germany and the Fantasy of Return, 1945--1970
Author(s):Demshuk, Andrew Thomas
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Peter Fritzsche
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):History, Modern
Abstract:We open with an historical overview of German history in Silesia before the expulsion. Further background is then offered through exploring the official narrative of border revision devised by self-proclaimed expellee spokespeople who, after the founding of the Bonn Republic in May 1949, received funding and support from the state. However, at the same time that official narratives dominated publications about the German East and exerted considerable political influence, expellees continued to deal with their loss and realize the impossibility of return. This process had already begun in 1945, when hundreds of thousands of eastern Germans managed to briefly return, witness the drastic changes in the former Heimat, and then return to tell others that there was no going back. Through reflection on what the homeland had been, through establishing continuity via a new sense of Heimat whenever they gathered, and through traveling back to see the changed spaces of western Poland for themselves, expellees steadily came to realize through the 1950s and 1960s that their professed "Right to the Heimat " was in fact a right to the Heimat that they imagined in memory, rather than to a space that they could never return to inhabit. In light of these findings, it becomes self-evident why most expellees showed quiet resignation when Bonn recognized the Polish western border in 1970. Though expellee spokespeople continued to demand territorial restitution, most expellees had come to realize long before that the East was truly lost. Peace and even understanding thus became possible along a border that had known such hatred and bloodshed.
Issue Date:2010
Description:422 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2010.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3452065
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:2010

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