The Flight and Expulsion of Germans in Contemporary German Culture

The Flight and Expulsion of Germans in Contemporary German Culture

History and Heritage Department, Nottingham Trent University
Clifton Campus
United Kingdom
Vom - Bis
20.10.2011 - 21.10.2011
Bill Niven

Plans are under way to construct a “sichtbares Zeichen” in Berlin against flight and expulsion. At present, we still do not know for sure exactly what form this proposed “sign” will take, although it is clear it will feature an exhibition, and that this exhibition will focus to a considerable extent on the flight and expulsion of Germans at the end of World War Two. However, there have already been two significant exhibitions on this theme recently, namely "Erzwungene Wege" and "Flucht Vertreibung Integration". New television films – notably "Die Flucht" and "Die Gustloff" – have seemingly brought the flight of Germans to a wider public than ever before. Over the last twenty years, novelists such as Ulrich Treichel, Günter Grass, Tanja Dückers, Dagmar Leupold and Reinhard Jirgl have depicted flight, or flight and expulsion, and/or its long-term effects. New memorials have sprung up not least in eastern Germany to the victims of war, expulsion and violence. In recent years, too, psychologists, journalists and others have written on the traumatic effects of flight and expulsion, and the transmission of this trauma across generations. Since the early 1990s, historians too have shown an increasing interest in researching the history of the flight and expulsion of Germans, and of its impact. Never was debate about how to contextualise this event – in relation, for instance, to the Holocaust, or the Second World War as a whole, or indeed the history of expulsions throughout time – more intense than now. Never has there been more debate about the place flight and expulsion holds, or should hold, in public and political memory. This seems a good moment, then, to take stock: if a “taboo” on flight and expulsion has been “lifted” (a view that remains contentious), what has its removal revealed?

- How are contemporary German authors depicting the flight and expulsion of Germans, and/or its aftermath?
- How are contemporary German filmmakers – makers of TV feature films, cinema films, documentary films – presenting the theme?
- What are the newer memorials commemorating flight and expulsion trying to tell us that earlier memorials were not?
- How has recent German historiography sought to understand the event? What conflicts of interpretation need to be resolved?
- How have flight and expulsion been presented, how are they being presented in recent exhibitions?
- What is the significance of the recent spate of (auto)biographical literature on flight and expulsion?

These are just some of the questions we would like to discuss at our conference in October. We welcome papers on any aspect of recent cultural representations of flight and expulsion in Germany. While we would not want to impose too restrictive an interpretation of the term “recent”, or “contemporary”, we would expect contributors to focus on cultural representations produced at any point over the last twenty years. This call for papers may seem broad in its remit, but this is deliberate. We wish to try to understand how different forms of representation approach the same topic, and how spheres of reception interpenetrate. Contributors are invited to view their chosen focus in relation to earlier, or contemporary cultural expressions; to wider social, political and cultural trends; and to developments, for instance, in cultural or generational memory. Papers which compare developments with those in other countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia will also be welcomed.

Please send abstracts (of no more than 200 words) to Bill Niven ( by 15th April 2011.



Bill Niven

History and Heritage Department
Nottingham Trent University
Clifton Campus
Nottingham NG11 4NS

tel: 00441158483232