The liberation of the Nazi-occupied territories during and after the end of the Second World War created the possibility for millions of displaced or exiled people to think about restoring and continuing their prewar lives. For many of those scattered throughout Europe and other parts of the world, the search for surviving family members and friends began. Jewish organizations resumed their activities and mediated between the survivors. The end of the war brought the opening of countries that were previously closed to refugee migration. New York, for example, as earlier in history, became a center of transmigration again. Many countries, that had pursued a rather restrictive policy in taking up prewar refugees, such as Australia and Canada, now opened their borders to hundreds of thousands of Displaced Persons (DPs).
The re-establishment of Jewish life and culture in Central Europe after 1945 has currently gained increasing scholarly interest. The need to change or extend perspectives triggered by the cultural turns in the humanities has led to an increasing interest in refugee and migration studies. As a very recent phenomenon, the continuity of Jewish life „after the exile“ in a global perspective is currently being re-evaluated due to new methodological perspectives and the growing existence of digitalized sources.
So far, research on exile communities after 1945 has been dominated by aspects such as the „end of exile“ and „return“, while institutional re-establishment or new foundations have been ignored. Likewise, scholars of exile studies have paid little attention to the practice of re-continuing a new beginning and the refugees’ search for their family, friends, or community members. Analyzing, how survivors connected and reconnected with each other and learned about the survival, murder, or escape of their friends and family members still remains a lacuna in research. Gaining more information on these aspects would be crucial for understanding the actions and undertakings of states and institutions in helping people finding back to a regular live, but even more for comprehending how people dealt with these issues on a personal level.
This conference seeks to examine „practices of reunification and processes of continuity“, not only to bridge research between exile, return migration and the founding of new ethnic communities, but also to focus on an aspect of refugee life in Central Europe largely unnoticed so far. We aim at bringing together innovative and fresh research centering around the following questions:
- Networks & Communication: How did family members reconnect with individuals liberated from concentration camps? How did families and friends communicate about the choice of new places to live? How were contacts re-established? How did they obtain information about the whereabouts and fates of family members and their possessions in the first post-war months and years?
- Restitution & Citizenship: What role did the restitution of their formerly „aryanized“ and dispossessed property play for the expellees after the end of the war? How important was it for them to get their property restituted? Which obstacles did refugees encounter, when trying to get their former property restituted? How did Jewish communities negotiate with and contact organizations and states for the re-issuance of citizenship?
- Exile Communities: How did exile communities reorganize themselves after the end of the war? How did they organize the arrival of DPs? Was there continuity between their prewar, their war and their postwar structural organization? How did they establish contact with „newcomers“?
The conference will take place at the Stiftung Universität Hildesheim (Germany) from 2 – 4 February 2022. Presentations can be given either in German or English.
The organizers look forward to receiving abstracts in English or German of not more than 300 words by researchers from all relevant disciplines. Please send the abstract including a brief CV per mail (to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org) at latest by 15 September 2021.
The organizers intend to secure travel allowances for those participants who have no academic affiliation or are unable to cover their travel expenditures. In the abstract, please indicate whether you would like to apply for a travel allowance.