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Trajectories of population displacement in the aftermaths of the two world wars

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This chapter provides a broad framework for the remaining contributions to Displacement and Replacement in the Aftermath of the Second World War. It compares the impact of the two world wars on the displacement of population in Europe and briefly
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  Trajectories of Population Displacement in the Aftermath of Two World Wars Peter Gatrell, University of Manchester Abstract This chapter provides a broad framework for the remaining contributions to  Displacement and Replacement in the Aftermath of the Second World War  . It compares the impact of the two world wars on the displacement of population in Europe and briefly establishes points of difference and similarity in terms of the  politics and geopolitics of displacement. It provides a comparative overview of civilian population displacement in the aftermath of the war (‘violent peacetime’) , the circumstances of displacement, and the arrangements made for resettlement and relief in the context of concerns about economic reconstruction and development. Reference is thereby made to state practice ( ‘ forced migration ’ ), as well as the relief arrangements devised and adopted by governments, semi-official agencies, charities, and private individuals, and the constitution of professional expertise.   2 The death, destruction and displacement wrought by the Second World War are topics of undiminished interest to historians and to a wider public. The historiography emphasises the transformative impact of the war in Europe, not only in terms of territorial reconfiguration but also in a series of social calamities including the destruction of European Jewry, huge military losses (notably in Soviet Russia) and the rupturing of social ties in Central and Eastern Europe where social upheaval  prefigured the formation of Communist governments. In this chapter I seek to identify the most important changes as they relate to population displacement, and to make some comparisons with the aftermath of the First World War. It is worth remembering that the displacement of population during and immediately following the two world wars took place on a global scale. 1  In Europe, this complex process had its srcins in wartime mobilisation in the belligerent states where men and women were conscripted as armed combatants or for work in the war economy. Migration was a corollary of states ’  recourse to forced labour, as in the deportation to Germany in both world wars of Belgian and Eastern European adults. Belligerent states also targeted ethnic groups that were deemed politically ‘unreliable’. This happened in both world wars.  Stalin, for example, followed in the footsteps of Nicholas II in demonising long-established German settlers and deporting them to Central Asia. Similarly the violence inflicted on Crimean Tatars, Chechens and oth ers for their supposed ‘treason’ during the Great Patriotic War echoed Tsarist military commanders’  propensity to target Jews and Poles as fifth columnists. In each instance the state drew no distinction on grounds of age, gender or occupation but instead launched indiscriminate assaults on entire communities, with forced migration as the consequence. This style of ‘population management’ reached its terrifying conclusion in the Holocaust when the displacement and incarceration of Jews culminated in mass murder. Jews in Eastern Europe had also suffered greatly during and after the First World War, but many of them sought refuge in central Russia; by contrast only a tiny minority escaped the Nazi onslaught by fleeing to Soviet Russia in 1940-41. These organised programmes support the view that population displacement was not a sideshow or a disastrous by-product but a constitutive element of war, a  project that states and armies practised as an integral technique to mobilise society. 2  The conclusion of hostilities in 1918 and 1945 did not bring an end to  population displacement. To be sure, most displaced soldiers and civilians managed to return to their homes, but this sanguine summary discounts a great deal of migration   3 and human misery, including the mass flight of Germans and others in the face of the Red Army’s march across Eastern and Central Europe  in 1945. Hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians remained in camps and other settlements in Germany, some of them until the 1960s. German prisoners of war languished in remote Russian camps until the 1950s. 3  What is more, renewed conflict erupted in Europe after both world wars. In 1918-20 the Russian civil war and the Polish-Soviet War, and in 1945-49 the Greek civil war and partisan wars in the sovietised Baltic states prompted fresh displacement. These examples could be multiplied. Localised violence had devastating results, as in Poland where the Kielce pogrom in July 1946 compelled 170,000 Jews to migrate from Eastern Europe. These mass population movements were the product of what I term ‘violent peacetime’. 4  Violent peacetime also entailed deliberate state intervention to adjust the relationship between population and territory by means of population transfers and expulsions ( Matthew Frank  ). This process took a dramatic form in Palestine and in India, with terrible loss of life. Its most extreme manifestation in Europe occurred when Germans were expelled from Poland and Czechoslovakia ( Rainer Schulze ) and during the exchange of population in Poland and Ukraine in 1945 ( Catherine Gousseff  ). Post-war transfer policy was sometimes driven by ideas of order, rationality and prophylaxis, but also by a largely punitive ethos, as with the expulsion of Germans. No equivalent one-sided transfer took place following the First World War; the organised population exchange between Greece and Turkey was mutually agreed by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 although this is not to minimise its impact upon hundreds of thousands of households in each country. The successor states created in 1918 at the expense of Germany and Austria-Hungary included large minorities but the post-war settlement did not directly lead to mass migration with the exception of the flight of Magyar refugees from Romania to the rump state of Hungary. 5  The magnitude of displacement beggared belief. Some 23 million people were ‘uprooted’ in the final stages of the Second World War and as a result of repatriations, territorial readjustments and the transfers of population following the Allied deal at Potsdam. Two million Poles and Ukrainians were caught up in the transfer agreed  between the USSR and Poland. Nine million ethnic Germans were expelled from Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. 6  The number of Displaced Persons (DPs) in Germany stood at close on 1.5 million in September 1945; two years later some   4 650,000 DPs now comprised the ‘hard core’ that became the responsibility of the IRO. The end of the war witnessed a corresponding efflorescence of governmental, inter-governmental and voluntary organisations to cope with displacement on this scale. Officials, professional experts and voluntary workers exercised power over displaced people. 7   Trajectories of displacement Contemporary discussions of displacement invoked ideas of space and of time. Appropriately enough, the fledgling World Council of Churches acknowledged the global scale of displacement. Meeting in Amsterdam in 1948, its Ecumenical Refugee Commission drew attention to the dire consequences of recent and current upheavals in a nd beyond continental Europe: ‘recalling that the srcin of the Refugee Division was the concern of the churches for Jewish refugees, [we] note with especially deep concern the recent extension of the refugee problem to the Middle East by the flight from t heir homes in the Holy Land of not less than 350,000 Arab and other refugees’. 8  At times the displacement of population in Europe impinged directly on geographically distant parts of the globe, as when Polish soldiers and their families ended up in Tanganyika and Northern Rhodesia having left the Soviet Union or Romania and travelled via Cyprus, Egypt and Mozambique. 9  Contemporary opinion was also aware that the aftermath of the First World War cast a shadow over the peacetime ‘settlement’ in 1945 even as fresh crises of displacement came to the fore. No ‘permanent solution’ had been found for Russian refugees who lived an uncertain existence in China. The World Council of Churches gathered a series of ‘human interest stories’ that reveal something of the l egacy of the Great War, as in the trajectory of ethnic Greeks who had been obliged to move from Asia Minor to Romania in 1922, but who then fled to Greece to escape persecution by the Groza government in 1947. Around 5,000 of them lived in refugee camps in Greece before eventually being resettled in North America or Australia. One ‘case’ concerned Angela H. [ name disguised, P.G .] who lived in the Aktaion Refugee Settlement, Greece: ‘A refugee from Asia Minor disaster in 1922, whose husband was assassinated by the Turks, Mrs H. sought asylum in Romania in search of  better opportunities to assist her and her son resettle. The change of the regime in Romania in 1945, however, made life impossible for her and her son. Being   5 of Greek srcin they were both asked to evacuate the country with only 30 kilos of personal belongings with them. Refugees for a second time in their lives, Mrs H. and son were offered by the Greek government and placed at the end of a long corridor of a huge building, transformed into a Refugee Settlement’.  Angela H. left for Australia under the auspices of the US Escapee Program to join her son who had already emigrated. The clerk who assembled her personal record noted that ‘the refugee does not object to the publication of her story with n ame and  photograph’. Her file exemplified the trajectory of many others who were given the opportunity to ‘start again’ after completing a formulaic account of starvation, harassment, torture, corruption, expropriation and eventual ‘rescue’. 10  Officials in the early years of the ILO approached former League of Nations staff members to ask what lessons might be drawn from the inter-war period. The reply concentrated on the differences. One official argued that the chief difference in 1945 was that most displaced persons wished to return to their homes whereas after 1918 the Nansen Office had to reckon above all with Russians and Armenian refugees who: ‘had of course permanently lost the protection of their home government. Except possibly in a few cases, the prisoners, internees and displaced persons in Axis or Axis-occupied countries will be able sooner or later to rely on their own governments; this will greatly facilitate the problems of identification, communications, travelling papers, personal finance’. 11  He might have added that many survivors of the Armenian genocide in 1915 who migrated to France and the Middle East and established a sizeable transnational community decided to ‘repatriate’ to S oviet Armenia in 1945-46. More remarkable was his confident assertion that other displaced persons would follow them eastwards. Nations and geopolitics The spirit of ‘managing’ civilian populations in wartime also encouraged belligerent governments either to claim or to disclaim displaced people as the war came to an end. The national principle was again invoked, as in Eastern Europe after the First World War, when the flight to Bulgaria after the First World War of 500,000 ethnic Bulgarians from Thrace, Macedonia and Dobrudja - territory assigned either to Yugoslavia or Greece  –   led the Bulgarian government to expel 33,000 White Russian
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