Prisoners of peace: Rebuilding community, identity and nationality in displaced persons camps in Germany, 1945–1952
The purpose of my dissertation is to provide a clearer picture of and significantly contribute to our understanding of the experiences and the impact of Displaced Persons (DPs) in the immediate, post-1945 period. DPs were most commonly former POWs, concentration camp survivors, or slave laborers of the Third Reich. My approach is multi-layered, exploring the impact of DPs on the international community, on the American Occupation Zone of Germany, and most specifically on the Land of Hessen. It also examines the interaction among five groups of actors within Hessen: American occupation forces, Displaced Persons, the local German population, staff from international governmental agencies such as UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency) and workers from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) such as AFSC (American Friends Service Committee) and AJJDC (American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee). Based within this framework, the dissertation brings to the surface the struggles of DPs in temporary camps to rebuild their sense of community, identity and nationality. Through their actions, the DPs who refused repatriation challenged ideas of citizenship and nationality, provoked international debates over forced repatriation, and played a key role in defining international responses to the humanitarian, economic and cultural needs of stateless and persecuted peoples.