David Rock, Stefan Wolff, eds. Coming Home to Germany? The Integration of Ethnic Germans from Central and Eastern Europe in the Federal Republic since 1945. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2002. xviii + 234 pp. $25.00 (paper), ISBN 978-1-57181-729-7; $69.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-57181-718-1.
Reviewed by Pertti Ahonen (Department of History, University of Sheffield)
Published on H-German (May, 2003)
Recent years have witnessed a surge of scholarly interest in the impact of forced migrations on post-1945 Europe. The consequences of the massive expulsions that accompanied the end of the Second World War have been examined from various different perspectives, with the case of the Germans, the largest national group affected by this bout of ethnic cleansing, receiving the lion's share of attention. At the same time, subsequent post-war waves of migration, in which millions of people again moved across Europe's national boundaries, some as refugees, many others as more or less voluntary migrants in search of jobs and other opportunities, have also generated a growing body of scholarship. In this literature, too, Germany in general and the Federal Republic in particular have occupied a prominent place. Scholars have been drawn to the complicated dynamics generated when the continued immigration of so-called "ethnic Germans" from Eastern Europe coincided with the large-scale influx of immigrants of various other nationalities, many of whom originally came as so-called "guest workers" during West Germany's boom years of the 1950s and 1960s.
Coming Home to Germany, a wide-ranging collection of essays edited by David Rock of the University of Keele and Stefan Wolff of the University of Bath, based upon the proceedings of a conference, is a useful addition to the growing literature on post-1945 migration into Germany. As the title indicates, the book focuses on ethnic Germans who have resettled in the Federal Republic from Eastern Europe over the past decades, either as victims of the expulsions at the end of the Second World War or as subsequent Aussiedler, ethnic German immigrants with privileged access to citizenship rights and other benefits in the Federal Republic. The essays explore in particular the integration of these ethnic Germans, highlighting successes and problems in this process and comparing the experiences of early post-war expellees and subsequent Aussiedler.
Apart from a brief introduction and conclusion, in which Stefan Wolff persuasively places these migrations in the context of the broader "German question," the book consists of two parts. The first comprises six chapters that approach the topic from historical and social science perspectives. Daniel Levy surveys the integration of the expellees into the Federal Republic during the early post-war years. Rainer Schulze examines the development of individual expellee identities. Philipp Ther provides an overview of expellee policy in the GDR, while Andreas Heinrich, Stefan Senders, and Amanda Klekowski von Koppenfels explore the Federal Republic's policies toward ethnic German immigrants from the Cold War to reunification and beyond. The second part of the book, composed of the final eight chapters, analyzes literary and visual representations of the ethnic Germans' experiences. The Romanian-German writer Richard Wagner stands at the center of no fewer than half of these contributions. Along with essays on Wagner's life and work by David Rock and Graham Jackman, the book includes an interview with the writer as well as a short story of his, entitled "Millennium." Three further authors whose roots lie in Eastern Europe also receive their share of attention. John J. White examines the work of another ethnic German who left Romania for the Federal Republic, Herta Mueller. Julian Preece analyzes Guenter Grass's ongoing confrontation with his personal experiences as a native of Danzig within the broader context of Germany's turbulent recent history, and Kati Tonkin provides insights into the novels of Gudrun Pausewang, a writer of Sudeten German ancestry. The cultural section of the book closes with an interview between David Rock and Walter Grill, a Bavaria-based sculptor expelled from the Sudetenland as a young child.
Rock and Wolff's collection has many strengths. It provides a handy, concise introduction to a wide range of topics. The chapters are written in clear, lucid prose, and they reflect extensive research and expertise. Although several of the contributions partly repeat findings that the authors have already published elsewhere, their presentation in one volume is to be welcomed. The book should prove very useful for advanced students and others interested in the integration of ethnic German expellees and re-settlers in post-1945 Germany.
But the book also has its weaknesses. My main reservation has to do with its overall structure. The two parts--the first on the "Social, Political and Legal Dimensions of the Integration Process" and the second on "Art as a Medium to Address and Express the Challenges of Migration and Integration"--do not cohere very well. According to the editors, "the individual accounts and interviews" of the volume's second half are supposed to illustrate "the successes and difficulties of the integration process mapped out in [the] first part of the book" (p. xii). But the actual links between the two blocs of essays are rather loose, and very few authors make explicit attempts to link their contributions to those on the other side of the society-art divide. As a result, both halves of the collection work in themselves, but the connecting threads between them remain relatively thin, which detracts from the book's general effectiveness. In addition, an annoying technical problem manifests itself: many--perhaps even most--of the page references given in the index seem to have no bearing to the actual text, which could prove very frustrating for readers in search of specific bits of information. But despite these weaknesses, this remains a valuable collection of high-quality essays on an important topic.
. Strong recent examples include Philipp Ther and Ana Siljak, eds., Redrawing Nations: Ethnic Cleansing in East-Central Europe, 1944-1948 (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001); Dierk Hoffmann, Marita Krauss, and Michael Schwartz, eds., Vertriebene in Deutschland. Interdisziplinaere Ergebnisse und Forschungsperspektiven (Munich: Oldenbourg, 2000).
. For fresh, interesting insights, see Rainer Ohliger, Karen Schoenwaelder, and Triadafilos Triadafilopoulos, eds., European Encounters: Migrants, Migration and European Societies since 1945 (London: Ashgate, 2003).
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Pertti Ahonen. Review of Rock, David; Wolff, Stefan, eds., Coming Home to Germany? The Integration of Ethnic Germans from Central and Eastern Europe in the Federal Republic since 1945.
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