Lecturer Dr Rolf Wörsdörfer paid a two-day visit to the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen conducting research for the scholarly project “From a ‘Westphalian Slovene’ to a ‘guest worker’. A comparative cultural history of the migration movement of Slovenes to Germany in the 19th and 20th centuries (1880–1973)”. “I perused the files prisons in the Ruhrgebiet kept on inmates and deportation lists, and I compared prisoners’ and deportees’ biographical data”, explains Wörsdörfer.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, Slovenian migrants were either enrolled or recruited for the German labour market. Accordingly, the years between 1880 and 1973 saw the whole spectrum of migrants’ motives ranging from economic need to political exile to forced migration. Generally, the Slovenes formed so-called “Communities” first who came to be largely absorbed into society in the second and third generation. In the Ruhrgebiet, a high percentage of these workers was employed in coal mining.
Wörsdörfer sifted through the files preserved at the ITS in order to find clues of Slovenian nationals. “As most Slovenes were second or third generation settlers in the Ruhrgebiet in the National Socialists’ era already, it is hard to identify them as actual ‘guest workers’”, relates Wörsdörfer. The project is funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation. Wörsdörfer is research fellow at the Faculty for “Modern and Contemporary History” at the Institute for History of Darmstadt University. He has authored some essays on the subject already.