Ukrainian DPs in the British Zone
Jan-Hinnerk Antons paid a two-day flying visit to the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen viewing material for his dissertation on the subject “The life situation of Ukrainian Displaced Persons (DPs) in the British zone”. In a first step, he concentrated his name research on those about 200 former Ukrainian DPs who had a role to play in camp council and camp committee or acted as camp “chief”. “I could discover interesting documents from the post-war era at ITS”, so the historian.
The DPs’ topic had already preoccupied Antons’ mind when he wrote his Master’s degree thesis focussing on the DP camp for Ukrainians at Heidenau. “It was not only the professors who gave me a positive feedback, but in particular the residents of Heidenau and the former Ukrainian DPs themselves who motivated me to conduct further research”, so 29-year-old Antons. The historian has already gone to see the most various archives inside and outside of Germany. Last year for instance he went to the Ukraine and learned the native language enabling him to evaluate Ukrainian documents’ sources.
Centring his research mainly on both the “universe” the displaced persons lived in and their daily camp routine, Antons finds the reports delivered by contemporary witnesses most relevant. “I intend to draw a clear picture of life in the camp. Just evaluating documents and newspaper reports hardly suffices to that end”, knows the historian. “The angle from which the former DPs see or consider their situation is most essential for an authentic depiction.” He has already established contact with German contemporary witnesses. “The attitude the German neighbours of the camps assumed towards the DPs had mainly been a hostile one. Being stuck in the situation and unable to emigrate, the aged, the people in poor health and the single mothers had to endure xenophobic discrimination besides“, so Antons.
The Ukrainian DPs had either been taken forcibly to Germany during the Nazi era to perform forced or slave labour there or had hastily left the Ukraine fleeing the Red Army towards the end of the war. “The Ukrainians found it hard, if not impossible, to live together with Polish DPs”, relates Antons. “The national pride of the Ukrainians played a crucial role in their conduct and made them try to support the fight for a Ukrainian nation-state using their temporary lodgings in Germany as base.” Considering that a part of the Ukrainians had been resettled to Western countries by the “International Refugee Organisation (IRO)” at the time, the accurate figures of Ukrainian nationals staying in Germany at war end are not known.
Jan-Hinnerk Antons is searching for further eye witnesses who may contribute to his research work. Whoever was a DP himself or herself or knew DPs is encouraged herewith to get in touch with him by mail.