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Scholarly Exchange at the Network Meeting

At the end of June, the meeting of the “Displaced Persons Research Network” (www.netzwerkdpforschung.uni-bonn.de) took place at the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen for the first time. Some ten scholars used the opportunity to present their current research projects and to discuss them among this circle of experts. Along with the exchange about special issues, the participants also wanted to take the chance of their visit at the ITS for investigating in the archives. The DP Network was launched in 2011, also giving younger academics a forum for their studies; its goal is bringing different research approaches, questions and objects of study together and initiating lively discussions.

DP Projects of the ITS

Dr. Susanne Urban, member of the Network and Head of the Research and Education Branch at the ITS, and René Bienert expounded the current DP projects of the ITS which met with great interest: The main emphasis lay on the exhibition “Life in Transit – Trauma and New Start. Survivors of National Socialist Persecution” that is going to be opened at the Anne Frank educational center in Frankfurt am Main on 10 September 2014 and on the teaching resources prepared along with this event that are aimed at integrating the subject of the DPs in school teaching with four priority topics. Susanne Flörke presented the DP Camp Register for the Internet that is going to be put online parallel to the exhibition.

Projects and Cooperation

In view of the fact that DP research is still a side issue in the field of historical scholarship, the participants made use of the talks among the circle of experts to look for shared interests and common features in current projects, to exchange views on sources of research, and to define future goals. This included, for instance, the idea of launching a comprehensive project in association with a university, in order to be able to expand research towards Eastern Europe as well. The presentation of the freelance journalist and historian Jim G. Tobias found broad interest, who had succeeded in bringing off some interesting and elementary publications about DPs together with the “Nürnberger Institut für NS-Forschung und jüdische Geschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts” (Nuremberg Institute for Holocaust Studies / www.nurinst.org), one of them an Internet encyclopedia about Jewish DP Camps and Communities (www.after-the-shoah.org). He introduced some ideas regarding a new project about Jewish Talmudic and Torah schools in post-war Germany that pursued the goal of encouraging faith in the Jewish DP camps. Dr. Susanne Urban admitted to be impressed by the work of the Institute and proposed a closer cooperation with the ITS, which she could imagine in the form of joint events or publications, for example.

Different Perspectives and Problems

The presentations of the Network members showed the complexity of DP research, beginning with the different initial situations in the occupied countries during the Nazi dictatorship, going via the variety of DP groups through to the support and assistance provided to the DPs by the Allies. The current research project of Dr. Verena Buser covers the history of the Child Search or Child Tracing Section of the UNRRA and IRO and the UNR Children´s Centers in the American occupation zone. Marcus Velke presented the subject of his doctoral thesis relating to Baltic DPs, starting off by casting doubt on the popular stereotype that a disproportionately large number of the roughly 200,000 Baltic DPs were members of the elites as well as Baltic collaborators. Melanie Dejnega put forward her investigations relating to DPs in Austria, also drawing attention to the fact that these were called “versetzte Personen” (relocated persons) in Austria, which does not actually reflect their abduction by force. Dr. Jan-Hinnerk Antons dealt with those Ukrainians who had come to Germany with the Wehrmacht, for example, but obtained DP status after 1945.

Expectations Satisfied

Before the Network meeting, the participants had been curious as to what the exchange with other experts would be like and how it could perhaps influence their own scholarly work. “A good exchange of experience at network meetings cannot be replaced by telephone calls or e-mails,” Dr. Jan Hinnerk Antons got to the heart of the expectations right away. Some of the researches were in Bad Arolsen for the first time and looked forward to using the archives for their own projects. A round-table discussion at the end revealed that, if linked to, for instance, medical files, correspondence files, or DP files of the IRO, much of the list material relating to DPs can be taken as a basis for supporting micro studies, doing biographical work, and also tracing specific groups among the DPs.

Please find additional information about the DP Network under: www.netzwerkdpforschung.uni-bonn.de