Stefanie M. Krull
BA in History and German, Oklahoma State University, 2011
Modern Germany & Poland
Nationalism & Ethnicity
“The Latecomers”: Resettlers from Poland & their Integration into West Germany, 1970-1990
My research focuses on the approximately two million ethnic German Aussiedler or resettlers who “returned” from Eastern Europe to Germany between 1950 and 1989, and more specifically on the 1.2 million who came from Poland. Although far fewer in number than their expellee predecessors and their Russlanddeutsche successors, the ethnic German resettlers of the 1970s and 1980s contribute significantly to the history of the German-Polish borderlands and to our broader understanding of return migration. By teasing out the tension between “integration” and “belonging”, my dissertation complicates our perception of ethnic categories in Central Europe, the factors that prompt people to uproot their lives, and the structures that shape these processes.
Building on the work of borderland scholars such as Pieter Judson, Tara Zahra, and James Bjork, I aim to move beyond overly simplified ethnic categories to ask how nationally ambiguous populations manipulate their national identities based on the group to which they would like to belong. Rather than a straightforward political history of Cold War-era migration, I utilize personal appeals by emigres and their family members to show how Aussiedler used ethnic ambiguity to their own advantage and, in the process, helped redefine what it meant to be German, Polish, or Silesian. Though geographically focused on Central Europe, my dissertation highlights the interplay of ethnicity, integration, and national belonging within immigrant societies around the world.