Reteaching (or Retouching) Heimat: Expellees in German School Curricula, 194860

Friday, January 4, 2019: 8:50 AM
Price Room (Palmer House Hilton)
Kimberly A. Redding, Carroll University
The internationally-sanctioned “population transfer” of some 12-15 million ethnic Germans from their eastern European homelands in the wake of WWII primed child expellees to understand themselves as outsiders in post-war Europe, and encounters with peers and local officials in occupied Germany did little to ameliorate this perception. Equated with Nazism in their place of birth, and with “the East” in the new Heimat (homeland), child expellees describe—even today—a sense of non-belonging that belies standard measures of integration.

Traditionally, historians explain the reluctant, even hostile attitudes of local communities to the influx of expellees by pointing to social and material conditions in occupied Germany. Less attention has been given to the role of public education in shaping/inhibiting child expellees’ integration, even though expellees formed nearly 25% of students in some schools. Furthermore, the same Allied powers that had authorized expulsion also oversaw the reestablishment of public education in postwar Germany. They recognized schools as a key site of denazification and democratization, and supervised the development of new curricula, textbooks, and teacher-training modules.

This paper explores how pedagogical directives, textbooks and lesson plans from the 1940s and 1950s negotiated the subject of expulsion. I draw on oral histories, personal memoirs and in particular, archival sources from the German Institute for International Educational Research (DIPF—Deutsche Institut für Internationale Pädagogische Forschung) in Berlin. Exploring how both East and West German schools reframed recent historical events, I suggest these institutions likely fed child expellees’ sense of isolation, and inadvertently fueled subsequent tensions about German expellee identity. More broadly, I raise questions about the long-term impact of official narratives on migrant integration.

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