Soviet DPs for the Belgian Mining Industry (1944-1960): The daily struggle against Yalta of a forgotten minority?
Title: Soviet DPs for the Belgian Mining Industry (1944-1960): The daily struggle against Yalta of a forgotten minority?
Author: LUYCKX, Lieselotte
Citation: Florence : European University Institute, 2012
Series/Report no.: EUI PhD theses; Department of History and Civilization
The liberation of Western Europe from Nazism meant the freeing of a high number of foreign citizens and soldiers. Many among them had been brought here for the purpose of (forced) labour in the Nazi war economy. In March 1945, 245,730 displaced persons (DPs) were counted in occupied Germany, of which 45,587 were Soviet citizens.1 The Soviet Union, like the other countries involved, expressed early on their wish to repatriate their own citizens. The repatriations were agreed upon in Yalta (February 1945) and were taking place at a large scale from May 1945 onward. As a result, by December 1945 the refugee organization at that time (the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration or UNRRA) had 21,435 Soviet citizens under its care, a number that had decreased to 6,770 in June 1947.2 Whereas the Allied initially predicted that repatriation would reach 98%, this expectation was completely crushed by the end of 1945. It started to sink in that the Soviet citizens still remaining in Western Europe at that time did not intend to return home.3 In general, their reluctance was motivated by fear for what might happen to them upon their return. In certain cases, the Soviet DPs (especially among the prisoners of war) had fought with the Nazi troops, which made their fear for retaliation well founded. Stalin nevertheless was very suspicious toward all Soviet citizens who had been in contact with the Western way of life. Consequently, he labelled all Soviet DPs in the West as (potential) traitors, which led to thorough check-ups and (potentially) severe punishments upon their return. As rumours about such retaliations started to spread among the DPs still remaining in camps in the West, the number of voluntary repatriates started to go down. Other explanations why people did not wish to return were because they wanted to continue their new life in the West, whether they had found a partner here or not. At the turn of the year (1946 / 1947), the Western Allies were still trying to find a solution for the displaced persons that remained in DP-camps spread over Germany, Austria and Italy. As returning home was no longer a valid option for all DPs, due to the upcoming Cold War alternatives had to be found in order to solve the refugee-issue.
Defence date: 8 October 2012; Examining Board: Professor Heinz-Gerhard Haupt, EUI (EUI Supervisor); Professor Dirk Moses (EUI); Professor Frank Caestecker (University of Ghent); Professor Anne Morelli (Université Libre de Bruxelles).
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