Being Volksdeutsch in Poland: Research Poster
This poster, titled “Being Volksdeutsch in Poland – Volksdeutsch-Polish Children in Upper Silesia in an Age of Extremes”, is a visual outline for my PhD project based at the University of Silesia. This research is part of the H2020 Marie Curie Innovative Training Network CHIBOW – Children Born of War. The network’s general aim is to advance the knowledge and understanding of lived experiences of children born of war in a variety of conflict and post-conflict situations throughout the 20th century.
The poster gives an overview of an interdisciplinary research project in the field of modern and contemporary Central and Eastern European History that focuses on the immediate post-war period in Poland. It analyses the consequences of German nationality policies, introduced after the invasion of Poland by the National Socialists during the Second World War and the incorporation of the region of Upper Silesia into the Reich. It also looks at the policies of the Polish post-war administration. Here, the focus is on the so-called Rehabilitacja. In other words, I look at what the process of reinstating Polish citizenship meant for those parts of the population that were interned in labour camps because they were regarded as ethnic Germans (Volksdeutsche) and how this period affected their future lives.
The poster answers all the basic questions related to my research, beginning with:
- Who is the subject of the research? → the majority of the Upper Silesian population
- How did they come to be a group of interest? → provides a brief introduction into Nazi and post-war Polish nationality policies
- What research questions do I want to answer?
- How am I planning to address these? → offers an overview of my methodology, based primarily on oral history interviews and a memory studies approach.
As inhabitants of a region with a turbulent history and a multitude of shifts in borders and sovereignties, Upper Silesians had faced similar situations in the past. With this, they developed a flexible stance towards their national belonging. This is captured in the results of the censuses dating from before WWI, the interwar period and after WWII, that show a considerable share the same population referring to themselves as something different in each poll.
In the age of exclusive nation-states, this kind of ‘national indifference’, which may be understood as part of Upper Silesian cultural capital, was no longer tolerated by either the German occupiers or the Polish state after WWII. This led to the accusation of disloyalty on behalf of both policymakers and the majority population. How this affected the upbringing of children from families ‘marked’ as ethnic German in post-war Poland will be one of the main foci in analysing the collected data.
For more information on the project don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the mean time, click the thumbnail below for the full PDF version of the poster: