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Kingdom of Barracks Polish Displaced Persons in Allied-Occupied Germany and Austria (07.2023)
After World War II displaced more than sixty million people, Cold War politics opened global eyes and wallets to European displaced persons. The postwar experiences of more than three million forcibly displaced Polish people illuminate the painfully long process of reckoning with war and its fallout.
Drawing on rich primary material unearthed in over a dozen archives, Kingdom of Barracks depicts the texture of everyday life in refugee camps in post-World War II Europe within a panorama of the social and cultural history of the twentieth century. Western Allies and Polish social elites construed the camps as spaces for rehabilitating and “re-civilizing” refugees to prepare them for the reconstruction of war-torn countries and a rebirth of the nation. On the ground, refugees lived in close proximity, sharing bug-infested barracks with people from other regions, social classes, and wartime experiences. Taking a bottom-up perspective and exploring the formation of cultural identity in exile through the lenses of class, gender, body, and nationality, Katarzyna Nowak argues that Polish DPs’ experiences of displacement stimulated a personal and a collective revival understood in religious and national terms.
In an age of intensifying forced displacement, Kingdom of Barracks sheds new light on past experiences of war and migration that are still deeply relevant in the present.