chapter  5
10 Pages

BECOMING EVWS: FROM DISPLACED PERSONS TO ECONOMIC MIGRANTS

Leaving the camps

As the weeks stretched into months after the end of the war, the Allies were forced to consider how to cope with the still large numbers of stateless and homeless displaced persons who refused to return to their country of origin. It had been agreed at the Yalta conference that all Soviet citizens were to be repatriated, a decision that was to be enforced without exception and, by the end of 1945, the vast majority of displaced people who found themselves as Soviets citizens had been sent back, in many cases against their will. It is clear, however, that the Allies differentiated between those who were ‘eligible’ for return and it seems that people from the Baltic tended to receive more preferable treatment than other national groups. Overall, they were seen as more ‘civilised’ and unproblematic than, for example, the Poles, who had been living in Germany for years as forced labourers. Herbert (1997, p 380), for example, in a brief discussion of the problems facing the Allies in 1945, commented on the way in which American officers spoke of Poles as a problem and of their surprise at the level of organisation they found on liberation. He suggested that ‘before the end of the war, the foreign forced workers in Germany had apparently been reduced in Allied thinking to the function of defenceless victims. They had not anticipated phenomena such as the thirst for vengeance, or the half-crazed euphoria of liberation’.