De uønskede – De tyske flygtninge i Danmark 1945-1949
(“The Unwanted – The German Refugees in Denmark 1945-1949”)
First published in Danish by Gyldendal, August/September 2020.
120.000 words + 70-80 illustrations (incl. maps) with captions supplementing the text.
Foreign Rights: Trine Licht, Licht & Burr Literary Agency; http://www.licht-burr.dk/
The Unwanted tells the story of the approximately 250.000 German refugees from East and West Prussia, Memelland, Pomerania, Danzig etc. who escaped to Denmark during the last three months of World War II and were repatriated only from November 1946, the last ones leaving Denmark as late as February 1949. The book opens with the Soviet offensive in October 1944 which triggered the mass escape from the “Eastern Territories” and closes with the difficult, but ultimately successful, integration of the refugees into German post-war society.
The Unwanted is based on years of wide-ranging research. The book provides a more complete understanding of the complex political, military, cultural and social aspects of this dramatic story than any previous book on the subject. Despite the meticolous research and depth of detail, The Unwanted is not an academic publication, but a book for the general reader with an interest in 20th century history and society. It is a book rich in human interest stories.
The Unwanted is divided into four parts which move at two different, but closely connected, levels: The individual level – where we follow a number of refugees through their diaries, memoirs etc. – and the more general level where military events, politics, ideology, economics, bureaucracy and diplomatic bargaining determined the refugees’ everyday life and destiny.
Part 1 describes the collapse of Germany and the mass escape from the East – the Trecks through the snow, the evacuation across the Baltic, the Wilhelm Gustloff and other disasters at sea etc. – as well as the situation in Denmark from February 1945, when the first refugees arrived, to the German capitulation on 5 May 1945. Important themes in this part of the book are the Nazi leadership’s failure to organise a timely evacuation of the territories threatened by the Red Army and the fierce competition for scarce shipping resources: Hitler and Dönitz constantly gave priority to the evacuation of military personnel and equipment for use in the “final battle”, leaving hundreds of thousands of refugees behind. In Denmark, the Germans tried more and more desperately to get the Danish authorities to help them take care of the refugees, while the Danes tried to do as little as possible and to obtain benefits for Danish concentration camp prisoners in exchange for any assistance.
The history of the German refugees in Denmark is part of the history of Nazism and of World War II, but also of the history of the early Cold War and of the Allied occupation of Germany and the efforts to get Germany back on its feet. The refugees in Denmark were only a small part of the approximately 12.5 million refugees and Displaced Persons in Germany which the Allied occupation authorities had to feed and house and provide with work and healthcare.
Part 3 recounts the Danish efforts to convince the Allied powers to accept the refugees into their Zones of Occupation. The Danish negotiators were not without leverage: Food, Danish troops for the occupation of Germany, and American access to airbases on Greenland were among their bargaining chips. In addition to traditional diplomacy, the Danes tried to influence Allied decision-makers through personal contacts and various forms of “public diplomacy” and other PR work including press and VIP visits to refugee camps and resolutions adopted by international church and women’s organisations. British and US politicians and diplomats focused on what the Danes had to offer in exchange for a solution to the refugee problem, whereas the Allied military authorities in Germany were very unwilling to accept more refugees into their already overburdened Zones of Occupation.
Part 4 describes the arduous integration of the repatriated refugees and expellees in post-war Germany, the negotiations and agreements between Denmark and the Federal Republic which formally ended the story of the refugees, and the role of the refugees and expellees in German post-war culture and politics.