This English review describes a book that has been
published in German and there has been no translation
Notice in the first paragraph there are tables and
illustrations. The statistisal tables in chapter
four may show good
genealogical data and it might be worth getting the
book on Interlibrary loan just to look at those for
researchers who cannot read German.
The book may be helpful to those looking for
German cousins who came to the US after World War II.
The research done by the author is described as
using many of our basic genealogical resources.
The book covers Germans going to North America
after WW II...to include Sudetens.
H-NET BOOK REVIEW
Published by H-German(a)h-net.msu.edu (September 2007)
Alexander Freund. _Aufbrüche nach dem Zusammenbruch: Die
deutsche Nordamerika-Auswanderung nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg_.
Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2004. Studien zur historischen
Migrationsforschung. 578 pp. Appendix, tables, illustrations,
bibliography. EUR 39.95 (cloth), ISBN 3-89971-106-8.
Reviewed for H-German by Heike Bungert, University of Cologne
Power Structures and the Individual Decision to Emigrate
Alexander Freund's book, originally a dissertation at the University of
Bremen, examines the emigration of about one million Germans to the
United States and Canada between 1945 and 1961. Freund is primarily
interested in the question of why some people decide to emigrate while
others stay behind. Therefore, he focuses on the pre-emigration period.
He seeks to combine a structural approach with a focus on the individual.
Freund draws on sixty interviews with seventy-three people he conducted
himself (with biographies of his interviewees listed in an appendix), and
combines these with documents from the U.S. and Canadian national
archives, the state archives of Hamburg and Bremen, and German church
archives. Furthermore, he uses theories from gender history, psychology,
oral history, and discourse analysis, for example, in explaining
decision-making processes or narratives of the self.
Freund divides his book into four main chapters framed by an introduction
and a conclusion. The first of these chapters, chapter 2, deals with the
"Aufbruchsgesellschaft" and the context of migration. In a first part,
Freund investigates "migration cultures," which he defines as the
knowledge and experience of migration and of the Other. He uses oral
interviews, family histories, and children's books to recount migration
and alienation experiences of people who emigrated to the United
States and Canada. Most of these experiences have to do with World
War II and people's concomitant experiences of flight, expulsion,
evacuation, labor migration, and occupation.
In a second part, Freund describes what he calls migration
identities--the loosening of ties to families, society, and workplace--
which often occurred in the context of World War II.
The author finds that reintegration into society was
most difficult for older refugees and for younger people from the area
that would become the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG).
A third part deals with cognitive and social aspects; that is, the approaches
to migration via the construction of emigration as an alternative life
arrangement. According to Freund, the perception of emigration as
an option depended on gender, marital status, social status, biography,
family cycle, and age. For example, older refugee families were
attracted by U.S. programs, but singles and younger families from the
FRG area more often went to Canada.
The third chapter turns from individual motivations to social
developments in postwar Germany and from interviews to state
documents. It traces changes in discourse about emigration as well
as the actual possibility of emigration.
From 1945 to 1949, few
opportunities to emigrate to North
America existed, despite a
widespread desire to do so. Freund recounts illegal attempts at
emigration, which he gleaned from newly-discovered sources of the
Civil Censorship Division. He also portrays emigration scams.
Between 1949 and 1960, emigration became easier.
the emigration policies of Germany and the immigration policies of
the United States, Canada, and Australia. Both sides were driven
by economic interests as well as racial and gender prejudices.
Despite its attempts to control emigration via financing, counseling,
and public relations, the German government ultimately failed to
prevent the emigration of young, single males, since it could not risk
diplomatic altercations with the United States and Canada, both of
which were looking for those categories of workers. While Canada
instituted the Assisted Passage Loan Scheme, the United States
used quotas as well as special programs, such as those for war
brides and expellees. In this chapter, Freund also delineates the
"Auswanderungsdrang" or urge to emigrate in the 1950s by drawing
on hitherto unused sources: contemporary questionnaires of people
who made inquiries at emigration information centers or
_Beratungsstellen_. With the help of these questionnaires, Freund
establishes a social profile of people interested in emigration, which
he later compares with that of actual émigrés. One of his conclusions
is that there was less evidence of chain migration by Germans after
the Second World War than in the nineteenth century.
In his fourth chapter, the author examines individual and familial
decision processes and conflicts regarding emigration drawing on
interviews, state documents and files of the Evangelische
Auswanderermission Hamburg. Among the motives of individuals to
emigrate, for example, he cites the desire for adventure, a yearning
for freedom, the search for a new identity, self-fulfillment, economic
betterment, a desire to gain distance from German society, military
service (the avoidance of German service or the wish to join the U.S.
or Canadian army or the Foreign Legion), and considerations about
future family relations (the wish to found one's own family, to continue
family relations, to escape one's family, or to fulfill family obligations).
Freund next turns to the decision-making process and the
construction of information and safety nets in the form of family,
friends, acquaintances, or simply the (imagined) option to return to
Germany. He also draws attention to the "migration window"
concerning the timing of emigration. Finally, Freund delineates the
roles of biography, gender, and generation in conflicts about emigration
among single emigrants and within families. Here, he points out the
importance of social networks not only as support groups, but also
as control mechanisms. Thus, in families, power structures were
dictated by age and gender.
In his fifth chapter, Freund provides what most people would expect
from a more traditional history of postwar migration to North America:
statistics on the actual overseas migration. The high phase of this
migration took place between 1951 and 1957. Migrants were younger
than the average population and included more refugees and expellees.
They consisted of three relatively homogeneous groups: young single
men and women who had lost orientation after the collapse of the
Third Reich; older expellee families; and "indigenous" younger couples
and families in search of economic betterment and a new beginning.
Next, Freund describes the emigration paths of individuals and of
families. For the individuals, he focuses on Canada. Here, male
migrants had the option to emigrate as miners and foresters or as
agricultural workers, while women could become employed in
cleaning or nursing. Most individuals in all categories left their
initial jobs soon after their immigration; some of them even departed
for the United States. In a further subchapter, Freund looks at the
connection of marriage and migration. While some migrants used
the international marriage market to find future spouses abroad,
others wanted to escape from their parents to marry their German
fiancés. Finally, Freund examines the migration paths of families,
especially regarding the question of emigrating together or sending
one partner first.
All in all, this is an impressive book. There are only two minor
criticisms. First, the theory introduced at the beginning of
subchapters sometimes appears to get lost in the analytical and
narrative parts. Second, the text can at times be slightly repetitive,
due to the structure of the book, which in its analysis switches
between the individual and the state and society. On the other
hand, though, these repetitions make it possible to read the
individual chapters of the book separately, since they are nearly
With the exception of these two minor drawbacks, _Aufbrüche nach
dem Zusammenbruch_ is an important, excellent work. Not only does
it fill a gap in our knowledge of German migration, in which postwar
migration has been surprisingly neglected. It also uses an innovative
approach, combining macro- and microhistory, attending both to
structures and to the individual. It weaves "objective" life conditions
with "subjective" perceptions of the same; it combines socioeconomic
and cultural history; and it contrasts the perspective of the migrant
with that of society and the state. Freund emphasizes how the
individual migrant was embedded in family, social norms, cultural
traditions, and public discourses, and his book shows how questions
of power (but also rebellion against such power structures in the family
and in society) played themselves out in the pre-migration and
migration periods. Freund's book is a welcome reminder that
economics is not all there is to migration, but that we need to pay
attention to gender as well as to ethnicity, class, age, and marital
status. Finally, Freund examines migration to the United States and
Canada and thus allows comparisons. His book should be of interest
not only to scholars interested in postwar German migration to North
America, but also to migration historians in general as well as to all
scholars interested in postwar German cultural history and
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