Laure Humbert

Department: History
Discipline: History

Project Summary

France and the Displaced Persons problem in Occupied Germany, 1945-1951 After Germany’s defeat in 1945, the French zone, although the smallest of four, contained at least 300,000 Displaced Persons. Pending completion of their repatriation, the French military administrators were charged with establishing camps, categorizing Displaced Persons and arranging interim provision for them. Despite the logistical and political difficulties involved in transporting this mass of people in a war-ravaged Europe, the French army repatriated the majority of them. Yet, it rapidly became clear that many DPs preferred to remain in camps rather than to return to their native countries. In September 1945, after the first mass repatriation operation three months earlier, over 65,000 displaced persons remained in the French zone of Germany. Facing more intractable problems than anticipated, new strategies had to be devised. Although academic interest in the question of displaced persons has grown rapidly since the early 1990s, very little attention has been paid to the administration of DPs in the French zone. My aim is to remedy this and examines French policies and humanitarian practices. Primarily social and cultural in focus, my PhD will scrutinize the interactions between different groups of displaced persons, relief workers, military forces and defeated Germans. Key research questions include: What, if anything, characterized a ‘French approach’ to displaced persons? How did French authorities interact with international agencies, such as UNRRA and, later, the IRO? How effective was the humanitarian assistance provided by French relief workers in the field? How far did treatment of DPs lead to new codifications of cultural identity and individual rights?

Supervisory Team

Professor Martin Thomas and Professor Richard Overy

Wider Research Interests

Migrations; post-war reconstruction; internationalism and international organizations ; European construction; French international politics after 1945