University of Erfurt

Research and Researching at Erfurt University

Reconstruction through Plunder: The Quest for German Property in East Central Europe after the Second World War: Economic history




EU: proportionate funding from the total amount of 1,416,000 EUR

Project description

Around the end of the Second World War two processes dramatically changed the socio-economic landscape of East Central Europe: the expulsion of over ten million Germans and the establishment of a new social order inspired by the Soviet model. This project is an inquiry into the interconnectedness between these apparently distinct histories. My aim is to understand how the redistribution of property formerly owned by Germans shaped the post-war reconstruction of the economy, justice and security in two countries whose territories were comprised of up to one third of the post-German lands: Poland and Czechoslovakia. The specific focus of this study lies in the illegal takeover of post-German property, attempts to control it and the associated discourse. Studying plunder in its destructive and productive effects offers me the opportunity to reveal how the state reclaimed its authority over property relations, and how the key values regulating social co-existence – economic stability, redistributive justice and territorial security – were negotiated at the transnational, national and local level. My interpretation of the early post-war period in the former German territories as a reconstruction through plunder frames the illegal property transfers as both a challenge to their post-war reconstruction as well as an opportunity used by individuals and institutions to accelerate it. In more general terms, this reading highlights the critical role of the legally opaque property arrangements in any modern socio-economic order.
In the following months, I will seek to expand my study in two directions: first, by investigating the long-term impact of the illegal property transfers on the collective identities of the new inhabitants of the post-German territories in Poland and Czechoslovakia; and second, by placing East Central Europe within the global context of mass property transfers in the 1940s, especially those in Asia and the Middle East.

Fields of research

  • History
  • Politics

    Last update: 30.01.2019



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