Universität Erfurt


Kornelia Kończal: Junior Fellow

Max-Weber-Kolleg für kultur- und sozialwissenschaftliche Studien
Universität Erfurt
Postfach 900221
99105 Erfurt


  • Moderne europäische Geschichte (Frankreich, Deutschland, Ostmitteleuropa)
  • Geschichte der Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften
  • Ideengeschichte
  • Erinnerungsforschung


"Reconstruction through Plunder: The Quest for German Property in East Central Europe after the Second World War" [individual research project]

Around the end of the Second World War two processes dramatically changed the socio-economic landscape of East Central Europe: the expulsion of approximately twelve 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. 

"Transnational and Interdisciplinary Sources of the Polish Humanities: the Letters and Writings of Stefan Czarnowski (1879-1937)" [Joint research project established at the Institute of Sociology, University of Warsaw; sponsored by the National Programme for the Development of Humanities (0133/NPRH4/H1b/83/2015)]

The aim of this project is to prepare a critical edition of the letters and writings of Stefan Czarnowski – religious scholar, one of the founders of the Polish sociology, and the main promoter of Émile Durkheim’s research programme in East Central Europe. It traces Czarnowski’s intellectual formation during his studies in Leipzig, Berlin and Paris before 1914, his academic career in Poland after 1918, and the making of the public intellectual throughout this period. Czarnowski’s correspondence with Henri Hubert, Marcel Mauss and other Durkheimians not only documents the history of a close intellectual friendship, but it also illustrates the transformation of French sociology across time and space – from the Paris of the Belle Époque to post-Versailles Warsaw. Czarnowski’s writings reveal his early support for right-wing nationalism, his gradual abandonment of it, and his path towards communism at a time when Europe was being crushed by fascism. The intellectual biography of Czarnowski uncovers many hitherto unknown entanglements of the Polish humanities within the international circulation of knowledge during the first decades of the twentieth century. In more general terms, it invites us to rethink the impact of political changes on academics and scientists’ engagement with politics as well as the tension between the international careers of researchers and the national interests of research institutions.

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