Private and Public, Personal and Political: Exploring German Expellee Memory Tourism




Melendy, Brenda

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Thomas Wolfe’s sentiment that “you can’t go home again”is commonplace, but for ethnic Germans expelled from eastern Europe after World War II this aphorism assumed a tangible truth. The 1945 Potsdam Agreements envisioned a European peace ensured by the concentration of all ethnic Germans in a truncated Germany. But, with the East-West divide of the Cold War expelled Germans found themselves cut off from former homes now under communist rule. Treaties could not mandate emotions, however. Over time expellees successfully integrated into the fabric of West German life but for most there always remained the emotional pull to return home to the Heimat. Folks yearned to see their village square, to hike or ski in the local mountains, to attend their parish church, and to visit their family graves.



Ethnic Germans, World War II, Germany, Memory tourism, Expellee pilgrimages


Melendy, B. (2003). Private and public, personal and political: Exploring German expellee memory tourism, World History Review, 1(1), pp. 39-61.


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