Sought-After Workers or ”Social Hard Core”? Displaced Women in Transit through Postwar Austria (1945-1960)

Project Researcher: Franziska Lamp, BA BA MA

This project focuses on the life trajectories of “Displaced Persons” (DPs) and so-called “ethnic Germans” and examines the institutional and organizational responses to their situation by focusing on displaced women transiting through the Allied occupation zones of Austria (1945-1954). By taking a gendered perspective, this project analyses their displacement experiences as well as the gender-specific dimensions of the resettlement programmes for those emigrating via post-war Austria.

It looks closer at the different factors that influenced the migration process of displaced women. Who managed to resettle? Where to? Who stayed behind and why? Which strategies where employed by the women themselves and how did the Austrian state, the International Refugee Organization (IRO), other international organizations as well as the receiving states react?

In this context the demand of displaced women as work forces outside of Austria opens up questions about the gender hierarchies in relation to recruitment programs and other resettlement schemes. Due to the economic reasoning of potential receiving states, women with “dependents” were assumed to be less favorable candidates for emigration, while pregnant or ill women were either not accepted at all or sent back after their state of health had been discovered.

While there has been substantial research focusing on different aspects of the post-war migration regime in Austria, the interrelations between gender dynamics and emigration schemes for displaced women have not yet stood in the focus of analysis. This project is filling this gap by granting insights into different cases of displaced women passing through camps in the Western Allied occupation zones of Austria - migrating both with and without “dependents”. The focus on the (intra)institutional and (inter)national negotiation of resettlement programs as well as on single biographical case studies thereby allows a closer look on the mechanisms of post-war migration regimes.

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