Davis, Steven Benjamin (2017-04). Tales of Expulsion: Remembering Population Transfer in West Germany and the Czech Lands, 1968-1997. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • This dissertation investigates changing memory discourses of the post-World War II (WWII) expulsion of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia in late-Cold War Central Europe. By uncovering the grassroots networks of Czech and Sudeten German cooperation in which these discourses evolved, I illustrate how this cooperation contributed to German-Czech understanding after 1989. This dissertation addresses three crucial questions: Firstly, why did revision of the expulsion become an important issue for Czech dissidents and emigre activists across Europe? Secondly, how did the Catholic Sudeten German organization, the Ackermann Gemeinde, emerge as an important partner for Czech dissidents, the underground Czech Catholic Church, and emigre activists during this period? And thirdly, how did these grassroots cooperations affect public discourse and policy in German-Czech relations after 1989? I argue that the push to reconcile disparate West German and Czechoslovakian narratives of the expulsion and the promotion of a shared cultural heritage illuminates an early process of transnationalizing historical memory and identity that defines more recent discourses of history-writing in Europe in the 21st century. This project explores assertions of a cosmopolitan Central European identity in Czechoslovakia and West Germany that emerged in Czech underground and emigre circles and in prominent sectors of Sudeten Germans in West Germany in the 1970s. Based on archival research and interviews conducted in Germany and the Czech Republic, I use this case study to speak to broader currents in the ways Europeans think about identity and history-writing as they deal with histories of conflict and violence on the continent in the context of increasing European integration.

publication date

  • April 2017