Journal Article

The Great Fear: The Catholic Church and the Anticipated Radicalization of Expellees and Refugees in Post-War Germany

Frank Buscher

in German History

Published on behalf of German History Society

Volume 21, issue 2, pages 204-224
Published in print April 2003 | ISSN: 0266-3554
Published online April 2003 | e-ISSN: 1477-089X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1191/0266355403gh281oa
The Great Fear: The Catholic Church and the Anticipated Radicalization of Expellees and Refugees in Post-War Germany

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The influx and plight of over twelve million refugees and expellees after World War II caused grave concerns among the West German Catholic clergy. Clergymen feared that the desperate newcomers would become radicalized. A commonly accepted notion of radicalism, however, failed to emerge. Some considered communism the greatest danger, others national bolshevism. Nihilism, calls for a redistribution of wealth and many other expellee demands were viewed as radical. Yet, the much-anticipated radicalization failed to materialize. In the final analysis, there was no refugee revolution or widespread support for radical political parties. To be sure, the expellees let it be known that they had no desire to become a permanent underclass in the new Federal Republic, but they clearly preferred integration and a return to normalcy to radicalism. Why then did leading Catholics consistently warn against a phenomenon that failed to occur? They knew little about their co-religionists from the East and had preconceived notions about the behaviour of human beings who had been robbed of their dignity and material possessions. Expellee clerics deliberately reinforced the fears of their West German colleagues to gain attention and assistance for Catholic expellees and themselves. Moreover, the magnitude of the expellee issue overwhelmed the Church.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: European History

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