Wartime Germans, Post-war Poles: Nation Switching and Nation Building after 1945

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This article examines the roles played in post-1945 Polish society by citizens who had spent the Second World War classified as 'racial' Germans. Current accounts of post-war Europe have been based on the assumption that people classified as German by the Nazi regime who found themselves living outside of Germany or Austria after the war either faced expulsion or, at best, systematic marginalization and discrimination. In fact, however, several million wartime Germans living in post-war Poland were 'verified' or 'rehabilitated' as ethnic Poles. They were, to be sure, often still perceived as traitors, and many re-identified as German in the late twentieth century. But these nation switchers were also often defended as particular victims of oppression or as national heroes, whose 'camouflage' strategy promoted Polish national survival. The Roman Catholic church figured as a crucial institutional advocate for wartime Germans. Indeed, in the decades following the war, the leadership of the church included a disproportionate share of wartime Germans within its own ranks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-40
Number of pages40
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2022


  • Second world war
  • Poland
  • Germany
  • National identity
  • European history, 1945-
  • Catholic church
  • national indifference


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