‘There is no such thing as an unrepatriable Pole’: Polish Displaced Persons in the British zone of occupation in Germany

Sam Knapton

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A group of Polish displaced persons (DPs) was stranded in the British zone of occupation in 1945, a smaller part of a much broader population upheaval in Europe in the 1940s that included Nazi forced labour and resettlement plans, as well as the expulsion of Germans from Eastern Europe. The relationship between British military officials, welfare workers and the Polish DPs within the British zone deteriorated quickly after German surrender. Using the issue of repatriation as a focal point, this article will explore the growing tensions between the British and Polish who had fought alongside one another and place these within the wider context of increasing East-West tensions in the immediate post-war world. As the British tendency to look upon the Polish DPs as a troublesome ‘nuisance’ can be viewed as a by-product of pressure on an economically weakened Britain straining to live up to its pre-war stature, in this context the need to help the very people who embodied the provocation for going to war became irrelevant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)689-710
Number of pages22
JournalEuropean History Quarterly
Issue number4
Early online date16 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • British occupation
  • Polish
  • displaced persons (DPs)
  • post-war Germany
  • repatriation

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