During Europe’s 2015 refugee crisis, more than a hundred thousand asylum seekers from the western Balkans sought refuge in Germany. This was nothing new, however; immigrants from the Balkans have streamed into West Germany in massive numbers throughout the long postwar era. In his book Memory, Politics, and Yugoslav Migrations to Postwar Germany
(Indiana University Press, 2018), Christopher A. Molnar
tells the story of how Germans received the many thousands of Yugoslavs who migrated as political emigres, labor migrants, asylum seekers, and war refugees from 1945 to the mid-1990s. While Yugoslavs made up the second largest immigrant group in the country, their impact has received little critical attention until now. With a particular focus on German policies and attitudes toward immigrants, Molnar argues that considerations of race played only a marginal role in German attitudes and policies towards Yugoslavs. Rather, the history of Yugoslavs in postwar Germany was most profoundly shaped by the memory of World War II and the shifting Cold War context. The book shows how immigration was a key way in which Germany negotiated the meaning and legacy of the war.
Michael E. O’Sullivan is Professor of History at Marist College where he teaches courses about Modern Europe. He published Disruptive Power: Catholic Women, Miracles, and Politics in Modern Germany, 1918-1965 with University of Toronto Press in 2018.