Representations of Flight and Expulsion in East German Prose Works

Representations of Flight and Expulsion in East German Prose Works

Bill Niven


Camden House



Explodes the conventional wisdom that there was a taboo on the topic of flight and expulsion in East Germany.

It is by now almost a cliché that the flight and expulsion of Germans from east-central Europe at the end of the Second World War was a taboo topic in the German Democratic Republic. According to this claim, the Socialist Unity Party (SED) suppressed reference to flight and expulsion so as not to upset its socialist neighbors. This book shows that such a view does not hold up to serious scrutiny. While the topic may not have been addressed in the realm of politics or official commemoration, it was picked up again and again in literature, particularly fiction. Representations of flight and expulsion were by no means restricted, as some have asserted, to Christa Wolf's novel Kindheitsmuster: Niven's study documents around one hundred novels and short stories published in the GDR that address flight or expulsion. He argues that in the 1950s and early 1960s GDR fiction included many refugee figures. The predominant emphasis was on their integration under socialism rather than their experience of flight and loss of home; nevertheless, flight and to a lesser degree expulsion were depicted, as was their impact on individuals. They continued to be portrayed in the late GDR and in post-unification east Germany. Flight and expulsion were subject to a developing literary discourse in the GDR, a discourse that this book explores.

Bill Niven is Professor in Contemporary German History at Nottingham Trent University.

An e-book version of this title is available (9781571138996), to libraries through a number of trusted suppliers. See here for a full list of our partners.


July 2014
228 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571135353
Format: Hardback
Camden House
BISAC LIT004170, PER004030, PER010030
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Table of Contents

Evidence and Interpretation: Flight and Expulsion in GDR Prose Works
GDR Reconstruction Literature of the 1950s and Early 1960s and the Figure of the Refugee
From Novels Set in the Nazi Period to Novels of Revisiting
The Skeptical Muse: Reassessing Integration
Flight and Expulsion in East German Prose Works after Unification


Niven's study is outstanding in several aspects. First, he does what the title of the book advertises in a way that is highly documented yet never longwinded . . . . The astonished reader comes to the fascinating realization that German flight and expulsion were in no way taboo themes in GDR literature; indeed, that on the contrary a great number of works dealt with these difficult topics in the most diverse ways. [Niven is] even able in the end to reconstruct the origin of the taboo claim . . . . In a word, Niven's is a work of fundamental importance that no future scholar will be able to ignore, and beyond that it suggests numerous directions for future scholarship . . . . The immense amount of work that clearly went into this study does not prevent it from being highly readable. ZEITSCHRIFT FÜR OSTMITTELEUROPA-FORSCHUNG [Jutta Faehndrich]

[M]asterly . . . . This is new knowledge about the GDR and new knowledge about the "cipher 'flight and explusion.'" Niven's book therefore has to rejuvenate the mediatized public discourse about flight and expulsion of Germans from Eastern Europe. After Niven's book we can't go back. SEHEPUNKTE

Niven has produced an excellent work that by dint of his thorough and extensive research fully achieves its stated aim. . . . [A] major achievement. JOURNAL OF CONTEMPORARY EUROPEAN STUDIES [Stuart Parkes] [E]xcellent. . . . [B]reaks new ground. . . . [A]n indispensable guide to anyone who wishes to explore this central but neglected theme in GDR literature. It is an impressive achievement. . . . [T]horoughly recommended. And, true to the standards set by Camden House as perhaps the leading publisher of innovative scholarship on modern German culture, [the book] is beautifully produced. JOURNAL OF EUROPEAN STUDIES [Joachim Whaley]

[Niven] sets out to dismantle the claim of a taboo [on the topics of flight and expulsion in the literature of the GDR]. . . . [His] persuasive and impressive book will make it far more di?cult to make such claims within an academic context and be taken seriously. MODERN LANGUAGE REVIEW [Joanne Sayner]

Author Bio

Professor of Contemporary German Studies, Nottingham Trent University

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