International Refugee Aid in Postwar Germany as Evaluated by Emigrants and Displaced Persons from Russia and the Soviet Union




United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), International Refugee Organization (IRO), refugees, displaced persons, emigration from the USSR


This article is devoted to international assistance to refugees who stayed in German camps in the second half of the 1940s. The authors of the article focus on ego-documents coming from Soviet “displaced persons” and emigrants from Russia. The novelty of this study lies in the fact that the authors carry out a comparative analysis of the information found in these historical sources and the official documents of the UN structures involved in helping refugees, which has not been done previously. The authors refer to materials from the archives of the Hoover Institution for War, Revolution, and Peace (Stanford, USA), the Bakhmetev Archive of Russian and East European Culture of Columbia University (New York, USA), the Manuscript Department of the Library of Congress (Washington), the Department of Manuscripts of the Russian State Library (Moscow, Russia), and the UN archive. Also, they rely on the conceptual developments of specialists in the field of ego-document analysis as a historical source. As a result, it is proved that many statements in the memoirs of Soviet “displaced persons” and emigrants are emotional in nature and not supported by information found in other sources. The analysis demonstrates that international organisations created to help refugees after the Second World War faced objective difficulties. The activities of these structures were peculiar in that they developed on the territory of Germany, which was divided into occupation zones. The authors identify the main parameters of the activities of international organisations to help refugees and show the sources and scale of funding provided for the camp system in Germany in the second half of the 1940s. Considerable attention is paid to the evolution of the system of international assistance to refugees associated with the transition from the UNRRA to the IRO. The authors prove that in the first postwar years, there was a search for ways to provide assistance to refugees and “displaced persons” and the development of international mechanisms in this area, which would be improved in the subsequent period.

Author Biographies

Alexey Antoshin

Dr. Hab. (History), Professor, Ural Federal University named after the first President of Russia B. N. Yeltsin.

19, Mira Str., 620002, Yekaterinburg, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0002-6093-2219

Julia Zapariy

PhD (History), Associate Professor, Ural Federal University named after the first President of Russia B. N. Yeltsin.

19, Mira Str., 620002, Yekaterinburg, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0002-1101-821X


A. V. Yatsevich. – Lige bor’by za narodnuyu svobodu [A. V. Yazevich to the League for the Struggle for People’s Freedom]. (1949). In BAR. Vladimir M. Zenzinov Papers. Box 38. Folder “Subject files: Liga borby za narodnuiu svobodu (1951–1952). Correspondence. I–K”. Received 17 December.

Aleshkovski, I., Botcharova, Z., Grebenyuk, A. (2021). The Evolution of the International Protection of Refugees Between the World Wars. In Social Evolution and History. Vol. 20. No. 2, pp. 109–132.

Aristova, A. A. (2006). Bezhenskii lager’ Ganghofersiedlung [Ganghofersiedlung Refugee Camp]. In Sud’by pokoleniya 1920–1930-kh gg. v emigratsii. Ocherki i vospominaniya. Moscow, Russkii put’, pp. 54–60.

Artemiev, L. (2004). Moi gor’kie “universitety” [My Bitter “Universities”]. In Istoriya russkikh v Avstralii v 4 t. Sydney, Avstraliada – Russkaya letopis’. Vol. 1, pp. 109–111.

Baidalakov, V. M. (2002). “Da vozvelichitsya Rossiiya… Da gibnut nashi imena…”. Vospominaniya predsedatelya NTS. 1930–1960 gg. [“May Russia Rise… Let Our Names Perish…” Memoirs of the Chairman of the NTS]. Moscow, Avuar Consulting. 124 p.

Bogut, I. (2004). Pamyat’ serdtsa [Memory of the Heart]. In Istoriya russkikh v Avstralii v 4 t. Sydney, Avstraliada – Russkaya letopis’. Vol. 1, pp. 107–109.

Boldyrev, K. V. (1998). Menhegof – lager’ peremeshchennykh lits (Zapadnaya Germaniya) [Menhegof – Displaced Persons Camp, West Germany]. In Voprosy istorii. No. 7, pp. 110–141.

Boldyreva-Semler, E. K. (2006). Dan ottsu – Konstantinu Boldyrevu [Tribute to Father – Konstantin Boldyrev]. In Sud’by pokoleniya 1920–1930-kh gg. v emigratsii. Ocherki i vospominaniya. Moscow, Russkii put’, pp. 66–71.

Chizhevsky, D. I. (2007). Izbrannoe v 3 t. [Selected Works. 3 Vols.]. Moscow, Russkii put’. Vol. 1. Materialy k biografii (1894–1977). 848 p.

Cohen, G. (2011). In War’s Wake: Europe’s Displaced Persons in the Postwar Order. N. Y., Oxford Univ. Press. 237 p.

D. I. Chizhevskii – B. I. Nikolaevskomu [D. I. Chizhevsky to B. I. Nikolaevsky]. (1947). In HIA. Boris I. Nicolaevsky coll. Ser. 248. Box 476. Folder 24. 12 May.

Dokument OON A/RES/62(I) [UN Document A/RES/62(I)]. (1947). In Constitution of the International Refugee Organization, and Agreement on Interim Measures to be Taken in Respect of Refugees and Displaced Persons / General Assembly Official Records. Resolutions Adopted by the General Assembly during Its Resumed 1st Session. Vol. 2. 23 October – 15 December 1946. L. and Flushing Meadow, N. Y., S. n., pp. 84–98.

Fitzpatrick, Sh. (2017). Mischka’s War. A European Odyssey of the 1940s. [Melbourne], Melbourne Univ. Publ. 313 р.

Gottfried, T. (2001). Displaced Persons: The Liberation and Abuse of Holocaust Survivors. Brookfield, CT, Twenty-First Century Books. 127 р.

Hilton, L. (2001). Prisoners of Peace: Rebuilding Community, Identity and Nationality in Displaced Persons Camps in Germany, 1945–1952. PhD Diss. Ohio State Univ. 220 р.

Holborn, L. (1956). The International Refugee Organization: A Specialized Agency of the United Nations: Its History and Work, 1946–1952. L., N. Y., Oxford Univ. Press. 805 p.

Holian, A. (2011). Between National Socialism and Soviet Communism: Displaced Persons in Postwar Germany. Ann Arbor, Univ. of Michigan Press. 367 р.

Kulen, E. (2019). Sud’ba russkikh peremeshchennykh lits v amerikanskoi zone okkupatsii v Bavarii [The Fate of Russian Displaced Persons in the American Zone of Occupation in Bavaria]. In Novyi zhurnal. Book 295, pp. 288–343.

M. Miller – N. Vakaru [M. Miller to N. Vakar]. (1950). In BAR. Nikolai P. Vakar coll. Box 3. Folder “Arranged correspondence of N. Vakar”. 23 June.

Marrus, M. (2002). The Unwanted: European Refugees From the 1st World War Through the Cold War. [Temple], Temple Univ. Press. 432 р.

Nevins, A. (1963). Herbert H. Lehman and His Era. N.Y., Scribnerʼs Sons. 456 p.

Persian, J. (2017). Beautiful Balts. From Displaced Persons to New Australians. Sydney, New South Publ. 250 p.

Polchaninov, R. V. (2010). Russkii knizhnyi “bum” v Germanii v 1945–1948 gg. [The Russian Book Boom in Germany 1945–1948]. In Nansenovskie chteniya 2009. St Petersburg, Russkaya emigratsiya, pp. 383–401.

Pushkarev. B. S. (2014). NTS v istorii rossiiskogo Soprotivleniya [The NTS in the History of the Russian Resistance]. In Ot Zarubezh’ya do Moskvy. Narodno-Trudovoi Soyuz (NTS) v vospominaniyakh i dokumentakh. 1924–2014. Moscow, Posev, pp. 5–60.

Rahr, G. A. (2011). “…I budet nashe pokolen’e davat’ istorii otchet” [“…And Our Generation Will Give an Account to History…”]. Moscow, Russkii put’. 728 p.

Rahr, L. A., Obolensky, V. A. (2003). Rannie gody. Ocherk istorii Natsional’notrudovogo soyuza (1924–1948) [Early Years. Essay on the History of the National Labour Union (1924–1948)]. Moscow, Posev. 192 p.

Reinisch, J. (2017). Old Wine in New Bottles? UNRRA and the Mid-Century World of Refugees. In Reinisch, J., Frank, M. (Eds.). Refugees in Europe, 1919–1959: A Forty Years’ Crisis? L., Bloomsbury, pp. 156–258.

Romanov, E. (1999). V bor’be za Rossiyu. Vospominaniya rukovoditelya NTS [In the Fight for Russia. Memoirs of the Head of the NTS]. Moscow, Golos. 320 p.

The Story of U.N.R.R.A. (1948). Washington, DC, UNRRA, Office of Public Information. 48 p.

UNA. (1945). S-1193-0000-0001. Program of Operations – Presented by the Director-General to the Third Session of the Council.

UNA. (1946). S-1193-0000-0002. Program of UNRRA Supplies – Presented by the Director-General to the Central Committee.

UNA. (1946). S-1940-0001-0014-00001. European Regional Office (ERO) – Registry Files, Confidential Memos.

UNA. (1946). S-1940-0001-0019-00001. Action in the United Nations Organization on Displaced Persons and Refugees. United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. 50 Facts about UNRRA. (1946). N.Y., Division of Publ. Information, United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, 34 p.

V. A. Chernenko – B. L. Brazolyu [V. A. Chernenko to B. L. Brasol]. (1947). In Library of Congress. Manuscript Division (LoC. MD). The papers of Boris Brasol. Box 9. Folder “Non-English. 1947”. 6 August.

Wyman, M. (1998). DP: Europe’s Displaced Persons, 1945–1951. Ithaca, N. Y., Cornell Univ. Press. 272 р.

Yu. P. Trubetskoi – G. V. Ivanovu [Yu. P. Trubetskoy to G. V. Ivanov]. (1950). In OR RGB. Stock 372. Box 13. No. 29. L. 1.

Z. Makarenko – D. D. Burlyuku [Z. Makarenko to D. D. Burliuk]. (1947). In OR RGB. Stock 713. Box 1. No. 19. L. 1.



How to Cite

Antoshin, A., & Zapariy, J. (2022). International Refugee Aid in Postwar Germany as Evaluated by Emigrants and Displaced Persons from Russia and the Soviet Union. Quaestio Rossica, 10(2), 469–484.



Problema voluminis