German Orphans in Eastern Europe after the Second World War

As a result of war and post-war activities in 1947, about 200,000 German children were declared missing. At that time in Poland there were about 57,000 German orphaned children who were placed in state care and educational facilities, in monastery-run orphanages and in foster and adoptive families. Many children of undetermined nationality were given new names.
The research project focuses on examining the social care provided to abandoned, orphaned and needy German children in post-war Poland in 1945-1950.
The post-war model of social care for orphaned children was dominated on the one hand, by the Polish state's aspirations to establish an autocratic/paternalist model of social welfare in the country and, on the other hand, was influenced by various and competing political and pedagogical discourses and practices. Political, scientific and social aspects will be interlinked in order to present the conglomerate of basic assumptions, roles, areas of activity, competences and scope of activity of state and non-state actors - the church, charitable organisations and foreign organisations and foster family - in the area of social welfare.
The focus is on aspects concerning the treatment of orphaned German children their wellbeing has been influenced by experiences and consequences of the war as well as construction of socialist society. Furthermore, the analyses shall describe their social position in the institutional social welfare system in the Polish People's Republic.
In socialist Poland was the welfare model closely linked to the education and upbringing of orphans. The planned historical study focuses on examining aspects concerning the objectives and continuation of educational traditions, authorities and pedagogical models, as well as the aims of the socialist model of upbringing and education. National (Polish) interests as well as the Soviet educational and training patterns and practices will be taken into consideration. Presentation of this dual perspective in the conceptualisation and implementation of political and educational activities will make it possible to show the diversity in the educational guidelines and strategies both in the state elitist “new-type educational centres” - which constituted a “social laboratory”, as well as in non-state care and educational facilities, and to show the effects of the actions taken towards the German children.

The study also includes a comparative analysis of the social care provided to orphaned German children in post-war Romania. Due to the different political situation during and after World War II, Romania contrasts with Poland and is therefore suitable for comparative analysis. The main focus is on institutional foster care for orphaned and needy German children in educational and care facilities and in foster families. Thanks to the multi-perspective approach (social and welfare policy, legal regulations, education and upbringing, church and social associations), differences and similarities in the social care and upbringing systems in Poland and Romania will be presented.
The results of the study fall within the research contexts of post-war childhood and social welfare in European real socialist societies and bring new insights into the topic of social care for (German) orphans.