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Humanitarianism or Solidarity?: Aiding Greek Refugee Children in the Early German Democratic Republic

Thu, November 10, 3:15 to 5:00pm CST (3:15 to 5:00pm CST), The Palmer House Hilton, Floor: 7th Floor, Sandburg 6


Even before the socialist German state officially came into existence, some 340 children of Greek communists who had fought as partisans in the Greek Civil War arrived to the East German land of Saxony in August 1949, followed by another transport with about 800 children and teenagers in July 1950. As part of a coordinated action of the emerging ‘Eastern Bloc’, this refugee reception constituted a humanitarian act initiated and driven by the leading Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED). However, only recently after National Socialism as well as concurrently confronted with the plight of co-ethnic refugees and expellees in the wake of the Second World War, this was far from a task put into practice easily.
While often framed and taken for granted as ‘solidarity between comrades’, the proposed paper aims to go beyond a top-down approach to the history of state socialism. How can the reception of the refugee children be located within the political solidarity, and what other factors can be observed in the implementation of this humanitarian endeavor on the ground? Taking the analysis to the local level by focusing among others on the especially relevant “Relief Committee” and its fundraising campaign, considerations and complications reveal a more nuanced picture of this socialist humanitarian project.