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Symposium at the German Historical Institute

March 17, 2016 @ 1:30 pm - 6:00 pm

The Refugee Crisis – Historical Perspectives from Europe and North America

This symposium seeks to invite critical reflection by situating the current refugee migration in broader historical context. It examines and compares responses by the nations of North America and Western Europe to several instances of mass refugee and involuntary migration. How did state and society react to the refugees? How did the social, economic, and cultural integration happen? What were the prerequisites and the impediments of successful integration? What were the short-term and long-term consequences of accepting the migrants for the host societies?

The half-day symposium will look closely at five cases from the period between the 1940s to the late 1990s: (1) the German expellees after the Second World War; (2) decolonization migrants to France, the Netherlands, and Portugal in the 1960s and 1970s; (3) the 1956/57 Hungarian refugee crisis in Europe and North America; (4) Salvadoran refugees in the United States in the 1980s; and (5) refugees to Western Europe and North America during the Yugoslavia Wars in the 1990s. These cases cover a broad spectrum of types of migration and of international and domestic contexts. The driving forces and numbers of people involved varied considerably from case to case, and the backgrounds (national, religious, social) of the migrants also differed enormously. The common factor is that in each instance the receiving countries were confronted with the crucial question of how to deal with the arrival of a large number of people that could not simply be sent away.

The symposium will consist of presentations by five international specialists followed by a panel discussion. Each paper will focus on one of the five case studies. The panel discussion will focus on the question if and to what extent these historical case studies provide lessons for the current refugee crisis.

A panel discussion on “Learning from the Past? The Refugee Crisis in Historical Perspective” will follow the symposium.

Please RSVP online, by e-mail, or Tel 202.387.3355


March 17, 2016
1:30 pm - 6:00 pm


German Historical Institute


German Historical Institute
1607 New Hampshire Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC, DC 20009 United States
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