Political Migration (Exile)*

by EGO-Redaktion last modified 2023-01-26T15:45:00+01:00

Emigration 1933–1945/1950

National Socialism destroyed and displaced the unique culture of the short-lived Weimar Republic The forced emigration of most of its representatives meant that rather than being obliterated this culture was exported and preserved on the other side of the Atlantic, where (in the USA) it still has something of a mythical status. It is no mere coincidence that it was Peter Gay who coined the term "Weimar Culture" in his seminal study "Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider". Gay was born in 1923 in Berlin and fled in 1939 with his parents from Nazi Germany to the United States, where he went on to become a prominent American historian.

Political Migration (Exile)*

In the wake of the "Atlantic Revolutions" of the years 1770–1800, exile movements grew in importance, and political motives became their prominent causes. In the Europe of the Congress of Vienna, exile became a rite of passage for patriots and liberals fighting for the building of their nation-states. Through the 19th century, new legislations were adopted to rule on the status of "refugees", an administrative category that slowly emerged. Nonetheless, the beginning of the 20th century profoundly transformed political exile, at a time when wars forced millions of Europeans to be displaced, and when several regimes deprived large numbers of their citizens in exile of their nationality.

Revolution and Migration after 1789

The French Revolution provoked one of modern history's massive waves of political migration. Émigrés from all levels of French society dispersed throughout Europe and the Atlantic world in the 1790s. Representing a broad spectrum of political views, the émigrés mobilized their host societies against the Revolution, which grew increasingly radical as it spilled across France's boundaries. At the same time, they became agents in a multifaceted process of cultural transfer, not least as part of their attempt to make a living in exile. They demonstrated that there were alternatives to the revolutionary process outside of France, before most of them returned to France under Napoleon Bonaparte.