ABSTRACT | The Second World War displaced millions of people. In its aftermath, international aid organizations dominated by the Western Allies stepped in to provide food, shelter, and medical attention to the victims of war living in refugee camps in Germany, Austria, and Italy. The Vatican sought to carve a space for papal charity in this landscape of rapidly professionalizing, secularizing, and Americanizing humanitarian relief. Motivated by the fear of communism, it considered refugees as an asset in the ideological confrontation with the Soviet Union. What was the role of the Vatican Relief Commission, established by Pope Pius XII, in assisting and resettling refugees in the early Cold War? How did refugees negotiate their precarious position and seek access to aid and resettlement options in the shadow of the growing East-West divide? How did the self-perception of the Catholic Church as the bulwark against Bolshevism inform its work among the Eastern European refugees? The recent opening of the part of the Vatican Apostolic Archive pertaining to the 1939-1958 period promises to offer a fresh perspective on the role of the Catholic Church in postwar relief efforts. This lecture will explore how various archival fonds can be used in researching history of refugees during the Cold War era.
BIO | Dr Katarzyna Nowak is a historian specializing in cultural and social history of Eastern Europe, with a particular interest in refugee and migrant history. During her doctoral and postdoctoral research at the University of Manchester and Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies, she focused on Displaced Persons in the early Cold War period in the global perspective. She has recently completed her first monograph, entitled Kingdom of Barracks. Polish Displaced Persons in Allied-occupied Germany and Austria, 1945-1952 (forthcoming with McGill-Queens University Press). She has published on the history of gender, refugees, and diaspora.