Leibniz working group on Migration and Education in Germany since 1945

Call for Papers announced

The Leibniz competition group ‘Migration and Education in Germany since 1945’ will hold its concluding conference on 2 and 3 May 2018 in Berlin, in partnership with the DHI Washington and the Institute of History at the TU Dresden. The conference is titled ‘The Dynamics of Knowledge: historic perspectives on the relationship between knowledge and migration from the twentieth century until the present day'.

Call for Papers

Research and debate on migration and education are usually conducted from a present-day perspective. This project, financed by competitive funding from the Leibniz Association, seeks to widen the view. Its aim is, first, to uncover and analyse the historicity of the ideas of society, social norms and values which have influenced debates around migration and the societal diversity it has engendered in the period commencing after 1945. Second, it points to the heterogeneity of migrants to Germany in this period, including Holocaust survivors, those expelled from formerly German regions of eastern Europe after the end of the war, the “guest workers”, ethnic Germans immigrating from former Soviet states after 1990 (Spätaussiedler), and asylum seekers. Third, the project explores strategies around practical responses to issues of migration and immigration. Germany shied away for a long time from defining itself as a society influenced by significant immigration; educational policy accordingly responded in a highly defensive manner to the challenges migration brought, which circumstance afforded crucial significance to actual social practices in schools. Overall, this project proceeds by analytically interlinking conventional top-down perspectives on politics and the state with a bottom-up view of processes of negotiation and consensus-forming on the ground.


The working group is conducting four sub-projects focusing on recent and contemporary history in this area. The topics of these are: 1) post-war refugees, expellees and resettlers from the formerly German regions in the east of Europe and ethnic Germans immigrating to Germany from central and eastern Europe after the fall of the Iron Curtain; 2) Turkish immigrants to Germany and the processes of change in German schools and educational media engendered by this migrant group; 3) Jewish schools, school students and educational media; 4) network-building and forms of grassroots organisation among Iranian immigrants to the Federal Republic of Germany.


Key points of departure for our analysis of worldviews and knowledge relating to migration as it is discussed and reflected in schools include educational media and curricula for the subjects of history, political/social studies, geography, ethics and religious education (across all faiths). The materials we are studying in this context relate to all types of secondary school and both principal stages of German secondary schooling; we are focusing on the federal states of Hamburg, Baden-Württemberg, Hesse und Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Our analysis is concerned with the following issues and phenomena: 1) processes of migration; 2) existing bodies of knowledge on the groups of migrants which are the subjects of our sub-projects; 3) concepts for education around the aim of facilitating the harmonious coexistence of diverse population groups in a society strongly influenced by migration. The project approaches the issue of how students and teachers take textbook content on board and assimilate it into their own treasuries of knowledge by analysing historical sources which provide an indication of the ways in which pupils interact with worldviews and canons of knowledge with which they come into contact in the course of their schooling. Some of the corpora of sources we are exploring in this context include entries to a prestigious history contest for young people, the German Federal President’s History Competition, held by the archives of the Körber Foundation in Hamburg, and school newspapers and magazines, of which an extensive collection, spanning the decades from the 1950s to the 1970s, is available in the Research Library for the History of Education (BBF) in Berlin.

The communication of worldviews and canons of knowledge, and their reception and absorption by students, cannot be regarded in isolation from social practices in schools. Sources which provide us with rich potential insights in this regard include school yearbooks and histories, professional journals for teachers and education policymakers, historical documents from schools, education authorities and the German Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder, and autobiographical memoirs by and oral history interviews conducted with teachers and pupils past and present, primarily those with migrant backgrounds. We are keen to pay special regard to sources which enable us to access the perspective of migrants, which has thus far received little attention in recent and contemporary historiography.

Products and Findings

The project is intended to generate four monographs, which are to be three doctoral thesis and one post-doctoral Habilitation thesis. Its findings will be submitted in articles to respected academic periodicals and presented to the academic community via annual workshops and a concluding conference. One of the key aims and components of the project is its discovery and analysis of new sources. We intend to document this work and promote further research in the field by producing a guide to corpora of sources in historical research in the fields of education and educational media with relevance to post-1945 Germany.


The working group’s first conference was held at the Georg Eckert Institute on 19 and 20 May 2016.

Programme (in German)


  • Springborn, Matthias: Organizing Education and Knowledge in the DP Camps and the Newly Formed Jewish Communities of Germany; Annual Conference of the German Studies Association, Atlanta, Georgia/USA, 7 October 2017
  • Yorulmaz, Engin Deniz: How changes in German schools and educational media have been influenced by Turkish migrant groups since 1945 (Die MigrantInnen-Gruppe aus der Türkei und die von ihr beeinflussten Veränderungsprozesse in deutschen Schulen und Bildungsmedien ab 1945); Student Conference, Strangers in a Strange Land, University of Freiburg, 17 - 19 July 2016.
  • Zloch, Stephanie: ‘Refugee children’ and ‘foreign children’ in Hamburg’s schools since 1945’ (‘Flüchtlingskinder’ und ‘Ausländerkinder’ in Hamburger Schulen seit 1945); One of a series of talks on ‘Migration in Hamburg’ examining flight and exile from the early modern era to the present day, at the University of Hamburg, 9 May 2016
  • Zloch, Stephanie: Migration and Education in Germany since 1945. (Migration und Bildung in Deutschland seit 1945. Wissen, Weltsichten und Erfahrungen mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Migranten und Migrantinnen aus Mittel- und Osteuropa); Interdisciplinary social sciences colloquium, Leipzig University, 7 June 2016

Project team

Project duration

  • 2015–2018

Funded by

  • Leibniz Association (WGL): Leibniz Competition


Stephanie Zloch

Department Europe

Branch Office B1.08
Phone: +49 531 59099-340
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