Humanitarian Sentiment and Forced Repatriation: The Administration of Hungarians in a Post-War Displaced Persons Camp

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Abstract

This article analyses the Quaker administration of Feffernitz Displaced Persons (DPs) camp in post-war Austria under the authority of the British Military Government. Specifically, it seeks to understand how the Quaker relief agency responded to the question of forced repatriation, and how these responses derived from its own ethical traditions and from the political and administrative context. It seeks to add to the historiography on relief agencies’ responses to the dilemmas of governing DP camps. Using the archives of the Society of Friends and the British Foreign Office, it looks at how the question of forced repatriation was understood and acted upon in Feffernitz DP camp. It is argued that Quaker ethical traditions combined with widely held humanitarian sentiments and Western anti-communism to question the application of forced repatriation in this and other DP camps. The semi-independence of Quaker organizations from the government and the relief regime allowed them to protest aspects of forced repatriation in Feffernitz and elsewhere on an ad hoc basis. However, because of the Quakers’ focus on ethics rather than politics, their critique of the politics of repatriation was limited and was not formally articulated in public or at an organizational level. The article thus stresses the importance of contextual knowledge in refugee crises, in conjunction with ethical independence and reflexivity in dealing with fast-moving and uncertain situations.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)387-406
JournalJournal of Refugee Studies
Volume30
Issue number3
Early online date16 Mar 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017