Learning Displacement: Migration Manuals in Nazi-Era Germany

Sheer Ganor, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Between 1933 and 1941, more than 250,000 German Jews fled Nazi persecution and sought refuge across the globe. Amidst this mass wave of forced removal, migration manuals emerged as a genre of publication. These texts provided readers with valuable information in preparation for their impending displacement. Within an increasingly violent system of legalized persecution, they communicated important details about Nazi emigration policies with potential life and death consequences. For example, one manual discussed laws prohibiting the removal of precious metals, warning readers that even household items like curtain rings or mirror frames will be closely examined by Nazi officials. The manuals were also concerned with the refugees’ fate after removal, printing data on specific countries, including climate conditions, employment patterns or local politics. Everyday habits were discussed at great detail, from the number of meals it is customary to eat in Australia to the cost of public transportation in Argentina. Manuals that targeted female readers highlighted differences in gendered experiences of displacement; others noted that generational divides also created disparities. These publications offer a unique window into the machinations of forced migration from the perspective of its victims. They portray a community’s efforts towards understanding and preparing for displacement, and they show the extent of data accumulation required for compiling such resources, as well as the global networks that enable it. The manuals also depict an attempt to manage an inherently unmanageable situation. Often meaningful but at times faulty, the information that they shared reflects the community’s substantial efforts at securing safe routes of escape as well as the limitations they encountered in the process. In analyzing the content that the manuals distributed, its strengths as well as its shortcomings, this paper raises the question: Did migration manuals fulfill their purpose, and what were they ultimately able to achieve?

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 226. Migrant Voices, Agency, and Resilience