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Arrival on the Radio. Flight and Expulsion in West German and East German Radio Programmes 1945-1961

Arrival on the Radio. Flight and Expulsion in West German and East German Radio Programmes 1945-1961

About three to four million refugees and expellees stayed in the Soviet Occupation Zone and, which became the GDR later on, eight to nine million people moved to the western zones, hence the future Federal Republic. The project “Arrival on the Radio” investigates the consequences of flight and expulsion of Germans from Eastern Europe in the German-German post-war era. It will focus on a previously unexplored actor: the radio. West and East German radio programmes as well as their conditions of production and reception will be analysed within this project. By the end of 2017, we aim to have found out how media services in radio broadcasting have possibly contributed to the integration of German refugees into their new living environments.

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Project Description

The project “Arrival on the Radio” is a media historical project. It understands broadcasting in general   – and radio broadcasting in particular – not only as a medium that mirrors socio-political processes but as a producer and promoter of programmes who turns into an historical actor itself. Therefore, radio programmes are communicative actions by which radio broadcasting is actively shaping contemporary discourses, not merely reporting on them. In doing so, the project follows a widely accepted approach in media and contemporary historical research. By exploring historical integration processes in the media, the study tries to raise critical awareness for current news coverage of forced migration and integration. The connection between refugee policies and integration policies, on the one hand, and reporting via broadcasting, on the other hand, is nowadays present on a daily occurrence. Hence, the empirically based knowledge of historical cases of comparison is of the utmost importance.

The project focuses on a German-German entangled perspective, and investigates the period from the end of World War II in 1945 to the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Besides political and historical turning points, the time frame is defined by upheavals in broadcasting history: On the one hand, by the end of the Großdeutscher Rundfunk [broadcasting service for the German Reich] and the development of new broadcasting organizations in the four Allied occupation zones, respectively the Federal Republic and the GDR; on the other hand, by the key role of the radio broadcasting in the media ensemble, which was superseded by television not before the early 1960s. Not only do the years between 1945 and 1961 mark the so called “radio years”, but do also coincide with the immediate arrival and first steps towards integration of German refugees, expellees and resettlers after the war. The building of the Berlin Wall stopped their internal migration in post-war Germany.

The project closely co-operates with the historical and corporate archives of the broadcasting stations of the ARD [the Association of Public Broadcasting Corporations in the Federal Republic of Germany] as well as with the Deutsche Rundfunkarchiv/DRA [German Broadcasting Archive]. The historical programme offers will be at the study’s core.  Therefore, historical broadcasting will be analysed from the written and audio collections of Radio Bremen, the Norddeutscher Rundfunk/NDR [North German Broadcasting Corporation], the Westdeutscher Rundfunk/WDR [West German Broadcasting Corporation], the Hessischer Rundfunk/HR [Hessian Broadcasting Corporation], the Südwestrundfunk/SWR [Southwest Broadcasting Corporation], the Bayerischer Rundfunk/BR [Bavarian Broadcasting Corporation] as well as the Deutsche Rundfunkarchiv/DRA [German Broadcasting Archive] with its locations in Frankfurt on the Main and Potsdam-Babelsberg. Additionally, contemporary printed communication will be looked at. This material will be analysed with a discourse-historical approach. Thematically, not only contemporary reports on different aspects of arrival will be involved, but also and foremost the historical areas of German settlements in Eastern Europe. Broadcasts about these regions vividly shaped the discourse on integration in post-war Germany.

All in all, a historical empiric study about the media historical actor radio will be presented by the turn of 2017. This study will give new insights into the various forms of integrations of Germans from Eastern Europe into the divided post-war Germany. The project is funded by the Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien [the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media] within the Akademische Förderprogramm [Academical Funding Program] 2015-2017. It builds upon the results of the academic workshop “Broadcasting Histories of Flight and Expulsion”, which was conducted at the Deutsche Rundfunkarchiv/DRA [German Broadcasting Archive] in Frankfurt on the Main from June 18th to 19th 2015, also funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media. It was hosted by the Research Centre Media History in cooperation with Junior Professor Dr Maren Röger (University of Augsburg/Bukovina Institute) and PD Dr Stephan Scholz (University of Oldenburg).

Project Information


Duration: 2015-2017

Research programme:
RP3 - Knowledge for the Media Society

Involved persons

Third party

Beauftragte für Kultur und Medien

Cooperation Partner



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