This article investigates a legacy of transnational activism in Polish-West German relations during the 1950s and 1960s, connected to the borderlands/expellee background of several of the early activists who initiated the relations. At a time when the Polish and West German states maintained no official diplomatic relations with each other, the importance of non-state initiatives and dialogue breaking with the antagonistic nationalism of the two world wars grew disproportionately. These individuals’ expellee background, bilingualism, cross-border networks and loosened national identities contributed to their effectiveness in Polish-German relations. Taking exception to the popular conceptions of expellees as necessarily identical with the negative or anti-Polish opinions commonly associated with the expellee organizations, the article also focuses specifically on how certain expellees and former borderlands inhabitants attempted to renegotiate their postwar roles, political stances and even identities by associating themselves with Polish-German relations. They challenged the dualistic and polarizing nature of media discussions about German expellees in politics. In addition, the article and these individuals pose a challenge to international relations/conflict resolution research to look to cross-border communities as key elements in postwar/post-genocide dialogues.
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