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- Dr. Walter Kamphoefner
I am an Americanist who studies German immigration under Walter Kamphoefner. I wrote my master’s thesis on ethnic Germans during World War II and plan to expand this topic for my doctoral dissertation. I am fascinated with oral history and will be incorporating oral histories I have conducted into my dissertation. Below is a brief description of my current research project.
In the late 1700s, Catherine the Great of Russia invited Germans to settle Russia’s steppes. As a result of this invitation in addition to poor economic conditions, high taxes, and military service in the German states, Mennonite settlers established Chortitza as an ethnic German settlement in southern Ukraine on the right bank of the Dnieper River in 1789. Over one hundred years later, Chortitza was a thriving city whose inhabitants still spoke German. My research examines Chortitza during the 1930s through German occupation from 1941-1943. My thesis looked at questions of ethnic identity and national loyalty throughout World War II as the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle resettled the city’s inhabitants in Germany and Poland, and then later as refugees throughout the final months of World War II. Chortitza as a case study shows how ethnic Germans shifted between Russian and German nationality during World War II in order to survive. After the war was over these ethnic Germans from Chortitza still had to escape repatriation to the Soviet Union and find a way to immigrate to North America, continuing to shift nationalities in order to do so.