Michael G. Esch

Michael G. Esch
Michael G. Esch, fot. Jakub Ostałowski

PD Dr. Michael G. Esch, studied History and German Philology in Düsseldorf and Warsaw. In 1996, he obtained his doctoral degree with a comparative study of German and Polish population policies 1939-1950. In 2008 he was habilitated after a study about migrants from eastern Europe in Paris 1880-1940. He has worked extensively on different topics of European Social and Cultural History in the 19th and 20th centuries, namely different aspects of migration history and of popular culture in transnational perspective.

PD Dr. Michael G. Esch, studied History and German Philology in Düsseldorf and Warsaw. In 1996, he obtained his doctoral degree with a comparative study of German and Polish population policies 1939-1950. In 2008 he was habilitated after a study about migrants from eastern Europe in Paris 1880-1940. He has worked extensively on different topics of European Social and Cultural History in the 19th and 20th centuries, namely different aspects of migration history and of popular culture in transnational perspective.

Research project: Asylum in the People’s Republic of Poland

The migration history of Eastern Central Europe in general, and of Poland in particular, has still to be written, although some aspects have already benn more or less intensely and extensively dealt with, for examole the extremely restrictive emigration policy of the countries of state socialism (cf. Dariusz Stolas work on Poland as a »country without exit«). Some attention has been paid to the admittance of political refugees from state socialism in the West, but – except for one study on immigration into the GDR – there has been virtually none to immigration into state socialist countries.

The research project will not cover all aspects of migration into and out of Poland, but focusses on asylum as a highly politicized category of migrants and migration policy. As a country of »people’s democracy« officially based on republican, democratic and socialist/communist values and norms, Poland had an asylum policy of its own: Similar to other countries of the eastern block, it received mainly socialist/communist refugees mainly from »Third World« countries. Little to nothing is known about the reasons for and structures of this asylum policy, its embedding in transnational state socialist politics or obligations towards soviet Russian directives (the admission of Greek refugees after the Civil War of 1946-49 was coordinated by the Komintern), or its extent. At the same time there was a constant loss of citizens who sought recognition as political refugees in capitalist countries. It is thus no wonder that Polish authorities closely observed and analysed asylum politics in countries like Western Germany, Austria, and Great Britain. The concept of asylum thus was not only a consequence of humanist and enlightened principles that were claimed on both sides of the »Iron Curtain«. It seems that it was also, on the Polish and state socialist side, not only a (scarcely advertised) outcome of proletarian internationalism; its design, organisation. and reality was rather an integral part of Cold War politics. The project wants to explore this and put it into the context of both Cold War culture and politics and European migration in the second half of the 20th century.