In the early period after WWII, tremendous upheavals shook the demographic structure of West Germany, first under the occupation of the allies, then as an autonomous state. Besides the losses suffered during the war, the country had to face the arrival of millions of displaced people from the territories that, after 1945, ceased to be part of Germany, and of the refugees from the German Democratic Republic. In the 1950s, this issue represented perhaps the main social challenge of the young Federal Republic. Although discrimination and social isolation deeply influenced the displaced persons’ standing, their integration was successful in the long run. This article argues that their placement on the labour market played a major role within policies. This is an important key to understand the history of the displaced people and refugees against the background of the intense population movement in post-war Europe. Through the history of the the National Employment Service, one may see that employment policies revealed the ambivalent status of German displaced people and refugees. On the one hand, they had to be integrated as they were citizens of the Federal Republic. On the other, the enormous problems resulting from mass immigration deeply challenged the idea of a national community.
Keywords: Refugees, West Germany, post-WWII period, citizenship, employment.