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Foreigners and National Minorities in Purifying Societies (Europe after 1945)

Les étrangers et les minorités nationales dans les sociétés en épuration (Europe après 1945)

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Published on Tuesday, July 04, 2023


Le principal objectif du colloque est de savoir si les étrangères et les étrangers ou, dans certains espaces, les membres de certaines minorités nationales, sont plus particulièrement visés par la « soif de justice » qui caractérise le « moment 1945 », perceptible partout en Europe (J. Horne). Le fait qu’ils soient étrangers multiplie d’ailleurs les risques, puisque tant les États d’origine que d’accueil – avec notamment la crainte de la 5e colonne –, peuvent chercher à épurer les intéressés. Font-ils alors figure de boucs émissaires, dans la dynamique des travaux d’Alain Corbin ou de René Girard ? Le colloque interroge non seulement les étrangers dans des sociétés en épuration mais il fait aussi le pari des étrangers comme entrée pertinente pour analyser les sociétés européennes en épuration.



In 1976, on the subject of the épuration in France, Marcel Baudot noted that « there was systematic hostility in certain regions only towards foreigners considered as suspects and sometimes condemned without any evidence[6] ». Today, more and more historians admit that there was a climate of xenophobia in France during the Liberation. For its part, the recent collective work Pour une histoire connectée et transnationale des épurations en Europe après 1945 (For a connected and transnational history of purges in Europe after 1945) has highlighted certain national dynamics at work in purge practices on a European scale against several minorities or « punished peoples » because they were considered, rightly or wrongly, as collaborators[7]. The status of foreigner thus constituted a powerful vector of suspicion at the Liberation despite, in many cases, the apparent absence of objective facts that could be reproached. However, with the exception of a few figures, historians have very few studies on the purging of foreigners in France and in Europe at the end of the Second World War, leaving much to be desired. The conference will therefore help to fill this historiographical gap in the light of recent works and will place the relationship between otherness and suspicion at the heart of the reflection, bearing in mind that foreigners are considered here to be nationals of another nation – excluding German and foreign soldiers who may have occupied certain countries – as well as subjects of the colonies and nationals of foreign origin. Sometimes extensive or confusing with otherness alone – as shown by the work on the « stereotype of the collaborator » – the notion of foreigner can also be extended to recent nationals or individuals from recent waves of immigration. In any case, the project is situated at the crossroads of two fields of research that have been undergoing a profound historiographical renewal over the past thirty years : on the one hand, the history of foreigners and immigrants in times of crisis or post-crisis, and on the other hand, the social and cultural history of purges, which has seen an increase in the number of works on specific social groups and/or particular forms of purge. The state of progress of these historiographies fully justifies their coming together in order to propose the first scientific gathering devoted to the purging of foreigners, which will be able to complete a narrative that places greater and more legitimate emphasis on the Resistance commitment of foreigners.

The main objective of the conference was to find out whether foreigners or, in certain areas, members of certain national minorities, were more particularly targeted by the « thirst for justice » that characterised the « 1945 moment », which was perceptible throughout Europe (J. Horne). The fact that they are foreigners multiplies the risks, since both the states of origin and the host states - with, in particular, the fear of the fifth column - may seek to purge the people concerned. Do they then become scapegoats, in line with the work of Alain Corbin or René Girard ? While the countries of Western Europe are the most studied and/or known, particular attention will be paid to Medieval, Eastern and Balkan Europe. However, the scientific, memorial and civic stakes are considerable everywhere within many European societies that question their identities. By examining the complex relationship between otherness and suspicion in the aftermath of the Second World War, this grey area of the purge sheds light on thoughts, behaviours and mechanisms that have lost none of their topicality, and makes it possible to question the functions and issues, particularly those relating to identity, of naming the guilty parties. In this sense, the conference not only questions foreigners in societies undergoing a process of purification, but it also bets on foreigners as a relevant entry point for analysing European societies undergoing purification.

Among the expected lines of thought, we will find :

The scope and temporality of the phenomenon

  • The first objective is to evaluate the social scope of the phenomenon by questioning the existence of a « 1945 moment » in terms of repression : are foreigners over-represented among the purged population ? Are they more overrepresented than among those subject to the law in ordinary times ? Are there any groups among the purged foreigners that are over-represented ? In short, the question is whether the post-Second World War period is a special moment in the judicial history of foreigners. In fact, it is also necessary to draw up a sociology of the purged. Between individual itineraries –which will not neglect, when possible, the repercussions in the private or even intimate sphere – and group portraits, particular attention will be paid to the gendered dimension of the purge : wife, husband, parents, family, community, who is the foreigner from the point of view of the sociology of the purged and the imaginary that accompanies it ?
  • The next step is to measure the extent of the phenomenon over time, by drawing up a detailed chronology. Is the latter only eruptive and linked to extralegal purges or is it also part of the long term and legal framework ?
  • In the interplay of temporalities, is it possible to establish links with other forms of purges or « purges » against the same target populations before or after 1945 ? What about the new Cold War climate, which may once again modify the relationship with populations and the Other ? A comparison with the end of the Great War is also strongly encouraged in order to find out whether past purges had an influence on the way foreigners were purged in 1945 : the Leipzig trial in 1921 and its repercussions in France, although it only concerned Germans charged with war crimes, was no less significant for the social need for justice proportionate to the scale of the catastrophe.
  • In order to facilitate a global and total approach to the purging of foreigners in Europe, in all its diversity and complexity, we will favour the interplay and interlocking of scales (local, regional, national, even transnational) and the multiplicity of variables to be considered : different territorial statuses (occupied/free/annexed zones; metropolises/colonies; the question of hybrid spaces), the town/country divide and, of course, the divide between lands of immigration/lands not much affected by immigration.

Reproach, representation and comparative severity

  • The conference will look at all forms of purge, whether extralegal or legal.
    • On the one hand, we will explore the question of popular violence against the property and persons of foreigners, by seeking to know whether otherness - or the feeling of otherness - is a factor that amplifies brutality. In the context of a very often polymorphous purge, it is important to insist on the diversity of actors and procedures. Therefore, we will try to find out more about the professional/administrative purge and the economic/financial purge of foreigners. Above all, we will study judicial repression (civil and military), starting with the normative framework that created specific categories, particularly with regard to nationals of an Axis country. Do the legal texts mention the issue of foreigners ? Are the legal definitions of « foreigner », « stateless person » and « refugee » evolving ? What are the categories and incriminations in use ? Is there a gap between norms and practices ?
    • Beyond the indispensable study of sentences, with particular attention to expellees, the study of comparative severity can take the route of files closed before or after investigation, which tell us a great deal about the gap between the purge desired by the populations and the purge actually carried out by the authorities. In order to measure the social demand for purification of foreigners, it is necessary to look at all those who were suspected or even worried (provisional measures of arrest, internment or suspension for example). Finally, we can question the structures and mechanisms of self-purification and self-regulation specific to certain socio-professional milieus, as well as forms of purification that do not say their name.
  • Finally, the study of purification should make it possible to study the nature of the acts of which foreigners are accused, whether they are real or imagined. This will of course be a wonderful opportunity to work on the representations of the Other at a time when societies (both local and national) are trying to rebuild social links and forge a new community of destiny. This point is all the more important as, unlike the Resistance, the action of foreigners in the collaboration remains largely unknown. We will thus be able to analyse the different forms of collaboration practiced by foreigners during the Second World War, between constraint, adaptation and collaborationism.

Exit from the purge and memories

  • The question of the expulsion or exile of foreigners threatened by the purge will be at the heart of the reflection. Did these real or supposed collaborators favour their country of origin, as one might expect ? What happened to them in their host countries ? In what way did the convictions or the condition of the purged foreigners redefine the links with the country of origin ? This history of shared trajectories and itineraries must also lead to an interest in the networks and circles of welcome and mutual aid from which exiled foreigners benefit.
  • The study will focus on the conditions under which foreigners have experienced the sanctions that have hit them (double punishment, definitive exclusion, reintegration into the community of the host country) and have served their sentences, and will attempt to determine whether there are any specificities in this regard. In particular, it may be asked whether foreigners are considered to be a priority population for « rehabilitation » when they are behind bars. In the same way, it is possible to question « de-education » by measuring the gap between sentences handed down and sentences served. Is it more or less rapid than that of other deportees ? Is foreigner status a determining factor in the process ?
  • A final reflection will focus on the legacies, memories and social and political uses of the purges of foreigners[8]. Does the purge episode leave traces in the collective memory of the states concerned and/or in the subsequent relationship between these states and the population group concerned ? We could also try to find out whether the purged foreigners are an issue in the diplomatic relations of the second twentieth century[9]. On another scale, it would be interesting to measure the resonance of the event within the family memory. In a creeping dimension of the purge that is too often neglected, what does it mean to have a foreign parent or grandparent involved ? Once again, this could be an opportunity to question the collective or individual memory of the « black years » in a different way, echoing the work on the Resistance[10].

Selection of papers

Proposals for papers may be written in French and English (one page maximum including a title and a summary mentioning in particular the sources used), and must be accompanied by a short CV mentioning the authors' titles, qualifications and recent publications. They must be sent to the three members of the organising committee

before 30 September 2023.

The organising committee, on the advice of the scientific committee, will inform the authors of the proposals of its decision by mid-November 2023 at the latest.

While French is preferred, oral presentations may also be made in English.

For further information, interested researchers may contact the members of the organising committee.

Organisation of the conference and publication

The conference will be held in Nice on 4 and 5 June 2024. The proceedings of the conference will be published after approval by the scientific committee. The final texts of the speeches must be submitted by the end of November 2024 for publication in 2025, on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the Liberation in France and the end of the war in Europe.

Organising Committee

  • Marc Bergère, université Rennes 2, Tempora ; marc.bergere@univ-rennes2.fr
  • Jérémy Guedj , université Côte d’Azur, Centre de la Méditerranée Moderne et Contemporaine ; jeremy.guedj@univ-cotedazur.fr
  • Fabien Lostec, université Rennes 2, Tempora ; fabien.lostec@bbox.fr

Scientific Committee

  • Marc Olivier Baruch (CNRS, EHESS, CRH)
  • Olivier Dard (Sorbonne Université, UMR SIRICE)
  • Jean-Marie Guillon (Aix-Marseille université, TELEMMe)
  • Eric Jennings (université de Toronto, Canada)
  • Laurent Joly (CNRS, EHESS, CRH)
  • François Rouquet (université de Caen, HISTEME)
  • Xavier Rousseaux (université de Louvain, Belgique, FRS-FNRS)
  • Ralph Schor (université Côte-d’Azur, CMMC)
  • Anne Simonin (CNRS-CESPRA, EHESS)
  • Marie-Bénédicte Vincent (université de Franche-Comté, IHMC)
  • Fabrice Virgili (CNRS, UMR SIRICE)
  • Vanessa Voisin (université de Bologne, Italie, CERCEC)


  • Nice, France (06)

Event attendance modalities

Full on-site event


  • Saturday, September 30, 2023


  • épuration, étranger, justice


  • Jérémy Guedj
    courriel : jeremy [dot] guedj [at] univ-cotedazur [dot] fr
  • Marc Bergère
    courriel : marc [dot] bergere [at] univ-rennes2 [dot] fr
  • Lostec Fabien
    courriel : fabien [dot] lostec [at] bbox [dot] fr

Information source

  • Jérémy Guedj
    courriel : jeremy [dot] guedj [at] univ-cotedazur [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Foreigners and National Minorities in Purifying Societies (Europe after 1945) », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, July 04, 2023, https://doi.org/10.58079/1bis

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