Book Launch: Kingdom of Barracks. Polish Displaced Persons in Allied-Occupied Germany and Austria

Venue: Library of Contemporary History, Campus of the University of Vienna, Spitalgasse 2–4, Hof 1.12, 1090 Vienna

This event is hosted at the Library of Contemporary History.  Find out more about other *at the Library events.

About the book

After World War II displaced more than sixty million people, Cold War politics opened global eyes and wallets to European displaced persons. The postwar experiences of more than three million forcibly displaced Polish people illuminate the painfully long process of reckoning with war and its fallout. Drawing on rich primary material unearthed in over a dozen archives, Kingdom of Barracks depicts the texture of everyday life in refugee camps in post-World War II Europe within a panorama of the social and cultural history of the twentieth century. Western Allies and Polish social elites construed the camps as spaces for rehabilitating and “re-civilizing” refugees to prepare them for the reconstruction of war-torn countries and a rebirth of the nation. On the ground, refugees lived in close proximity, sharing bug-infested barracks with people from other regions, social classes, and wartime experiences. Taking a bottom-up perspective and exploring the formation of cultural identity in exile through the lenses of class, gender, body, and nationality, Katarzyna Nowak argues that Polish DPs’ experiences of displacement stimulated a personal and a collective revival understood in religious and national terms. In an age of intensifying forced displacement, Kingdom of Barracks sheds new light on past experiences of war and migration that are still deeply relevant in the present.

Katarzyna Nowak,  Kingdom of Barracks. Polish Displaced Persons in Allied-Occupied Germany and AustriaMcGill-Queen's University Press, Montreal, 2023

About the author

Dr Katarzyna Nowak is a historian specialising in cultural and social history of the early Cold War. Having completed her PhD in 2018 at the University of Manchester, she held research posts at the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies and the Central European University. She is currently working on her project Knocking on the Vatican’s Gates. Refugees, the Holy See, and the Spectre of Communism, 1945-1958 as a Marie Curie Fellow at RECET (University of Vienna).


  • Opening: Markus Stumpf, Library of Contemporary History, University of Vienna
  • Introduction: Kerstin von Lingen, Dept. of Contemporary History, University of Vienna
  • Book Presentation: Katarzyna Nowak, RECET, University of Vienna
  • Discussion: Katarzyna Nowak (RECET, University of Vienna), Kerstin von Lingen (Dept. of Contemporary History, University of Vienna) and Jannis Panagiotidis (RECET, University of Vienna)

The Book Launch is followed by a wine and snacks reception open to the public. It is also possible to participate via livestream.