Unaccompanied children: UNRRA and displaced children in the United States‟ zone of occupied Germany (1945-1947)
After World War II the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) was tasked with providing assistance to millions of displaced people in Europe including unaccompanied children discovered in the US Zone of Occupied Germany. Mainly victims of Germanization, UNRRA‟s mission was to identify the nationalities of the children and to rehabilitate them through renationalization and repatriation. Determining the nationalities of the children was not as clear cut as UNRRA anticipated it to be. To have an understanding of the difficulties UNRRA faced, the relationship between UNRRA and other governing bodies such as OMGUS (Office of Military Government, United States), German authorities and the officials representing Central and Eastern European Governments need to be explored as their objectives did not necessarily align with each other. OMGUS was unwilling to remove the children due to protests from German authorities while the Central and Eastern European governments called for repatriation. UNRRA sided with these governments but the actions they could take were limited as they operated under OMGUS‟s authority. In support of the German authorities, OMGUS introduced policies with the aim of preventing UNRRA and the liaison officers from removing the children from German homes and institutions. This thesis argues that UNRRA‟s process of determination of nationality became a cause of confusion and disagreement amongst the different bodies dealing with the unaccompanied children. UNRRA‟s attempts to overturn OMGUS‟s policies shows that these competing objectives were detrimental to UNRRA‟s mission and led to its child search operations come to a standstill.