Refugees--Specific Groups (20th Century)


Figure 1.--This Korean refugee girl is caring for her baby brother in 1951. They were apparently separated from their parents. It is striking in thousabds of photographs the way very young Korean children cared for their younger siblings. And notice on her baby brother's face that there is no fear of abandonment.

The 20th century also saw large numbers of refugees. Most of the refugees of the 20th century have been the result of powerful totalitarian ideologies and Islam. The 20th century refugeee crisis began in the Balkans before World war I. Both World War I and II created large numbers of refugees. Thee German invasion created Belgian refufees in the Netherlanbds and and northen France. The Turkish genocide turned the survivors into refugees. The fall of the multi-ethnic empires created refugees. Greece and Turkey exchnged popilations. Amercica restricted emigration after World War I. Both Jewish and non-Jewish refugees were involved, but because of the NAZI obsession to killing Jews, the non-Jews were more likely to survive. The largest refugee movement was ultimately the Germans drievn from Eastern Europe, but there were many more. The Soviets drive Poles east. Jews came from Europe and Aran lands. Palistinians Arabs fled Jewish control in the new state of Israel, although thevnumbers were relatively small. Indian independence created millions of refugees following cimmunal rioting. Large numbers of refugees fled Comminism in Cambodu, China, Cuba, Hungary, Korea, and Vietnam. After the American withdrawl from Vietnam +we have the phenomenomn of the Boat People. The Arabs pursuing first Arb Socialism and then Islamic fundamentalism have caused huge refugee crises, mostly fellow Arabs and Muslims.

China

China was and continues to be the world's most populace country. For two millenium, Chima saw itself as the center of the world and the most advanced country on earth--the Celesytial Kingdom. The 19th century cme as a great shock. Europeans useding their growing industrial plower achived military dominnce over traditional Chinese society. The Chinese Imperiasl Government, unlike the Meiji Emperor in Japan, refused to promote fundamental reforms. The result was that the Europeans begann to carve up China with their powerful militaries. This began with securing coastal enclaves through the Unequal Treaties. Japan joined the process (1890s). The actions of the Europeans destabilized the Imperial System with growing numbers of Chinese demanding reform, their goals, however, differed. Some like the Boxers wanted to retain, but purify traditional society. Others wanted modernization along the lines of Meiji Japan. But because the Imperial Government resisted reform, this gradually took the form of republicanism. The result was nearly a century of turmoil and fighting, death, destruction, and the creation of tens of millions of refugees. Surely this meant the lasrgest number of refugees and displsced people in history, although unlike other refugees (Germand Indin), thos continued for decades and there was no clear place for the refugees to seek safety. Nor was there a way of feeding the vast number of displsced peoples. This century began with the Boxer Rebellion (1900), but contiuned with the Republican Revolutioin (1912) creating the war Lords. Then there was the Civil War (1923), Japanese sizure of Mnchuria (1931), Japanese invasion of China proper (1937), and than the final phase of the Civil War following World war II. Taiwan proved the one major refuge (1948). The Comminist victory brought political stability, but not the end of suffering. Many more people perished during Mao's rule than during the Japasnese occupation. (Many Chinese do no like to here this.) But the control of the Comminist Party and the unwillingness of neigboring countries to accept refugees made it impossible to flee China. People most died or were killed in place where they were. The most well known Communist killing campaigns were the Great Leap Forward (1956) and the Cultural Revolution (1966). But Mao gentrated numerous campigns in which large numbers of pdeople perished. Only eith the Capitalist reforms did the Chinese people begin to experience real stability and economic progress (1990s)

Balkan Wars (1911-13)

The actual killing actions, burning villages, and other attrocities were only party of the stoty. The killings and destruction set in motion a flood of refugees seeking safety. Some half a million people were made refugees. Some sources describe this as people driven across newly-established borders-driven by 'rampaging' armies. This was partially true, but it was also part of alanned policy of ethnic cleahsing. Villagers and town folk throughout Macedonia were forced by the killings and threats to leave their homes abd farms. Some 112,000 people sought refugees in Bulgaria. About 50,000 were Macedonians. Some 157,000 refugees sought refuge in Greece. They were mostly Turks and Greeks and they settled in the properties of Macedonian refugees. Only about 1,000 refugees sought refuge in the Macedonian territory seized by the Serbs. We are not entirely sure yet why so few refugees fled to Serbian occupied areas.

World War I (1914-18)

Germany launched World War I by attacking France through Belgium (August 1914). The German Army poured across first the Belgian frontier and within a month the French frontier as well (1914). Only the Miracle on the Marne (September 1914) prevented the Germans from reaching Paris and almost certainly winning the War. Civilians fled the invading German Army in large numbers. Some of the Belgians sought refuge in the Netherlands. Most headed south toward France and were joined by French refugees as well. The Germans occupied most of Belgium and areas of northern France until the final months of the War. The German Army seized cthe ciuvilian food stocks. The Belians would have starved without Amerucab food aid. Thus France throughout the War had a sizeable refugee problem. By the end of the War there wete more than 2 million refugees in France. At the s e time the Germans struck at France, the Russians in the East honoring their treaty with France (1914). Attacked in East Prussia. The Germans gained a great victory. Fighting would, however, go on for 3 years, at first mostly in what is now Poland, but eventully spreding into the Baltics and Ukraine. The refugee problem may have been greater than in the West, but with much less outsie aid because it was very difficult getting American food aid into Russia and the Central Powers had little food to spare. In the Balkans, the Central Powers invaded and ovvupied Serbia (1915). The Great Serbian Retreat created large numbers of refugees. And durung the Central Powers occupation conditions were very difficult. Some food began to reach Serbia as the Allies reopned a Balkan front (1917). A German offensive broke through the Italian lines (1917) creating large numbers of Italian refugees. Europe was on the brink of starvation when the War finally ended. Even in France with much of its agricultural sector still in tact, it was not adequate to feed rhe huge numbers of refugees. Only American food aid prevented mass starvation.

Armenian Genocide (1915)

More than a million mostly Christian Armenians were murdered by Ottoman authorities during World War I. Clara Barton led the first Red Cross relief effort conducted outside the United States. While most of the killings occurred during the War, Ottoman actions against the Armenians began in the 1890s. Western newspapers carried articles about "barbaric Mohammedans" murdering Christian martyrs during 1894-96. The killings provoked wide-spread international contamination, but no country intervened to stop the killings. Another series of pogroms occurred in 1909. The Ottomans entered World war I on the side of the Central Power (Germany and Austria-Hungary) in late 1914. The wide-spread, organized genocide against the Armenians began in 1915. Accounts on the numbers of Armenians vary. The estimate of 1.0 million is often used,but some accounts are as high as 1.5 million. [Balakian] The Ottomans used World war I as the NAZIs used World War II as a cover for the killings. The Turkish Government denied at the time and Turkish Governments even today continue to deny that the killings took place and were coordinated by Turkish authorities.

Greek-Turkish War (1920-22)

The Greek-Turkish War followed World War I. The Greeks believed that they could defeat the Turkish Army. They could not. After several defeats the Greeks agrreed to exchange populations. The Armistice of Mudanya (near Bursa) ended the fighting between Greece and Turkey (October 1922). The Greek troops withdrew beyond the Maritsa River. The Turks occupied eatern Thracee. The Turks as part of the Armistice accepted a continued Allied presence on the straits and in Istanbul until a comprehensive peace settlement could be negotiated. Large areas of western Turkey were cleated of Greeks. The process created a huge refugee problem, especially in Greece which received the largest number of refugees. This was complicated by 500 years of living together and the high level of mixing of people and culture as well as the abscence of destinct ethnic differences between Greeks and Turks. The two countries decided to only consider religion in determining the people that were to be exchanged. Other matters such as language and ethnicity were decided to be irrelevant. Even religion was complicated. Not only Christians were excanged with all Muslims. Only the Greek-Orthodox Christians were exchanged with the Sunnite Muslims. Catholic and Protestant Greeks were not deported, but Turkish speaking Scilician Orthodox Christains were exchanged. There wre other exceptions, Turkish speaking Karamanlides were sent to Greece while Greek speaking Cretan Muslims were deported to Turkey. Substantial numbers of people were involved. Records released through 1928 indicate that Turkey deported nearly 1.2 million Greeks, most from Asia Minor. Greece deported about 0.4 million Turks. The Greeks deported 0.4 million Turks. After the excahnages, about 0.2 million Greeks remained in Turkey, mostly in Istambul. The Greeks of Istanbul and the Turks of Western Thrace had been exempted from the forced repatriations. Even as late as the 1940s, there were 0.14 million Greeks living in Istanbul.

Ukranian Genocide (1931-33)

Stalin used the NKVD to ensure that there were virtually no refugees from the engineered Ukranian Famine. The Ukranian Peasantry died in place. In many cases they died in their homes. In other cases they were turned out of their homes and died along the road. Some children got into cities, but were picked up by the NKVD and confined to barracks where they starved away from public view . The horror of the Ukranin genocude defies human immagination. Despite some 5 million or more victims, there were few refugeees to tell their stories of horror. Stalin's NKVD made sure of that. Other Communist orgnizations like All-Union Leninist Young Communist League (Komsomol) made sure of that.

Spanish Civil War (1936-39)

As a result of NAZI oppression, large numbers of refugees were seeking asylum in Europe, Most but not all were Jewish. Thus France, the Netherlands, and Belgium has serious refugee problems. The Spanish Civil War resulted in another wave of refugees. As the Republican defenses collapsed at the end of the Civil war, combatants and civilians which had supported the Republic along with their families began to stream across the French frontier to seek safety from Franco's revenge. Many took their families with them. An estimate 0.5 million Spaniards sought refuge in France. Many treked through the high mountain passes of the Pyrenees (February 1939). Many assumed that the French would treat them as valiant, but defeated fighters for liberty. France was a democratic republic. And the Spanish refugees asumed the French would see them as fighters with shared beliefs. The French were, however, concerned with the turn of the Republic to the Communists. The French hearded about 0.1 million of the refugees down onto the beach at Argeles. This is a summer resort, but during te winter was freezing cold. Therecwas little shelter and limited supplies. Soon with dead bodies and destroyed vehicles and guns, it looked like Dunkirk. The French set up barbed wire encloures. Needed food and even water was not provided in adequate quantities. The French were not puposefuly cruel. They did not, however, want the refugees to enter the country , but also were not going to force them back to Spain. Authorities were overwealmed by the numbers of refugees. An estimated 10,000 refugees died before the French had the camps set up and properly supplied (summer 1939). By this time Europe was moving toward war. The men were given the opportunity of joining the French Army. Thousands of Spanish recruits were deployed along both the Belgian and Italian frontiers. After the fall of France, the Germans treated the Spanish prisoners differently than French POWs. The Germans saw the Spanish as Bolshevicks and sent thousands to the Mauthausen concentration camp. One Spanish orisoner recalls, "When we were all inside the gate, the camp commandant got up and gave a speech. You have come in through the front gate, the only way you are going to leave is through that gate' -- and he pointed to the crematorium chimney at the far end of the camp." S

Sino-Japanese War (1937-45)

The template for Japan's occupation policies were established by the May Incident (May 30, 1925), two decades before Japan invaded China. Japanese factory guards shot and killed workers. he Japanese used this incident to justified increased troop depoloyments. The Four Alls concept was conceived as a way of dealing with the Chinese. Brutality was a policy conceived by Japanese military commanders to force the Chinese into compliance with Japanese rule. It has worked in Taiwan, Korea, and Manchuko. The Japanese after seizing Manchuria, invaded China proper (1937). The Japanese military behaved very differently in China than they had during Russo-Japanese War and World war I. The Japanese in the process of invading China committed war crimes and atrocities on an unpresidented level against the Chinese civilian population. The most savage of these explosions of barbarity was the Rape of Nanking, after the fall of the capital Nanking. Here European diplomats and missionaries witnessed the brutality of the Japanese. It should be noted that these attrocities were not inherent in the Japanese caharacter. The Japanese conduct and treatment of both prisionors and civilians during the Russo-Japanese War and World War I had been correct and in accordance with accepted international standards. The result was a huge refugee problem as the Chinese fleed Japanese occupied area. Not only were theNationalist faced with huge waves of desperte period, but the Japanese seizure of gricultural areas meant lkess and less food was available to feed th refugees.

World War II (1939-45)

World War II created the greatest refugee problem in human history. The problem began before the actual fighting broke out. And by the end of the War, millions were dead and the survivors on the move all over Europe trying to retirn home, although for masny this was not possible. The problem was concentrated in Europe, but not entirely confined there. There were refugee problems after and during and after World War I. The numbers of refugees were significant, but the refugees and displacements help to create bitterness that led to much more extensive and brutal operations during World War II. The problem began with with the NAZI take over in Germany (1933). Political opponents fled Germany as did many Jews. The NAZI regime's focus on biological racism was to play a major role in the World War II refugee problem. Refugees from the fighting were a small pat of the overall refugeee problem. The NAZIs were determined to remake not only the political map of Europe, but also the ethnic map. And to do this they decided not only to create a colonial empire, but to use genocide. There were forced deportation, mass evacuation and displacement, perscecution based on ethnicity, mass killing, conscription for forced labor, anti-partisan operations, intra-ethnic violence, stategic bombing and evacuation from the cities. The NAZI approach to many refugee groups shifted toward genocide as the War progressed. There were refugee problems in most of the countries involved in World War II. And the boirder chasnges at the end of the War caused additional refugees. The refugee crisis in Europe, especially Germany, resulted after the War in the creation of an international refugee and human rights infrastructure which is the basis of how refugee problems are handeled today. We have focused on the problem od displaced children, but the overall refugee problem is important to understand. NAZI Germany was at the heart of the refugee problem, but the Soviet Union also played a major role. Other countries were involved in a variety of ways both in creating and attempting to assist refugees.

India and Pakistan (1946- )

Indian Independence and the partition of the Raj created a huge number of refugees. This a long with the post-World War II movement of Germans was one of the largest refugee crisis in history. The inter-communal viloence was horific. Then a series of wars between the two new states began over Khasmir, creating more refugees. The Third Indo-Pakistani War led to the separation of East and West Pakistan and the creation of a new state--Bangladesh. Even after the fighting ceased, however, there were major problems. The war created large numbers of refugees. In addition, there were problems with the POW exchanges. And the problems did not stop here. The wives of Pakistani POWs encountered major problems living without their husbands.

Arab-Israeli War (1948- )

The term refugeees when mentioned in reference to Isreael-Paestinian issue is normally used in reference to Palestinians Arabs. We have found some serious misunderstandings about the Paestinian refugee problem. There is no doubt Large numbers of Paestinians did indeed flee from the areas where the Isrealis gained control. And there is no doubt that it was a bitter experience and the individuals suffered terribly. Historians report that during the 1948 war, large numbers of Arabs fled or were expelled from the part of Palestine which became Israel. There is some disagreement, however, as to why they fleed and to what extent they were expelled. Often ignored by Arab accounts is that the invading Arabs countries incouraged Palestinian Arabs to flee from Isreli occupied areas. Another often ignored subjects is the difference in treatment of Arabs in Isreali occupied areas and Jews in Arab occupied areas. Both sides recount horror stories thus this is a difficult assessment to make. A Palestinian source describes the Palestinian experience as the world's "oldest and largest refugee problem". Another Palestinian site describes the loss of "their property in one of the greatest acts of plunder in modern history". These and similar claims are simply not true. There were many refugee problems brfore and after and there have been quite a nunber of serious refugee crises of far greater magnitude. Even during the same period there were far larger refugee problems. The displace persons following World War II was far larger involving millions of refugees (1945). Just the German refugee problem after the War was larger (1945-46). As was the refugee problem following the partition of British India (1948). And there were actually more Jewish than Arab refugeees. Here we are not just talking about European Jewish refugeees, but Oriental Jewish refugees from Arab countries as well. There are many other refugee crisis we could list, many of which have been larger than the Paestinian refugee problem. It may well be, however, that the Palestinian refugee problem is the world's most enduring such problem. There are differences of opinion as to the numbers of Paestinians displaced from Israel. Perhaps the most commonly used figure is 0.7 million. We have, however, seen estimates ranging from about 0.4-0.8 million persons. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the Palestinian refugee problem to understand is why the Palestinians did not integrate into the Arab societies where they sought refuge. Many images highlighting the difficult living conditions Palestinans faced were taken in Gaza refugee camps. A myth about the Paestinian refugees, however, is that “Israel forced the Palestinian refugees to stay in primitive Gaza camps". The Arab refugees were left in camps and in some cases confined in those camps by the Arab Governments. The Palestinian ASrabs were never integrated, unlike the similar number of Jewish refugees from the Arab world, who were fully integrated into Israeli society

Cold War

One tragic consequence of Communism is the huge numbers of refugees generated. Where ever Communist triumphed, refugees attempted to escape. The refugee flow was only limited by geography, police state force, and the ability of neigbiring states to take in refugees. Geography was often a barrier. It was virtually impossible to escape from large areas of the Soviet Union and China because of the distances involved. Other Communist states like Poland were surrounded by other Communist states which did not accept refugees. Cubans were hemed in by the dangerous Florida Straits. And the Vietnamese had no where to go. Over a million none-the-less risked death to escape Communism--the tragic Boat People. Communist regimes did not tolerate refugees. This was a deprture from 19th century empires (Austrian, German, Ottoman, and Russian) did not restrict emmigration and were in fact largely happy to geet rid of querilous subjects. Not so the Communists. As refugees were proof that the regimes were not building worker's parasises, trying to leave was a criminal offense in all Communit countries. Stalin saw them as traitors. Castro called them 'worms'. Stalin anxious to keep the failure of Communism leaking out, very effectively sealed off the Soviet borders. Of course the most egregious example of holding people in by force was the East German Berlin Wall which the East German regime was actually proud of because its chillingly perfection of a murderous barrier. So many people wanted to escape Communism, that neigboring countries had to limit the entry of refugees. This was especially the case of Hong Kong, And America had to restict the entry of Cubans. Thailand had to keep Cambodian refgugees in camps rather than assimilating them. In the one case where a revolution briefly replaced the Comminist regime (Hungary), the barbed wire came down and a huge flood of refugees poured out. The notable fact here is that it was always a one-way flow. Westen Govrenments did not restrict emigration. It was just that virtually no one wanted to move to a Communist country. As President Kennedy pharsed it, "Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect. But we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in ...." Even among the million of Italian and French Communists, virtully no one wnted to emigrate to a Communist country. We note American leftists who lionize Castro, but no one wants to live there. One of the most vociferous critic of America was Black Panther Huey Newton. One there, however, he could not wait to get back to America.

Africa

Refugees were fairly rare in Africa during the first half of the 20th century. There were some. such as the Boers in South Africa and theroe in Southwest Africa (Namimbia). This changed with De-Colonization in the second half of the century. The former colonies were not prepared for independence. This was the fault of the colonial powers. The Belgians in particular had done next to nothing to prepre their colonies--especilly the Comgo (Zaire). And the new independence leaders proved corrupt, incompetent, venal, and dictatorial. And most with only minimal education failed to understand what made Europe succesful (capitalism and democracy). Most Afrrican leaders rejected both. For the most part they thought that socialism was the miraculous wave of the future. And democracy was seen as a threatning inconvenience. Most leaders wanted permanent jobs and real elections could quickly end political careers. The result was economic failure despite massive economic assistabce from the former colonial powers. In addition to economic failure there were conflicts over borders and intra-tribal violence. The Cold War also impacted africa, with groups supported by both the Soviets and the West. This created new conflicts and exacerbated existing conflicts. There were attempts at Communist dictatorships (Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Mozambique). All of which failed. Amd there was Islamict violence, most promently in the southern Sudan and Darfur bordering on genocide. Here the threat was not violence,but famine. Not all the problems were economic and political there were also refugees created by climate change, especially in the Sahel. These were not all discrete issues. Often they were mixed cases.

The Arabs

Islamists have perpetuated the lie that America and the West in connections with the Jews have launched a War against Islam in general and the Arabs in particular. And as a result of the Israeli-Arab War (1948) some 0.5 million Arab refugeees fled or were forced out of Palestine. Less commonly mentioned is that it was the Grand Mufi and other Arabs that decided to turn partition into a war and that it was the War, not partition that created the refugees. Also rarely mentioned is that there were also a comparable number of Jewish refugees. The Palistinian refugees, however were only the first group of Arab refugees. Other Arab refugees would follow and most were were refugees created by other Arabs themselves, not the West or Jews. Arab Socialists created terrir attacks agaunst Israel and thge West (1960s-70s). The failure of Arab Scocialism has led to an Islamic revival in the arb lands, but Islan has prove no more successful than Arab Socialism. What the arabs have not tried is freedom, either politicl freedom (democrcy) or economic freedom (capitalism). One of the worst pettrators of violence has been Sudan which waged a campaign of butchery and enslavement on the Christian south aand the genocide against African Muslims in Darfur. The current refugee crisis is just the lastest group of refugees created by fellow Arabs (both Muslim abd Christian) who not only butcher fellow Arabs but while doing so continue to perpetuate the lie that the West is waging a war on Islam. Of course ISIS would like nothing more tghsn to get their hands on Jews, but now the Jews have a state to orotect them--Israel. Arab and other Muslim groups have even attacked Weterners attempting to conduct relief and critically important medical work in Muslim areas. Another Arab group that has bloodv hands is the Bathists (Iraq and Syria). Saddam used poison gas against the Kurds, Marsh Arabs and fellow Muslim Iraniana. Assad has used poison gas ahianst his fellow Muslim countrymen. Ignoring with impunity, President Obama's 'Red Line'. The Arab refugee crises began with the Arab-Israeli War, but conyinues with invresung force and anbrutality into the 21st century with no sign of abating.








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Created: 11:34 PM 4/24/2014
Last updated: 8:26 PM 4/1/2016