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Andrew Demshuk Professor Department of History

Send email to Andrew Demshuk
(202) 885-2407
CAS - History
Currently on Sabbatical. Please contact via Email
PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2010)
MA, Marquette University (2005)
BA, Aquinas College (2002)

Languages Spoken
German, Polish
Favorite Place in Washington DC
Library of Congress Reading Room
Professor Demshuk's research focuses on post-1945 German and Polish history with an emphasis on how grassroots human stories can help to explain big political developments.

His first monograph, "The Lost German East: Forced Migration and the Politics of Memory, 1945-1970" (Cambridge University Press, 2012) examines how, amid the charged political context of the early Cold War, millions of West Germans expelled from the province of Silesia after World War II came to recognize that physical return was not possible.

A fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (2014-2015) supported work on three further book projects. His second monograph, "Demolition on Karl Marx Square: Cultural Barbarism and the People’s State in 1968" (Oxford University Press, 2017) looks at how the 1968 demolition of Leipzig’s medieval University Church brought about an essential turning point in relations between Communist authorities and the people they claimed to serve amid the largest East German protest between the 1953 Uprising and 1989 Revolution.

His third monograph, "Bowling for Communism: Urban Ingenuity at the End of East Germany" (Cornell University Press, 2020), combines archival reading with oral history to explore local civic initiative at the official and public levels to "save" Leipzig from the bureaucratic obstructionism from central authorities in Berlin. The book measures how catastrophic urban decay helped to prompt dynamic interplay between residents, local officials, and central authorities over the decade before Leipzigers spearheaded the revolution that ended East German communism in 1989.

His fourth book, "Three Cities after Hitler: Redemptive Reconstruction across Cold War Borders" (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2021), measures the politics of memory in urban reconstruction under three contrasting regime ideologies haunted by the recent Nazi past. Weaving back together a common narrative, it compares post-1945 urban planning in three cities which had been part of united Germany before 1945 and were then divided by Cold War borders -- Frankfurt (West Germany), Leipzig (East Germany), and Wrocław (western Poland).

Professor Demshuk's courses feature twentieth-century Central and Eastern Europe, with close attention nationalism, genocide and ethnic cleansing, urban planning and memory, ecological devastation, and the broader effects of mid-20th-century forced migration on the world we inhabit today.

Conscious of the current politics of ending coal dependency, his current research compares grassroots ecology surrounding the coal pits of former East and West Germany. How did local populations respond as villages in the East and West were destroyed to make way for the moonscape of lignite mining and processing, and how did recultivation planning and outcomes succeed or fail during and after Cold War division? Professor Demshuk is also pursuing a micro-historical analysis of the so-called "filthiest village in Europe". Immediately downwind from the belching smokestacks of the Espenhain coal refinery (one of Europe’s worst polluters), the East German village of Mölbis became a symbol for reform through the last decade of East Germany, and then a symbol of hope for a better future after German Reunification. Through close, local-level analysis based on diverse archives, private collections, and interviews, Professor Demshuk further excavates the complex dynamics of state-civic relations under East German rule, investigating the grassroots initiatives that helped to both end communist “democratic centralism”, as well as usher in many successful aspects of German Reunification.
See Also
Department of History
For the Media
To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.


Fall 2023

  • HIST-140 Modern European History

  • HIST-140 Modern European History

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Research Interests

Modern Central Europe, migrations and ethnic cleansing, memory and nostalgia, post-WWII urban reconstruction, historic preservation, environmental devastation and "recultivation", border claims and regime legitimacy, civic activism, nationalism, borderlands, transnational interchange.


Selected Publications

Peer-Reviewed Books:

  • Three Cities after Hitler: Redemptive Reconstruction across Cold War Borders (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2021). Winner of the Alice Davis Hitchcock Award, Society of Architectural Historians, 2023
  • Bowling for Communism: Urban Ingenuity at the End of East Germany (Cornell University Press, 2020). Honorable Mention, David Barclay Book Prize, German Studies Association
  • Demolition on Karl Marx Square: Cultural Barbarism and the People's State in 1968 (Oxford University Press, 2017).
  • The Lost German East: Forced Migration and the Politics of Memory, 1945-1970 (Cambridge University Press, 2012). Paperback Edition, 2014. Honorable Mention, Smith Book Award, Southern Historical Association
  • Co-Editor and Contributor: “The Voice of the Lost German East: Heimat Bells as Soundscapes of Memory,” in Cultural Landscapes: Transatlantische Perspektiven auf Wirkungen und Auswirkungen deutscher Kultur und Geschichte im östlichen Europa, ed. Andrew Demshuk and Tobias Weger (Munich: Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 2015).

Peer-Reviewed Articles:

  • "Erasure as Heritage: Memorial Legacies after Pit Mining across Leipzig's 'Recultivated' Coalfields," in Cultural Landscapes of Energy: Constructing Histories of Power, Prosperity, and Decline, ed. Corinne Geering and Torsten Meyer (forthcoming 2024).
  • "The Other Lives of Stasi Spies: Decrypting Informants at the Biographical Level," German Studies Review 47, no. 1 (2024), forthcoming.
  • “Forced Migration and Displacement in Postwar East Central Europe,” in International Law and History: Eastern Europe in a Global Perspective. A Handbook, ed. Isabella Löhr, Dietmar Müller, Ned Richardson-Little, and Stefan Troebst (forthcoming 2023).
  • “East Germany and the Lost German East: Dresden-Wrocław ‘Socialist Friendship’ after Nazism and Forced Migration,” Urban History (forthcoming 2023).
  • “Exiling Marx from Karl Marx Square: The Political Lives of a Leipzig Monument before and after 1989,” Journal of Contemporary History (2023),
  • “Building the Cathedral of Democracy: Frankfurt’s Paulskirche in Hitler’s Shadow,” German History 39, no. 4 (Dec. 2021): 602-25.
  • “Bach’s Grave as Communist Legacy,” Canadian Slavonic Papers 63, no. 1–2 (June 2021): 119–47.
  • “Architecture beyond Ideology: The Politics of Forgotten Landmarks in Communist East Germany,” Journal of Urban History 47, no. 2 (March 2021): 420-449.
  • “The People’s Bowling Palace: Building Underground in Late Communist Leipzig,” Contemporary European History 29, no. 3 (August 2020): 339-355.
  • “A Polish Approach for German Cities? Cement Old Towns and the Search for Rootedness in Postwar Leipzig and Frankfurt/Main,” European History Quarterly 50, no. 1 (2020): 88-127.
  • "Rebuilding after the Reich: Sacred Sites in Frankfurt, Leipzig, and Wrocław, 1945-1949," in War and the Urban Context, ed. Tim Keogh (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2019).
  • “A Mausoleum for Bach? Holy Relics and Urban Planning in Early Communist Leipzig, 1945-1950,” History & Memory 28, no. 2 (Fall/Winter 2016): 47-89.
  • “Preservationism, Postmodernism, and the Public across the Iron Curtain in Leipzig and Frankfurt/Main, 1968-1988,” in Re-framing Identities: Architecture’s Turn to History, ed. Ákos Moravánszky and Torsten Lange (Berlin: Birkhäuser/De Gruyter, Fall 2016).
  • “Godfather Cities: West German Patenschaften and the Lost German East,” German History 32, no. 2 (2014): 224-255.
  • “What Was the ‘Right to the Heimat’? West German Expellees and the Many Meanings of Heimkehr,” Central European History 45, no. 3 (September 2012): 523-556.
  • “Reinscribing Schlesien as Śląsk: Memory and Mythology in a Postwar German-Polish Borderland,” History & Memory 24, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2012): 39-86.
  • “‘Heimaturlauber’. Westdeutsche Reiseerlebnisse im polnischen Schlesien vor 1970,” Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropaforschung 60, no. 1 (2011): 79-99.
  • “Heimweh in the Heimat. Homesick Travelers in the Lost German East, 1955-1970,” in Re-mapping Polish-German Historical Memory: Physical, Political, and Literary Spaces since World War II, ed. Justyna Beinek and Piotr Kosicki (Bloomington: Slavica, 2011): 57-79.
  • “‘When you come back, the Mountains will surely still be there!’ How Silesian Expellees processed the Loss of their Homeland in the early Postwar Years, 1945‑1949,” Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropaforschung 57, no. 2 (2008), 159-186.
  • “‘Wehmut und Trauer:’ Jewish Travelers in Polish Silesia and the Foreignness of Heimat,” Jahrbuch des Simon-Dubnow-Instituts (Dec. 2007): 311-335.
  • “Citizens in Name Only: The National Status of the German Expellees, 1945-1953,” Ethnopolitics 5, no. 4 (Nov. 2006): 383-397.

Review Essays:

  • “Ethnic Cleansing and its Legacies in Twentieth-Century Eastern Europe,” European History Quarterly 43:2 (April 2013): 326-334.
  • Hans Henning Hahn and Robert Traba, eds., Deutsch-Polnische Erinnerungsorte, 5 vols., ZfO (forthcoming).
  • Cornelia Eisler, Verwaltete Erinnerung– symbolische Politik and Stefan Scholz, Vertriebenendenkmäler, ZfO (forthcoming).

Over forty book reviews with American Historical Review, Central European History, Slavic Review, European History Quarterly, German Studies Review, The Polish Review, Slavonic & East European Review, Canadian Journal of History, Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropaforschung, Sehepunkte, Canadian Slavonic Papers, H-German, H-Soz-Kult, and Pol-Int.

Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

Alice Davis Hitchcock Award for Three Cities after Hitler, Society of Architectural Historians, 2023

Residency Fellowship, Leibniz Institute for Spacial Social Research, Berlin/Erkner (January 2023)

German Studies Association 2021 David Barclay Book Prize (Honorable Mention) for "Bowling for Communism"

Residency Fellowship, GWZO, Leipzig (Summer 2018)

Mellon Grant and International Travel Grant, American University (Summer 2018)

Book Incubator Grant, American University CAS (April 2017)

Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Fellowship (2014-2015)

Faculty Development Grant, University of Alabama at Birmingham (Summer 2013)

Smith Book Award, Honorable Mention for The Lost German East, European History Section, Southern Historical Association (2012)

Herder Institut Research Fellowships (2009, 2007)

DAAD Dissertation Research Fellowship (2007-2008)

Dubnow Institut Fellowship at the University of Leipzig (2006)

ASN award for best Graduate Paper on Central Europe (2006)


Work In Progress

Monograph Projects:

  • "Cold War Coal Pits: Crafting Ecology in East and West Germany"
  • "The Filthiest Village in Europe: Grassroots Ecology and the Collapse of East Germany"
  • “Alien Homeland: Human Encounters after Forced Migration on a German-Polish Borderland, 1970-1990."

Article Projects:

  • Cultural Landscapes out of Lignite Moonscapes: Dreams and Realities in Leipzig’s Coalfields before and after 1989
  • "The Suffocating City: East Germany's Moonscape Metropolis from Pollution to Revolution"