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Abstract

This article evaluates the relief work carried out by British voluntary societies among German civilians between 1945 and 1950. Drawing on the archives of voluntary societies and on interviews with relief workers, the article highlights the centrality of the German refugee crisis and the importance of the sometimes conflictual relationship between attitudes at home and realities on the ground in explaining the development, direction and significance of the British relief effort in post-war western Germany. It concludes that volunteers in Germany and observers at home ultimately found a greater value in the ‘spirit’ in which voluntary societies approached their work than in any of the limited material results arising from it.