Bastiaan Willems works on the history of the Second World War and the consequences of Germany’s violent transition from war to peace in 1945. He has a particular interest in the flight and expulsion of the population of Eastern Germany during the final year of the war and during the immediate post-war era. His PhD thesis examined the relationship between East Prussia’s population and the soldiers of the Wehrmacht during the defence of the province between the summer of 1944 and the spring of 1945.
His current project, Communities of Violence: Public Execution in Germany 1945, analyses the impact of German intra-ethnic violence on the German late-war society and on policies and discourse in the first years of the Federal Republic of Germany. The project considers the fluidity with which people can move between the ‘brackets’ of ‘perpetrator’, ‘bystander’, and ‘victim’.