"Church-organized care labor-migration from Kerala to southwest Germany in the 1960s"



Currently I'm working on a PhD-Thesis at the Chair of Economic and Social History at the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt. My project is intended to counter the media's biased perception of migration - an unknown piece of German migration history. My research subject is to be located in the care sector and remained largely unnoticed in the shadow of the state-led "Gastarbeitermigration" ("Guest Workers") of the 1960s. The now often used word "Pflegenotstand" ("Shortage Of Nursing Staff") is by no means a new term of our present time. Back in the beginning of the 1960s in the young Federal Republic Germany psychiatric hospitals reached the limits of their capacities. This happend due to the aftermath of war as well as affluence phenomena such as alcoholism. Under these symptoms the nursing profession had developed into a precarious field of work. Faced with drastic staff shortages, hospitals sometimes even considered closing entire departments.


At the climax of this tense situation a group of 24 young women from Kerala, India, arrived at the Emmendingen Mental Hospital (PLK) in December 1964. There they underwent vocational training to become nurses. This was the first group of numerous Indian women to come to Germany as part of this migration of care-workers, which was organized under the leadership of the Catholic Church. The women were trained and deployed under the name "Nirmala Seva Dalam" and "Nirmala Association" in small groups at various hospitals over a total period of 6 years. At the same time, a parallel organized migration of candidates and nuns to German mother houses took place. These women were also trained in nursing professions in the Federal Republic of Germany and deployed in hospitals in order to counter the prevailing labor shortage.


After conducting first Interviews in 2018 my project was officially confirmed at the faculty of the Catholic University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt in 2019.  The project is supervised by Prof. Dr. phil. habil. Dr. oec. Frank E. W. Zschaler (Vice Dean and Chairman of the Doctoral Committee, Professor of Economic and Social History at the KU Eichstätt-Ingolstadt) und Prof. Dr iur. can. habil. theol. Bernd Dennemarck (Professorship for Canon Law and Director of the Institute "Church in the World" at the Faculty of Theology Fulda). Part of my research is the examination of the institutional dimension of this migration movement, focusing on the negotiation process between the Catholic Church and the state. In addition to interviews with contemporary witnesses, I am conducting a document analysis in order to be able to reconstruct the structural organization of the process on the basis of primary sources. In 2023, I was fortunate to undertake two field research trips to India. In addition to interviews with contemporary witnesses and returnees, I received insights by experts from government and church institutions.


I am looking forward to requests for lectures, interviews and publications as well as scientific cooperations!