Agim Shala, 2 years old, is handed through the barbed wire fence of a camp as members of the Shala family are reunited after fleeing Kosovo in 1999. The relatives who just arrived from Prizren had to stay outside the camp until shelter became available. (Carol Guzy/The Washington Post)

As thousands of refugees escaping conflict flood into Europe at levels not seen since World War II, the images evoke a mostly-forgotten past, some of it quite recent, some four or five score years ago.  These great uprootings – from World War I to the partition of India, to the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide and the conflict in the Balkans – inevitably catch the world unprepared and invariably raise the same questions. Where will they go? Who will take them in? And the images are always wrenching, reflecting traumatic journeys to uncertain places and uncertain endings. Here are just a few.


World War I: When Germany invaded Belgium and massacred thousands, a mass exodus of over a million people ensued. Here, the Antwerp quaysides are packed by gigantic crowds struggling for places on board any sort of craft that could take them out of the country. (AP)

World War I: Belgian civilians and a cavalry detail moving out of the path of the German advance in Antwerp in 1914. (AP)

Spanish Civil War: Basque refugee children from Bilbao crowd the deck of the Barcelona liner Habana as it docks at Southampton, England, in May 1937. The passengers, 3,826 children and 230 adults, were sent to Britain temporarily to escape Gen. Franco’s fascism and Allied bombing in the Spanish Civil War. (AP)

World War II: Italian civilians follow closely on the heels of the advancing 5th Army force of the Allied troops in Littoria, in 1944. (AP)

World War II: The hall of a huge West Berlin factory serves as a temporary shelter for this mass of refugees from the Russian sector of Berlin in 1953. Women and children camp on blanket-covered straw mattresses. Hundreds of refugees fleeing the Soviet zone said they were forced to do so by a brutal campaign to seize all private shops and factories. (AP)

World War II: Jewish refugees talk with a U.S. soldier at a displaced-persons camp after the war. (U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum)

Partition of India: Muslim refugees sit on the roof of an overcrowded railway train near New Delhi in trying to flee India in 1947. Millions of Muslims migrated from India to Pakistan, marking a massive upheaval across the subcontinent. Hindus living for generations in what was to become Pakistan fled their homes overnight. (AP)

Hungary: A group of Hungarian refugees, their children in their arms or on their shoulders and back, cross the Austrian-Hungarian border into Austria in 1956. (AP)

Vietnam: Montagnard tribesmen from the village of Bu Lach, some 60 miles northeast of Saigon, Vietnam watch an incoming U.S. Army Chinook helicopter, as they cluster around piles of personal belongings in 1968. The group, about 700 in all, had asked the government for help in moving them to a more secure area. In a day long shuttle of choppers all were moved to a nearby government refugee camp for a new life of tin roofs and crowded living. (Henri Huet/AP)

Vietnam: Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees crowd a U.S. helicopter evacuating them from the immediate combat zone of the U.S.-Vietnamese incursion into Cambodia on May 5, 1970. They were taken to a refugee reception center at the Katum Special Forces camp in South Vietnam, six miles from the Cambodian border. (Ryan/AP)

Vietnam: South Vietnamese Marines leap in panic aboard a cutter in Danang Harbor in Da Nang, Vietnam in 1975, as they are evacuated from the city shortly before its fall to the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese. Cutters in turn hauled them south to Cam Ranh Bay. (AP)

Vietnam: Cargo net lifts refugees from a barge onto the SS Pioneer Contender for evacuation from Da Nang in 1975. The freighter took eight hours to load some 6,000 refugees. (Peter O’Loughlin/AP)

Vietnam: A barge packed with Vietnamese refugees from Da Nang is towed to the SS Pioneer Contender in 1975 after the port city fell to the North Vietnamese forces. (AP)

Afghanistan: The tents of thousands of Afghan refugees cover a plain near Miram Shah, Pakistan in 1989. At the time, nearly 4-million refugees in Pakistan waited in camps to return to Afghanistan and rebuild their lives. (AP)

Afghanistan: Afghan refugees are shown in a Pakistan camp near Peshawar in May 1980. (AP)

Albania: Thousands of Albanians fleeing starvation in their impoverished homeland crowd a dock in Bari, Italy, where they sought asylum in 1991. (AP)

Bosnia: Muslim refugees ride a United Nations truck in a U.N. convoy as they flee the Serb-besieged Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica for Tuzla in 1993. (Pascal Guyot/AFP via Getty Images)

Bosnia: Around 10,000 refugees from Srebrenica are seen boarding buses at a camp outside the U.N. base at Tuzla Airport in 1995. (Reuters)

Rwanda: Refugees carrying water containers make their way back to huts at the Benaco Refugee Camp in Tanzania in 1994. At the time the camp had a population surpassing 300,000, making it the largest refugee settlement in the world. Aid agencies had difficulty feeding, doctoring and sheltering the refugees who fled the ethnic bloodbath in neighboring Rwanda. (Karsten Thielker/AP)

Rwanda: After two years in refugee camps, Rwandans return home in 1996. Thousands waited for transportation while other walked after their long exile. (Carol Guzy/The Washington Post)

Rwanda: A woman began to cry with exhaustion while crowds of refugees pushed and screamed, desperately trying to get on trucks taking them to Kigali, Rwanda, in 1996. (Carol Guzy/ The Washington Post)

Rwanda: Hundreds of thousands of refugees streamed along a road in Gisenyi, Rwanda, after crossing the border from Mugunga refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of the Congo formally known as Zaire in in 1996. (Carol Guzy/Washington Post)

Kosovo: On April 5, 1999, an estimated 70,000 refugees were stuck in a no man’s land called Blace, which lies between Kosovo and Macedonia. Some of these refugees had been there for a week with little food and water and only sheets of plastic to protect them from the elements. The Macedonian government had been refusing to allow the refugees into their country, but international outrage and rumors of disease were now forcing it to build camps quickly inside Macedonia’s border. Here a family desperately tries to get out of Blace and into Macedonia, past the Macedonian border guards who were allowing only a small trickle of refugees out. (Lucian Perkins/The Washington Post)

Kosovo: Velina sits bewildered near the city of Pec, Kosovo, in 1998. Thousands of Roma (gypsies) fled because Albanians considered them to be Serbian collaborators. Velina said that nobody wanted them and that she has no home, because it was burned by returning refugees. (Michael Williamson/The Washington Post)

Kosovo: Sister Bernadette Ebenhoch, a Franciscan nun from Germany drove three hours to provide aid for the suffering refugees of Kosovo in Kukes, Albania, in 1999. (Carol Guzy/The Washington Post)

Iraq: Locals leaving Basra, Iraq, pass through coalition lines as fires burned in the background in 2003. (Dan Chung /AFP via Getty Images)

Iraq: Jihan Hassan, 7, Najat Hassan, 4, and Ali Hassan, 2, take an afternoon nap in their tent where they live with their mother Fedwa Abdul Ghani, 34, in 2003. (Andrea Bruce Woodall/The Washington Post)

Darfur: A sandstorm overtakes the Ouri Cassoni refugee camp just outside Baha’i, Chad, in 2004. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

Darfur: The Ouri Cassoni refugee camp just outside Baha’i, Chad, in 2004. At the time, 16,000 of the estimated 187,000 Sudani refugees in Chad lived at the camp. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

Darfur: Khadija Ishak Hamad, mourns her 25-year-old daughter, Fadna Abdulla Rhaman, who died from childbirth complications at the Kalma internally displaced person camp in South Darfur, Sudan, in 2004. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

Syria: Residents waited in line to receive food aid distributed in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, Syria, in 2014. (United Nation Relief and Works Agency via Getty Images)

Fred Barbash contributed to the post.