Expulsion of Germans after World War II

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Germans expelled from the Sudetenland
Germans expelled from the Sudetenland


The expulsion of Germans after World War II refers to the escape and mass deportation of people considered Germans (Reichsdeutsche and some Volksdeutsche) from various European states and territories during 1945 and in the first three years after World War II 1946-48.

The first mass movement of German civilians in the eastern territories was a combination of spontaneous "flight" and organized "evacuation" that lasted from summer 1944 through spring 1945 and was driven by fear of the advancing Soviet army. This dislocation involved several million people, of whom several hundred thousand died of cold or hunger or in Allied bombardment, though hundreds of thousands of others soon made their way back to the area.

Next came the so-called "wild" expulsions conducted by military and civilian authorities in summer 1945, before the population transfers were officially sanctioned by the Allies at the Potsdam conference. These actions gave way in spring 1946 to a series of larger, better organized, and less lethal "forced resettlements" which continued through 1947. A final major wave of resettlement resumed in 1948 and 1949.

The majority of the deportations occurred in areas belonging to Czech Republic, Poland and Russia after the war. Others occurred in territories of today's Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia (predominantly in the Vojvodina region), Lithuania, Slovenia and other regions of Central and Eastern Europe. Those who either migrated or were expelled included both true German citizens, some of whom had gained their German citizenship during Nazi occupation, the people simply considered ethnic Germans and those wishing to escape from communist regimes.

Some were persecuted because of their activities during the war; the others were persecuted solely because of their German ethnicity.

The expulsion took place in a postwar period that was marked by the contemporaneous forced resettlement and expulsion of millions of Poles, Romanians/Moldovans, Kashubians, Ukrainians, Hungarians and Jews throughout Eastern Europe and Russia, as well. According to Allied sources[citation needed] revealed after 1990, the migration of ethnic Germans affected up to 16.5 million people and was the largest of several similar post-World War II migrations orchestrated by the victorious Western Allies and the Soviet Union.

Over the course of the sixty years since the end of the war, estimates of total deaths of German civilians have ranged from 500,000 to as high as 3 million. Many of these deaths were the result of ill-prepared German evacuation and chaotic flight. Many were senseless killings by opportunistic mobs and individuals. Other deaths were caused by the privations of a forced migration in a postwar environment characterized by crime, chaos, famine, disease, and cold winter conditions. There were also incidents of direct, intentional actions of violent militias. It is almost impossible to attribute accurate proportions of deaths to specific causes.

Due to a lack of accurate records, many estimates of population transfers and associated deaths depend upon a "population balance" methodology. Estimates of total populations expelled and deaths during the expulsions often include figures from the evacuation, because these people were not allowed to return, thus making it difficult to arrive at an accurate and undisputed estimate of population movements and deaths due solely to the expulsions.

More than half a century later, relations between unified Germany and its East European neighbors remain somewhat difficult due to a heated and emotional controversy concerning the morality of the expulsions and the rights of expellees (the "Heimatvertriebene"). Much of the controversy is spurred by contentious demands of some groups of the expellees or their descendants for revocation of expulsion decrees, official apologies, prosecution of perpetrators, or compensation for lost properties. Underlying this controversy are disagreements about who was responsible for the expulsions, what the motivations were and whether the expulsions were morally justified.

[edit] Background

Part of the motivation behind the expulsions is based on events in the history of Germany and Europe, especially Eastern Europe. Colonisation and migrations that took place over almost a millennium led to pockets of Germans living throughout Eastern Europe as far east as Russia. The existence of these pockets was used by German nationalists, most notably the Nazis, to justify wars of aggression which led up to World War II. During the German occupation of Europe, most of the ethnic Germans applied for German citizenship, and many held important positions in the hierarchy of Nazi administration. The expulsions of German minorities at the end of World War II were part of negotiated agreements between the victorious Allies to redraw national borders and arrangements for "orderly population transfers" to remove the ethnic minorities that were viewed as troublesome. For the bulk of expulsions, from territories transferred to Poland and the Czech Republic, however, the motivation was to compensate those countries for land taken from both by the USSR, ultimately serving no purpose other than to enlarge Soviet territory.

[edit] Chronology of the expulsions

If the participants of the Potsdam Conference envisioned "orderly population transfers", the reality on the ground turned out to be anything but that. Any transfer of millions of people is likely to be difficult even in the best of circumstances. Attempting a forced transfer amidst the chaos, destruction and privation of postwar Europe could only result in a humanitarian catastrophe.

The Potsdam Agreement called for equal distribution of the transferred Germans between American, British, French and Soviet occupation zones in the post World War II Germany. In actuality, nearly twice as many expelled Germans found refuge in the occupation zones that later formed "West Germany" than in the "East Germany" (Soviet Zone), and large numbers of German refugees eventually went to other countries of the world, including the United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.

As part of the nationalisation that all citizens in communist countries faced, property in the affected territory that belonged to Germany and Germans was confiscated and transferred to the Soviet Union, nationalised or redistributed among the local population.

It is worth noting that the expulsion was not always indiscriminate. In Czechoslovakia, large numbers of skilled Sudeten German workmen were forced to remain to labour for the country [1]. Likewise in the Opole (Oppeln) region in Upper Silesia, natives who were considered "autochthonous" (German minority in Poland) were allowed to stay. Their status as a national minority was accepted in 1955, alongside with the state's help in regard to economic assistance, and education.[1]

[edit] Czechoslovakia

See also: History of Czechoslovakia, Beneš decrees, Sudetenland, Ústí massacre.

Before the 1938 German annexation of the Sudetenland, roughly 20% of the population in Czechoslovakia had been ethnic Germans.[2] Ethnic German nationalists backed by Hitler demanded the union of German-speaking districts with Germany. Threatening war, Hitler seized through the Munich Agreement in September 1938 the cession of the Bohemian, Moravian and Czech-Silesian borderlands - Sudetenland. In November 1938, Czechoslovakia was forced by Germany and Italy also to cede southern Slovakia (one third of Slovak territory) to Hungary. The Czechs in the greatly weakened Czechoslovak Republic were forced to grant major concessions to the non-Czechs. Eventually Germany seized all of Czechoslovakia.

During the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, especially after the Nazis bloody revenged the assasination on Heydrich, most of the resistance groups demanded the final solution of the "German problem" which would have to be solved by transfer/expulsion. This demands were accepted by the Government-in-Exile which since 1943 looked for support among the Allies in this matter.[3] The final agreement with the transfer of German minority however appeared at the end of Potsdam Conference not until 2 August 1945.

In the months following the end of the war the "wild" expulsion happened from May till August 1945. These "wild" expulsions were encouraged by polemical speeches made by several Czechoslovak statesmen. The "wild" expulsions were executed by order of local authorities mostly by groups of armed volunteers. However in some causes was initiated or pursued by assistance of regular army.[4] Several thousand died violently during the "wild" expulsion and many more died from hunger and illness as a consequence. The regular transfer according the Potsdam Conference proceeded from 25 January 1946 till October of that year. An estimated 1,6 million ethnic Germans were deported to the American zone of what would become West Germany. An estimated 800,000 were deported to the Soviet zone (in what would become East Germany). [2] About 244,000 Germans were allowed to remain in Czechoslovakia.

Some of the acts of violence perpetrated against ethnic Germans inside Czechoslovakia, which at first sight appeared to be cases of personal enmity of locals were, in fact, planned operations. There were cases of massacres committed by paramilitary groups, where the operations were done with the prior agreement of the Red Army. It has been suggested that the motivation for these staged acts of purportedly spontaneous violence against ethnic Germans was to provide arguments to the participants of the Potsdam conference that would support the need for expulsions. The putative line of reasoning was as follows: "you can see the ethnic violence - population transfers are the humane way to put an end to it". However, in other instances, the authorities stopped on-going "genuine local" mob violence.[citation needed]

Estimates of casualties range between 20,000 and 200,000 people, depending on source.[5] These casualties include violent deaths and suicides, deaths in internment camps[6] and natural causes[citation needed].[7]

[edit] Hungary

In Hungary the persecution of the German minority began on 22 December 1944 when the Soviet Commander-in-Chief ordered the deportations. Five percent of the German population (appr. 20,000 people) had been evacuated by the Volksbund before that. They went to Austria, but many of them returned to their homes next spring. In January 1945 the Soviet Army collected 32 000 ethnic Germans and deported them to the Soviet Union to do slave labour. Many of them died there as a result of the hardships and cruelties. On 29 December 1945, the new Hungarian Government ordered the deportation of every person who had declared him/herself German in the 1941 census, or was a member of the Volksbund, the SS or any other armed German organisation. In accordance with this decree, mass deportations began. The first wagon departed from Budaörs (Wudersch) on 19 January 1946 with 5788 people. Some 185,000 to 200,000 German-speaking Hungarian citizens were deprived of their rights and all possessions, and deported to West Germany. Until July 1948, further 50,000 people were deported to the Eastern zone of Germany. Most of the deported Germans found a new home in the Western provinces of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Hesse. In 1947 and 1948, a forced population exchange took place between Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Some 74,000 ethnic Hungarians were deported from Slovakia in exchange for about the same number of Slovaks from Hungary. They and the Székelys of Bukovina were settled in the former German villages of southeastern Transdanubia. In some parts of Tolna, Baranya and Somogy counties, the original population was totally replaced by the new settlers. In 1949, only 22,455 people dared to declare themselves German, although the real numbers were certainly higher. Probably half of the German community was able to survive the dark years between 1944 and 1950 in Hungary.

[edit] Poland

On February 6, 1945, Soviet NKVD ordered mobilisation of all German men (17 to 50 years old) in the Soviet-controlled territories. Many of them were then transported to Soviet Union for forced labour. In the former German territories the Soviet authorities did not always distinguish between the Poles and Germans and often treated them alike.[8]

At the Yalta Conference, the Allies agreed to place certain territories that had been part of Germany prior to 1937 under Polish and Soviet administration, with the final borders to be determined in the peace treaty following the war. Upon gaining control of these lands, the Polish and Soviet authorities started to expel the German population of the lands newly under their control. The plan was that, with the German populace expelled, Germany would not be able to make claims to the territories again. The land was then populated with Polish citizens who had been expelled from the eastern kresy areas, which had newly been annexed by the Soviet Union. In 1990, Germany gave up any claims to the lands east of the Oder-Neisse line in the treaty of final settlement, in order to speed up German re-unification.

[edit] Advance of the Red Army

In the first months of 1945, as the Red Army advanced through the countries of Eastern Europe and the provinces of Eastern Germany, Soviet troops, as well as native populations and militias exacted revenge on ethnic Germans and German nationals. While many Germans had already fled ahead of the advancing Soviet Army, millions of Reichs- and Volksdeutsche remained in East and West Prussia, Silesia, Pomerania, the Sudetenland, and in pockets throughout Central and Eastern Europe.

[edit] Polish internment camps

[edit] Pre-Potsdam deportations (May - July 1945)

In 1945, the former German Silesian, Pommeranian and East-Prussian territories were occupied by Polish and Russian military forces. Early expulsions in Poland were undertaken by the Polish communist military authorities already before the Potsdam Conference. To ensure their incorporation to Poland, the Polish communists ordered that Germans were to be expelled. "We must expel all the Germans because countries are build on national lines and not on multi-national once." a cite from Plenum of Central Committee of the Polish Workers Party, May 20-21, 1945.[9] Germans were defined as either Reichsdeutsche, people enlisted in 1st or 2nd Volksliste groups, and those of the 3rd group, who held German citizenship.

The early phase of expulsion was often particularly brutal. Polish soldiers, stated one report, "relate to German women as to free booty".[10] Historians disagree as to the number of Germans deported during this phase of expulsion. The estimates range from 300 thousand to 500 thousand people.[citation needed] Many Germans evacuated during the war weren't allowed to return to their homes.

[edit] Post-July 1945 expulsion

The Soviet Union transferred territories to the east of the Oder-Neisse Line to Poland in After July 1945, most Germans were expelled to the territories west of the Oder-Neisse Line.

[edit] Yugoslavia

[edit] Romania

[edit] Slovenia

[edit] Russia

See also: Evacuation of East Prussia

Having been the capital of Kingdom of Prussia, Königsberg (now renamed Kaliningrad) was an important city in the history of Germany, also being where Immanuel Kant lived all his life. Under the Nazis it belonged to the German province (Gau) of East Prussia, which itself had been an exclave of Weimar Germany between 1918 and 1939.

Many of the Germans from East Prussia were evacuated by Nazi authorities or fled in panic before the Soviet Army entered. Those who remained suffered the terror of the Soviet occupation. After the war, all the surviving Germans were expelled and the region was settled by ethnic Russians and the families of military staff. The expelled Germans mostly headed to the territory of the future Western Germany.

Today, the area, named Kaliningrad Oblast, is an exclave of Russia, separated from the rest of the country by Lithuania and Belarus.

[edit] Lithuania

A part of western Lithuania, along the seacoast was annexed by Nazi Germany as Memelland in 1939, shortly before the outbreak of the war. The area, including Klaipėda (German: Memel), an important Baltic sea port, had been part of East Prussia, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and then German Empire until the Treaty of Versailles.

After the war, the area belonged to the Soviet Union, (which included occupied Lithuania). Most of its German inhabitants fled to Germany, joining the exodus of the others from Königsberg and other Eastern Prussian cities. German civilian remnants were put on deportation trains in 1946. Ethnic Lithuanians and Russians from other areas of the Soviet Union replaced the German population. A number of orphaned German children were too small to go on the long trek as refugees on their own, and thus were taken in by Lithuanian families.

[edit] The Netherlands

Main article: Operation Black Tulip

After World War II the Dutch wanted to expel 25 000 Germans living in the Netherlands. The Germans (who often had Dutch wives and children) were called 'hostile subjects' (Dutch: vijandelijke onderdanen). The operation started on 10 September 1946 in Amsterdam, where Germans and their families were taken from their homes in the middle of the night and given one hour to collect 50 kg of luggage. They were allowed to take 100 Guilders with them. The rest of their possessions went to the Dutch state. They were taken to concentration camps near the German border, the biggest of which was Mariënbosch near Nijmegen.

The allied forces that occupied western Germany opposed this operation for fear that other countries might follow suit and western Germany was not in an economic condition to receive such a large number of migrants. The British troops in Germany reacted by evicting 100,000 Dutch citizens in Germany to the Netherlands.

The operation ended in 1948. On 26 July 1951 the state of war between the Netherlands and Germany officially ended and the Germans were no longer regarded as state enemies.

[edit] Norway

see War children

[edit] France

A number of Germans were expelled from Alsace and Lorraine. Some inhabitants of Kehl were forced to leave, when the city was French (1945-1949). Polish soldiers in Western Germany reported rapes committed by French soldiers.

[edit] Controversy over reasons and justifications for the expulsions

Given the complex history of the region and the divergent interests of the victorious Allied powers, it is difficult to ascribe a definitive set of motivations behind the expulsions. Various groups, including the public in affected countries and historians, perceive the reasons for the Potsdam decision and subsequent transfers differently. The key issues that motivated the expulsions include:

  1. Compensation to Poland for territories occupied by the Soviet Union
  2. A desire to consolidate the new borders by creating ethnically homogeneous nation states
  3. Distrust of and enmity towards German communities
  4. Prevention of ethnic violence between majority populations and German minorities
  5. A desire to punish ethnic German minorities for activities in support of the Nazi invasion
  6. A desire to expel ethnic Germans in the hopes of invalidating German territorial claims
  7. Making room for Polish returnees
  8. Making the future Polish state dependent on Soviet Union
  9. Appropriation of German property left behind by the expellees
  10. An attempt to restore pre-Nazi demographics in the areas where native populations were displaced by Nazi ethnic cleansing and expansion.

[edit] Compensation for territories lost to the Soviet Union

Poland lost 43 percent of its pre-war territory due to the fact that the Soviet Union insisted on keeping what it had annexed as a result of the partition of Poland between Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939. While some cities, like Gdańsk (Danzig), were transferred to Poland as part of the "clean sweep" (see below) that eliminated minorities and strategically risky borders, other cities, like Wrocław (Breslau) or Szczecin (Stettin), would hardly have been transferred to Poland had it not lost Vilnius (Wilno), Hrodna (Grodno) and Lviv (Lwów).

Thus, from the perspective of the Polish, Communist and Western Allies, one justification for the expulsion of the Germans was compensation of Poland for territories taken by the Soviet Union.

Objections to this theory argue that the territories Stalin took from Poland in the east, were actually behind the Curzon Line, that was proposed to be the border after World War I, and which Poland had taken from the Soviet Union in 1922.

[edit] A desire to create ethnically homogeneous nation states

This was presented as the key reason for the official decisions of the Potsdam conference and previous allied conferences involving the Polish and Czech exile governments, as cited in this article.

There is a longer history of the Polish and Czech nations trying to assert themselves against German eastward expansionism (see also Drang nach Osten article), as well as the late compensatory nationalism of newly independent Eastern-European nation states. The border on Oder-Neisse line was actively pursued by the Polish government in Exile, which, under the pressure from the Soviet Union and its western allies, was looking for possible compensation for the Soviet-occupied eastern regions which Stalin was not willing to give back. [3]

The territories that had been handed over to Poland and Czechoslovakia by the Versailles treaty caused particular trouble to these states. Especially the Czech exile government in London insisted on a bitter lesson it had learned in 1938: no stability without ethnic homogeneity. The utter military and moral defeat of Germany provided a chance for achieving ethnic homogeneity by means normally not available. In case of Czechoslovakia, not only the Sudeten Germans but also the Hungarians of Southern Slovakia became victims of the postwar ethnic cleansing campaign.

[edit] Distrust of and enmity towards German communities in Poland

There was an expressed fear of disloyalty of Germans in Silesia and Pommerania based in part on the pro-Nazi activities of members of the German ethnic group during the war and even after the end of the war. As a result of these activities, there was not a political party that would agree with Germans continuing to live in Silesia and Pomerania. To Poles, deportation of Germans was seen as an effort to avoid such events in the future and as a result Polish authorities proposed population transfer of Germans already in the late 1941.[11]

Transferring the German-speaking population to the west was advocated as a necessary means of achieving inter-ethnic peace.

[edit] Preventing ethnic violence

The participants at the Potsdam Conference asserted the expulsions were the only way to prevent ethnic violence. As Winston Churchill expounded in the House of Commons in 1944, "Expulsion is the method which, in so far as we have been able to see, will be the most satisfactory and lasting. There will be no mixture of populations to cause endless trouble... A clean sweep will be made. I am not alarmed by these transferences, which are more possible in modern conditions…". From this point of view the policy achieved its goals: the 1945 borders are stable and ethnic conflicts are relatively marginal.

[edit] Retribution

One justification offered for the expulsions is that the actual purpose of the policy was to punish the Germans for Germany's actions during World War II, including its expulsion of Poles and Czechs from territories annexed to Nazi Germany; and at the same time to create ethnically homogeneous nation states that would not give rise to the kind of ethnic tensions that had preceded the war.

From this perspective, the expulsions were viewed as an act of historical justice, because, for example, some Sudeten Germans strongly contributed to the destruction of pre-war Czechoslovakia. The Czech public opinion saw this act as betrayal. The Nazi occupation forces had planned to kill, deport, or enslave the Russian and other Slavic populations, whom they considered inferior (Untermensch), and to repopulate the land with German peoples. The entire urban population was to be exterminated by starvation, thus creating an agricultural surplus to feed Germany and allowing their replacement by a German upper class.

Also, there was little empathy for German victims after the World War II experience, especially since the German government had itself ethnically cleansed a large number of areas (e.g. Reichsgau Wartheland) during the war.

[edit] Invalidating German territorial claims

According to one argument, the purpose of expelling Germans from areas now belonging to other countries was to invalidate German territorial claims to the land. The purported objective was to prevent a repetition of what happened in the Sudetenland where the Nazis based territorial claims based upon the large number of ethnic Germans living there.

[edit] Making room for Polish returnees

Even before former German territories were captured by the Red Army, around 2 million Poles from eastern Poland (behind the Curzon line) were expelled by the Soviets to western Poland or deported to gulag camps in Siberia. Additionally, an estimated 800,000 people from Warsaw were deported by the Germans to special work camps. After the end of the war, these people returned and needed housing in a country devastated by war. According to this line of reasoning, Germans were expelled to make housing available for the returnees.

[edit] Making the future Polish state dependent on the Soviet Union

Never stated as the official reason, some believe that one of the Soviet motivations for the expulsions was to make the Polish state more dependent on the Soviet Union protection against potential future German demands.

[edit] Material gains from the German property left behind by the expellees

Polish communist administration often purposefully did not inform the Germans intended for deportation about their scheduled transport time until 24 hours before the departure. It has been alleged that the reason for this was to make it more difficult for the Germans to organize the transport of their property.[12]

[edit] A restoration of pre-Nazi Eastern European demographics

Further information: Generalplan Ost

Part of Nazi Germany's long term policy for Central and Eastern Europe was to create a "Greater Germany" which was to be built by means of removing a variety of non-Germans from Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and other areas in Eastern Europe. Some Germans living in these areas were placed there as part of the Nazi settlement policies (particularly in Eastern Poland), and had replaced those who were removed or killed by the Nazis during the occupation. However, many Germans had lived in Eastern Europe for centuries and the ones settled during the war were in fact a minority which mainly consisted of those who were forced to leave the territories occupied by the Red Army in the course of the execution of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

During the war, Germans succeeded in expelling about a million of Poles from the Reich territory. In many instances, the Poles were given 10 minutes notice and each adult was allowed to collect up to 30kg of belongings in that time, before they were thrown out of their houses and transported east.[citation needed] On top of that about 3 million Poles were deported to Germany for forced labor in German factories and 5 million in German concentration camps. Further 6 million Polish citizens were killed during the war. All these actions resulted in significant changes in demographics at the end of the war.

[edit] The results

During the period of 1944/1945 - 1950, more than 14 million Germans were forced to flee or were expelled as a result of actions of the Red Army, civilian militia and/or organised efforts of governments of the reconstituted states of Eastern Europe.

The areas, from which the Germans escaped, or which were ethnically cleansed, were subsequently re-populated by nationals of the states to which they now belonged, many of whom were expellees themselves from lands further east.

In the first few decades after the end of the war, estimates of deaths associated with the expulsions were in the range of 2-3 million. Since the 1970s, however, some historians have suggested downward revisions to 500,000 to 1.1 million. However, many historians still support estimates of 2 million deaths.

[edit] Timing and causes of deaths

More importantly, these deaths are often reported as being "the result of the expulsions" but are arguably better characterized as "happening contemporaneously with the expulsions but not necessarily caused by the expulsions".

It is impossible to determine how many deaths happened "before the end of the war" vs. "after the end of the war" (i.e. before vs. after May 8, 1945). Any estimate of the number of deaths must be based on either a gross "population balance" methodology or the examination of actual death records. The "population balance" methodology relies on census data that was taken years before the end of the war and years after the end of the war and thus cannot provide this kind of "before and after" comparison. Many deaths went unrecorded and thus actual death records substantially underestimate the actual number of deaths. The difficulty is that no one can say by how much the actual death records understate the actual deaths. Thus, it will never be possible to determine with certainty how many deaths happened before the war ended and how many afterwards. This question is important because it affects how many deaths should be attributed to the evacuation, flight, pre-Potsdam "wild" expulsions and expulsions that occured after the Potsdam Agreement and were thus officially sanctioned by it.[citation needed]

It is also difficult, when using the "population balance" methodology to attribute the number of deaths to specific causes (e.g. wartime bombing, evacuation casualties, disease in refugee camps). For example, typhus epidemics continued to kill many Germans after they reached refugee camps inside the new borders of Germany.[citation needed]

[edit] Controversy over responsibility for the expulsions

There is considerable, contentious debate over how much blame for the deaths and suffering of the expelled Germans should be placed on the shoulders of the nations who expelled the Germans. Whether the actual death toll be 1 million or 2 million, it is clear that the blame must be shared among the Allied Powers who made the decision to authorize the population transfers, the Soviet Union which had effective control over the countries involved, the national governments that put the expulsions into motion, and also the paramilitary organizations and local civilians who took advantage of the opportunity to rob, rape, torture and murder the expellees as they transited out of their homelands. However, different perspectives place the primary blame upon different parties.

A natural assumption would put the blame on the people and governments of the countries that sanctioned the expulsions. However, a countervailing perspective argues that there were only two forces orchestrating the new order after the Second World War: the United States and the Soviet Union. Thus, this perspective argues that the responsibility for all the expulsions (Germans, Poles, Ukrainians etc) rests on those two allies and that the countries that the policies were implemented in had no say in this. Other perspectives suggest that, while these two countries may have planned, sanctioned and even facilitated the expulsions, some responsibility must be charged to the national and local authorities in the countries where the expulsions took place.

In particular, much blame is placed on the Soviet regime at the time (in particular Josef Stalin) for its program of ethnic cleansing of the German people from the Soviet Union and Soviet-occupied Eastern Europe. Many of the deaths were caused by death marches ordered by Soviet officials, banditry, famine, widespread disease and overall poor living conditions that prevailed in that part of postwar Europe.

Yet another perspective argues that the expulsions were not driven primarily by ethnic hatred against the ethnic Germans. Instead, it is argued that blame must be shared by the Nazi occupation and the ethnic Germans who supported the occupying forces Nazi regime because of the harsh and oppressive way that they treated the non-Germans in the occupied nations. This perspective argues that the expulsions were motivated by an animus engendered by the war crimes, atrocities and oppressive rule of the German occupation.[13]

[edit] Legacy of the expulsions

During the Cold War era, there was little public knowledge of the expulsions and thus scant discussion over the morality of the policy. Perhaps the primary reason for this is that Cold War geopolitics discouraged criticism of post-war Allied policies by the West Germans and of post-war Soviet policies by the East Germans. There was some discussion of the expulsions in the first decade and a half after World War II but serious review and analysis of the events was not undertaken until the 1990s. The fall of the Soviet Union, the spirit of glasnost and the unification of Germany opened the door to a renewed examination of these events.

[edit] Re-examination of the expulsions in the 1990s

In the early 1990s, the Cold War ended and the occupying powers withdrew from Germany. The issue of the treatment of Germans after World War II began to be re-examined, having previously been overshadowed by Nazi Germany's war crimes. The primary motivation for this change was the collapse of the Soviet Union, which allowed for issues previously marginalised, such as the crimes committed by the Soviet Army during the World War II, to be raised.

[edit] Legality of the expulsions

Further information: Population transfer#Changing status in international law

From the standpoint of international law, the expulsions weren't considered illegal when they were carried out but over the ensuing decades, international law has changed to the point where such a transfer would be today considered a violation of human rights.

The view of international law on population transfer underwent considerable evolution during the 20th century. Prior to World War II, a number of major population transfers were the result of bilateral treaties and had the support of international bodies such as the League of Nations. Thus, the expulsions sanctioned by the Potsdam Agreement can be seen to have been considered not only legal but desirable from perspective of the victorious Allies at the end of World War II.

The tide started to turn when the Charter of the Nuremberg Trials of German Nazi leaders declared forced deportation of civilian populations to be both a war crime and a crime against humanity, and this opinion was progressively adopted and extended through the remainder of the century. Underlying the change was the trend to assign rights to individuals, thereby limiting the rights of states to make agreements which adversely affect them.

There is now little debate about the general legal status of involuntary population transfers: Where population transfers used to be accepted as a means to settle ethnic conflict, today, forced population transfers are considered violations of international law. (Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, Spring 2001, p116). No legal distinction is made between one-way and two-transfers, since the rights of each individual are regarded as independent of the experience of others.

For these reasons, there are historians who argue that the expulsions should now be considered as episodes of ethnic cleansing, and thus a violation of human rights.[citation needed]}

Timothy V. Waters argues in "On the Legal Construction of Ethnic Cleansing" that if similar circumstances arise in the future, the precedent of the expulsions of the Germans without legal redress would also allow the future ethnic cleansing of other populations under international law.[14]

There are some historians such as Alfred de Zayas who argue that the expulsions were war crimes and crimes against humanity even in the context of international law of the time.

de Zayas writes

"the only applicable principles were the Hague Conventions, in particular, the Hague Regulations, ARTICLES 42-56, which limited the rights of occupying powers -- and obviously occupying powers have no rights to expel the populations -- so there was the clear violation of the Hague Regulations"
"And, obviously, if you want to apply the Nuremberg Principles to the German Expulsions, considering that the London Agreement was supposed to reflect, and not to create international law, so if that was applicable to the German crimes against the Poles with regard to deportation of Poles, and deportation of French for purposes of "Lebensraum," certainly it was applicable to the expulsions by the Poles of Germans and by the Czechs of Germans. So, if you apply these Nuremberg principles and the Nuremberg judgement, you would have to arrive at the conclusion that the Expulsion of the Germans clearly constituted war crimes and crimes against humanity."


[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Rocznik Polsko-Niemiecki Tom I "Mniejszość niemiecka w Polsce w polityce wewnętrznej w Polsce i w RFN oraz w stosunkach między obydwu państwami" Piotr Madajczyk Warszawa 1992
  2. ^ The Expulsion of 'German' Communities from Eastern Europe at the end of the Second World War, Steffen Prauser and Arfon Rees, European University Institute, Florense. HEC No. 2004/1. pg. 18.
  3. ^ Československo-sovětské vztahy v diplomatických jednáních 1939-1945. Dokumenty. Díl 2 (červenec 1943 – březen 1945). Praha. 1999. (ISBN 808547557X)
  4. ^ Biman, S. - Cílek, R.: Poslední mrtví, první živí. Ústí nad Labem 1989. (ISBN 807047002X)
  5. ^ P. WALLACE/BERLIN "Putting The Past To Rest", Time Magazine Monday, Mar. 11, 2002
  6. ^ P. WALLACE/BERLIN "Putting The Past To Rest", Time Magazine Monday, Mar. 11, 2002
  7. ^ Z. Beneš, Rozumět dějinám. (ISBN 80-86010-60-0)
  8. ^ Jankowiak, p. 35
  9. ^ Naimark, Russian in Germany. p. 75 reference 31
  10. ^ Naimark, Russian in Germany. p. 76 reference 34
  11. ^ "Polacy - wysiedleni, wypędzeni i wyrugowani przez III Rzeszę", Maria Wardzyńska, Warsaw 2004". Created on order of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, the organization called Selbstschutz cooperated in executions during „Intelligenzaktion”, made alongside operational groups of security policy, by identifying local Poles and interning them
  12. ^ Jankowiak, p. 135
  13. ^ Zybura, p. 202
  14. ^ Timothy V. Waters, On the Legal Construction of Ethnic Cleansing, Paper 951, 2006, University of Mississippi School of Law. Retrieved on 2006, 12-13
  15. ^ http://www.meaus.com/expulsion-by-czechs-1945.htm THE EXPULSION: A crime against humanity, By Dr. Alfred de Zayas A transcript of part of a lecture on the Expulsion given in Pittsburgh in 1988.

[edit] References

[edit] Further reading

  • Giertych, Jedrzej. "Poland and Germany : a reply to congressman B. Carrol Reece of Tennessee" London : Jedrzej Giertych , 1958


  • "Documents on the Expulsion of the Germans from Eastern & Central Europe" compiled by an editorial board headed by Professor Theodor Schieder, of the University of Cologne. Published by the Federal Ministry for Expellees, Refugees, & War Victims, Bonn (Dates may indicate the year of the English translations rather than the original publication):
    • vol.1: "The Expulsion of the German Population from the Territories East of the Oder-Neisse Line" (1959).
    • vol.2/3:"The Expulsion of the German Population from Hungary and Rumania" (1961).
    • vol. 4: "The Expulsion of the German Population from Czechoslovakia" (1960)
  • "Speaking Frankly" by James F.Byrnes, New York & London, 1947.
  • "Nemesis at Potsdam - The Anglo-Americans & the Expulsion of the Germans", by Dr. Alfred M. de Zayas, Routledge, London, 1st published 1977, revised edition 1979. 3 editions University of Nebraska Press, 2 editions Picton Press, Rockport Maine, newest edition 2003.
  • Germany and Eastern Europe since 1945" - Keesing's Research Report, New York, 1973.
  • Four-Power Control in Germany and Austria 1945-1946" by Michael Balfour and John Mair for the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Oxford University Press, 1956.
  • "In Darkest Germany" by Victor Gollancz, London, 1947.
  • "Thine Enemy" by Sir Philip Gibbs, London, 1946.
  • "The Home Front:Germany" by Charles Whiting, Time-Life Books, Virginia, 1982.ISBN 0-8094-3419-9.
  • "The Aftermath:Europe" by Douglas Botting, Time-Life Books, Virginia, 1983.ISBN 0-8094-3411-3
  • "Hour of the Women" by Count Christian von Krockow, Stuttgart,1988, New York, 1991, London, 1992. ISBN 0-571-14320-2,
  • "Crimes and Mercies - The Fate of German Civilians under Allied Occupation 1944 - 1950" by James Bacque, London, 1997. ISBN 0-316-64070-0.
  • "Memoirs - 1945:Year of Decisions" by Harry S.Truman, 1st pub.,by Time Inc.,1955, reprint New York 1995. ISBN 0-8317-1578-2.
  • "Memoirs - 1946-52:Years of Trial & Hope" by Harry S.Truman, 1st pub.,by Time Inc.,1955, reprint New York 1996. ISBN 0-8317-7319-7.
  • A Terrible Revenge: The Ethnic Cleansing of the East European Germans, 1944-1950 - Alfred-Maurice de Zayas - 1994 - ISBN 0-312-12159-8. New Revised edition with Palgrave/Macmillan, New York 2006, ISBN 13: 978-1-4039-7308-5, ISBN-10: 1-4039-7308-3
  • "Armia Czerwona na Pomorzu Gdańskim 1945-1947" by Grzegorz Baziur, IPN, Warszawa 2003, ISBN 83-89078-19-8
  • "Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth Century Europe" Edited by Steven Bela Vardy and T. Hunt Tooley, ISBN 0-88033-995-0 (This volume is the result of the conference on Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth Century Europe held at Duquesne University in November 2000.)
  • Flucht und Vertreibung. Europa zwischen 1939 u. 1948 , bearbeitet v. A. Surminski (2004);
  • Naimark, Norman : Flammender Hass. Ethnische Säuberungen im 20. Jahrhundert (2004);
  • Nuscheler, F.: Internationale Migration. Flucht u. Asyl (2004).

[edit] External links