Expulsions of Germans after World War II

Flight and expulsion of Germans during and after World War II
(demographic estimates)
Wartime flight and evacuation
Post-war flight and expulsion
Later emigration

The later stages of World War II, and the period after the end of that war, saw the forced migration of millions of German nationals (Reichsdeutsche) regardless of ethnicity, and ethnic Germans (Volksdeutsche) regardless of which citizenship, from various European states and territories, mostly into the areas which would become post-war Germany and post-war Austria. These areas of expulsion included pre-war German provinces which were transferred to Poland and the Soviet Union after the war, as well as areas which Nazi Germany had annexed or occupied in pre-war Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, northern Yugoslavia and other states of Central and Eastern Europe.

During World War II, the Allies decided to deport the German minorities from east-central Europe after the defeat of Nazi Germany, which was responsible for the brutal occupation of Poland and the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. Nazi Germany planned the eventual deportation or extermination of 45 million "non-Germanizable" people from Central and Eastern Europe to make room for the resettlement of Germans. Some ethnic Germans were implicated in Nazi war crimes. The expulsions were part of the geopolitical and ethnic reconfiguration of postwar Europe; the Allies wanted to create ethnically homogeneous states in East-Central Europe because the German minorities were perceived as potentially destabilizing and to recompense for atrocities and ethnic cleansings that had occurred during the war.

During the final months of the war many German civilians fled with the retreating German forces or were deported to the Soviet Union for forced labor. The expulsions of the remaining Germans were carried out by the Soviet backed post war governments in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Ethnic Germans were not expelled from Romania and in Yugoslavia most emigrated to West Germany. By 1950 a total of at least 12 million Germans had fled or were expelled from east-central Europe, some sources put the total at 14 million if one counts emigrants to Germany after 1950 and the children born to the expellees. This was the largest movement or transfer of any population in modern European history. The largest numbers came from the former eastern territories of Germany acquired by Poland and the Soviet Union (about 7 million) and from Czechoslovakia (about 3 million). It was also the largest among all the post-war expulsions in Central and Eastern Europe, which displaced more than 20 million people in total. The events have been variously described as population transfer, ethnic cleansing or genocide.

The death toll attributable to the flight and expulsions is disputed, with estimates ranging from at least 500,000 confirmed deaths up to a demographic estimate from the 1950s of 2.2 million. More recent estimates by some German historians put the total at 473,000 attested deaths, they maintain the unconfirmed reports of 1.9 million missing persons are unreliable. The German Historical Museum puts the figure at 600,000 victims, they maintain the figure of 2 million deaths in the previous government studies cannot be supported. However, the position of the German government, the German Federal Agency for Civic Education and the German Red Cross is that the death toll in the expulsions is between 2.0 to 2.5 million civilians.

The displacements occurred in three somewhat overlapping phases, the first of which was the spontaneous flight and evacuation of Germans in the face of the advancing Red Army, from mid-1944 to early 1945.[1] The second phase was the disorganized expulsion of Germans immediately following the Wehrmacht's defeat.[1] The third phase was a more organized expulsion following the Allied leaders' Potsdam Agreement,[1] which redefined the Central European borders and approved orderly expulsions of Germans from Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.[2] Many German civilians were also sent to internment and labor camps.[3] The major expulsions were complete in 1950.[1] Estimates for the total number persons of German ancestry still living in Eastern Europe in 1950 range from 700,000 to 2.7 million.



Before World War II, East-Central Europe generally lacked clearly shaped ethnic settlement areas. Rather, outside of some ethnic majority areas, there were vast mixed areas and abundant smaller pockets settled by various ethnicities. Within these areas of diversity, including the major cities of Central and Eastern Europe, regular interaction between various ethnic groups had taken place on a daily basis for as long as centuries, while not always harmoniously, on every civic and economic level.[4]

With the rise of nationalism in the 19th century, the ethnicity of citizens became an issue[4] in territorial claims, the self-perception/identity of states, and claims of ethnic superiority. The German Empire introduced the idea of ethnicity-based settlement in an attempt to ensure its territorial integrity, and was also the first modern European state to propose population transfers as a means of solving "nationality conflicts", intending the removal of Poles and Jews from the projected post–World War I "Polish Border Strip" and its resettlement with ethnic Gentile Germans.[5]

The Treaty of Versailles resulted in the creation or recreation of multiple nation-states across Central and Eastern Europe. Before World War I, these had been incorporated in the Austrian, Russian and German empires. Although the latter two arose and were named on the basis of their respective ethnic majorities, none of them were ethnically homogeneous. Ethnic Germans became minorities in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Romania after 1919. The German minorities no longer enjoyed the privileged status that they had in Austria-Hungary and German Empire and many ethnic Germans choose to emigrate to Germany or Austria. With the rise of the Hitler dictatorship in Germany the German minorities were encouraged to demand local autonomy. In Germany during the 1930s Nazi propaganda claimed that Germans were subject to persecution and local Nazi supporters in Czechoslovakia and Poland formed local Nazi political parties sponsored by Germany.

Germans expelled non-Germans from Sudetenland. Germans murdered Jews and educated Poles in September 1939, Poles murdered a number of German minority activists and people accused of terrorism. During the World War II German occupation of Central and Eastern Europe under Nazism, many citizens of German descent in Poland registered with the Deutsche Volksliste. Some held important positions in the hierarchy of the Nazi administration, some participated in Nazi atrocities, causing resentment towards German-speakers in general, which would later be used by the Allied politicians as one of the justifications for their expulsion.[6] The position of the German government is that the Nazi era war crimes led to the expulsion of the Germans, they also maintain that the deaths due to the expulsions were an injustice.[7]

The expulsions policy was part of the geopolitical and ethnic reconfiguration of postwar Europe, and in part retribution for Nazi Germany's initiation of the war and subsequent atrocities and ethnic cleansings in Nazi-occupied Europe.[8][9] The Allied leaders, Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States, Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom and Joseph Stalin of the USSR, had agreed in general before the end of the war that Poland's territory would be shifted west (though how far was not specified) and the remaining German population expelled, and assured the leaders of the emigre governments of Poland and Czechoslovakia, both occupied by Nazi Germany, accordingly.[10][11][12][13]

Movements in the later stages of the war

Evacuation and flight to areas within Germany

Late in the war, as the Red Army advanced westward, many Germans were apprehensive regarding the impending Soviet occupation.[14][15] Most were aware of the Soviet reprisals against German civilians.[15] Soviet soldiers committed numerous rapes and other crimes.[14][15][16] News of atrocities like the Nemmersdorf massacre[14][15] was in part exaggerated and widely spread by the Nazi propaganda machine.

Plans to evacuate the ethnic German population westwards into Germany proper, from Eastern Europe and the eastern territories of Germany, were prepared by various Nazi authorities towards the end of the war. In most cases, however, implementation was delayed until Soviet and Allied forces had defeated the German forces and advanced into the areas to be evacuated. The responsibility for leaving millions of ethnic Germans in these vulnerable areas until combat conditions overwhelmed them can be attributed directly to the measures taken by the Nazis against anyone even suspected of 'defeatist' attitudes (as evacuation was considered) and the fanaticism of many Nazi functionaries in their execution of Hitler's 'no retreat' orders.[14][16][17]

The first mass exodus of German civilians from the eastern territories was composed of both spontaneous flight and organised evacuation, starting in the summer of 1944 and continuing through the early spring of 1945.[1] Conditions turned chaotic during the winter, when miles-long queues of refugees pushed their carts through the snow trying to stay ahead of the advancing Red Army.[15][18]

Between 6[19] and 8.35[20] million Germans fled or were evacuated from the areas east of the Oder-Neisse line before the Soviet Army took control of the region.[19] Refugee treks which came within reach of the advancing Soviets suffered high casualties when targeted by low-flying aircraft, and some were rolled over by tanks.[15] Many refugees tried to return home when the fighting ended. The German Federal Archive estimated 100-120,000 civilians(1% of the total population) were killed during the flight and evacuations.[21] Mobilized KdF liner Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk in January 1945 by a Soviet Navy submarine, killing about 9,000 civilians and military personnel escaping East Prussia. Before 1 June 1945, some 400,000 people crossed back over the Oder and Neisse rivers eastward, before Soviet and Polish communist authorities closed the river crossings; another 800,000 entered Silesia from Czechoslovakia.[22]

Evacuation and flight to Denmark

From the Baltic coast, many soldiers and civilians were evacuated by ship in the course of Operation Hannibal.[15][18] Between 23 January 1945 and 5 May 1945, up to 250,000 Germans primarily from East Prussia, Pomerania, and the Baltic states were evacuated to Nazi-occupied Denmark,[23][24] based on an order issued by Hitler on 4 February 1945.[25] Thus, when the war ended, the German refugee population in Denmark amounted to 5% of the total Danish population. The evacuation focused on women, the elderly and children - a third were under the age of fifteen.[24]

After the war, they were interned in several hundreds of camps throughout Denmark, the largest of which was the Oksbøl Refugee Camp with 37,000 inmates.[24] The camps were guarded by Danish military units.[24]

The situation eased after 60 Danish clergy spoke up in defence of the refugees in an open letter,[26] and Social Democrat Johannes Kjærbøl took over the administration of the refugees on 6 September 1945.[27] On 9 May 1945, the Red Army occupied the island of Bornholm; between 9 May and 1 June 1945 the Soviets shipped some 3,000 refugees and 17,000 Wehrmacht soldiers from there to Kolberg.[28]

In 1945, 13,492 German refugees died, among them some 7,000 children[24] under five years of age.[29] According to Danish physician and historian Kirsten Lylloff, these deaths were partially due to denial of medical care by Danish medical staff, both the Danish Association of Doctors and the Danish Red Cross refusing medical treatment of the refugees starting in March 1945.[24]

The last refugees left Denmark on 15 February 1949.[30] In the Treaty of London, signed 26 February 1953, West Germany and Denmark agreed on compensation payments of 160 million Danish Crowns, which West Germany paid between 1953 and 1958.[31]

Expulsions following Germany's defeat

The Second World War ended in Europe with Germany's defeat in May 1945. By this time, all of Eastern and much of Central Europe was under Soviet occupation. This included most of the historical German settlement areas, as well as the Soviet occupation zone in eastern Germany. The Allies settled on the terms of occupation, the territorial truncation of Germany, and the expulsion of ethnic Germans from post-war Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary to the Allied Occupation Zones in the Potsdam Agreement,[32][33] drafted during the Potsdam Conference between 17 July and 2 August 1945. Article XII of the agreement is concerned with the expulsions and reads:

The Three Governments, having considered the question in all its aspects, recognize that the transfer to Germany of German populations, or elements thereof, remaining in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, will have to be undertaken. They agree that any transfers that take place should be effected in an orderly and humane manner.[34]

The agreement further called for equal distribution of the transferred Germans between American, British, French and Soviet occupation zones comprising post–World War II Germany.[35]

Expulsions that took place before the Allies agreed on the actual terms at Potsdam are referred to as "wild" expulsions (German: Wilde Vertreibungen). They were conducted by military and civilian authorities in Soviet-occupied post-war Poland and Czechoslovakia during the spring and summer of 1945.[33][36] In Yugoslavia, the fate of the remaining Germans was anything but "humane", ethnic German villages were turned into internment camps where 50,000 perished.[35][37] The Potsdam Declaration requested that those countries temporarily stop expulsions due to the refugee problems created by the expulsion of Germans before the Potsdam meeting.[33] While expulsions from Czechoslovakia were temporarily slowed down, this was not true for Poland and the former eastern territories of Germany.[35] Sir Geoffrey Harrison, one of the drafters of the cited Potsdam article, stated that the "purpose of this article was not to encourage or legalize the expulsions, but rather to provide a basis for approaching the expelling states and requesting them to co-ordinate transfers with the Occupying Powers in Germany."[38]

After Potsdam, a series of expulsions of ethnic Germans occurred throughout the Soviet-controlled Eastern European countries.[39][40] Property and materiel in the affected territory that had belonged to Germany or to Germans was confiscated and either transferred to the Soviet Union, nationalised, or redistributed among the citizens. Of the many post-war forced migrations, the largest was the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Central and Eastern Europe, primarily from the territory of 1937 Czechoslovakia (which included the historically German-speaking area in the Sudeten mountains along the German-Czech-Polish border (Sudetenland)), and the territory that became post-war Poland. Poland's post-war borders were shifted west to the Oder-Neisse line, deep into former German territory to within 50 miles of Berlin.[33]

Expulsions and resettlements of other ethnicities took place contemporaneously with the expulsion of the Germans. During and after the war 2,208,000 Poles fled or were expelled from the eastern Polish regions that were annexed by the USSR, 1,652,000 of these refugees were resettled in the former German territories that were awarded to Poland after the war. An additional 249,000 Poles were allowed to leave the USSR from 1955 to 1959, leaving 1,132,000 persons declaring Polish nationality remaining in the USSR in 1959.[41] Poland also expelled to the USSR 518,000 of the 700,000 ethnic Ukrainians and Belarusians living in Poland, resettling the remaining 150,000 to the former German territories during Operation Vistula.[42] Most of the Italians were expelled from post war Yugoslavia[43] In Czechoslovakia, not only were Sudeten Germans expelled, but also the Hungarian minority in Slovakia.[40]


In the 1930 census the German-speaking population of Czechoslovakia was 3,231,688, 22.3% of the total population.[44][45] The Polish demographer Piotr Eberhardt maintains that the figure for the German-speaking population in Czechoslovakia included 75,000 Jews in 1930.[46] The West German Statistisches Bundesamt put the 1939 German population in Czechoslovakia at 3,477,000.(this figure is detailed in a schedule below). Sources in English dealing with the expulsions put the number of Germans in Czechoslovakia at about 3.5 million persons based on this West German analysis.[47][48] According to the Polish demographer Piotr Eberhardt the figure for the ethnic German population in the Sudetenland based on the May 1939 census is disputed by "Czech authors" who maintain that the German figures included 300,000 persons of Czech ethnicity in the Sudeten German population.[49]

Total German population in Czechoslovakia 1939
According to West German Statistisches Bundesamt[50]
Description Total Ethnic Germans Others
Sudeten Germans 3,037,361 3,037,361 -
Jews 2,035 2,035 -
Czechs 193,786 - 193,786
Other ethnic groups 3,670 - 3,670
Foreign nationals 39,747 11,754 27,993
Stateless 3,415 2,454 961
Undetermined citizenship 128,435 10,811 117,624
Sudetenland German census of May 1939 3,408,449 3,064,415 344,034
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (ration cards) - 259,000 -
German population in Slovakia - 154,000 -
Total German population in Czechoslovakia 1939 - 3,477,000 -

Source: Die deutschen Vertreibungsverluste. Bevölkerungsbilanzen für die deutschen Vertreibungsgebiete 1939/50, Statistisches Bundesamt, Wiesbaden (ed.), Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1958, pp. 322–339


A. The figures for Sudetenland include a non resident population of 27,283 Sudeten Germans who were in military or labor service.
B. The Statistisches Bundesamt estimated the total ethnic Czech population in the Sudetenland at 319,000 persons by including those with undetermined or undeclared citizenship in the census as Czechs.
C. The number of Jews from Sudetenland in the May 1939 census who were foreign nationals, stateless or of undetermined citizenship was not given in the Statistisches Bundesamt report. A separate breakout of Jews in the Sudetenland was published in the Statistisches Jahrbuch Für Das Deutsche Reich 1941/42 which gives a total figure of 2,363 Jews; there were an additional 3,579 persons who were of half or quarter Jewish ancestry. These figures encompass about 85% of the population in the annexed territory of the Sudetenland and do not include Bohemia-Moravia and Slovakia.[51]
D. The estimated May 1939 German population of 259,000 in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia is based on 1 October 1940 ration cards of the German occupation regime. The Statistisches Bundesamt maintains that the figure of 259,000 is only the pre-war resident German population, not including persons resettled during the occupation.
E. The German population in Slovakia of 154,000 is based on the 1940 Slovak census that put the number of Germans at 130,192 and 23,000 Germans in the Slovak territory annexed by Hungary estimated in 1941 by the German occupation regime in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
F. These figures do not include ethnic Germans in the Czech portion of Cieszyn Silesia which is included with Poland by Statistisches Bundesamt.

The estimated German population of 3,477,000 persons based on the May 1939 census and the Bohemia and Moravia wartime ration cards was used by the Statistisches Bundesamt when they estimated expulsion losses of 273,000 civilians in Czechoslovakia.[52] The German historians Hans Henning Hahn and Eva Hahnova pointed out that the Statistisches Bundesamt report for Czechoslovakia was the work of Alfred Bohmann an ex-Nazi party member who had served in the wartime SS, Bohmann was a journalist for an ultra-nationalist Sudeten-Deutsch newspaper in post war West Germany.[53] The Statistisches Bundesamt estimate for the expulsion death toll of 273,000 civilians is often cited in historical literature.[54] Recent research by a joint German and Czech commission of historians in 1995 found that the previous demographic estimates of 220,000 to 270,000 deaths to be overstated and based on faulty information, they concluded that the actual death toll was at least 15,000 persons and that it could range up to a maximum of 30,000 dead if one assumes that some deaths were not reported.[55][56][57][58][59] The German Church Search Service was able to confirm the deaths of 18,889 persons during the expulsions from Czechoslovakia. (Violent Deaths 5,556; Suicides 3,411; Deported 705; In Camps 6,615; During the wartime Flight 629; After wartime Flight 1,481; Cause undetermined 379; Other Misc. 73.)[60]

During the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, especially after the reprisals for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, most of the Czech resistance groups demanded that the "German problem" be solved by transfer/expulsion. These demands were adopted by the Government-in-Exile, which sought the support of the Allies for this proposal, beginning in 1943.[61] The final agreement for the transfer of the Germans was not reached until the Potsdam Conference.

According to the West German Schieder commission there were 4.5 million German civilians present in Bohemia-Moravia in May 1945, including 100,000 from Slovakia and 1.6 million refugeees from the fighting in Poland.[63]

It is estimated that between 700,000 and 800,000 Germans were affected by "wild" expulsions between May and August 1945.[64] The expulsions were encouraged by Czechoslovak politicians and were generally executed by the order of local authorities, mostly by groups of armed volunteers and the army.[65]

Transfer according to the Potsdam agreements proceeded from January to October 1946. 1.9 million ethnic Germans were expelled to the American zone of what would become West Germany. More than 1 million were expelled to the Soviet zone which later became East Germany.[66] About 250,000 ethnic Germans crucial for industry were allowed to remain in Czechoslovakia.[67] Male Germans with Czech wives were expelled, often with their spouses, while ethnic German women with Czech husbands were allowed to stay.[68] After 1948 skilled Sudeten Germans were forced to remain.[69]


In contrast to the expulsions from other states, the expulsion of the Germans from Hungary was dictated from outside the nation,[70] and began on 22 December 1944 when the Soviet Commander-in-Chief ordered the expulsions. Three percent of the German pre-war population (about 20,000 people) had been evacuated by the Volksbund before that. They went to Austria, but many of them returned home in the spring. Overall, some 60,000 ethnic Germans had fled.[39] According to the West German Schieder commission report of 1956, in the spring of 1945, between 30-35,000 ethnic German civilians and 30,000 military POW were arrested and transported from Hungary to the Soviet Union as forced laborers. In some villages, the entire adult population were taken to labor camps in the Donets Basin. 6,000 died there as a result of hardships and ill-treatment.[71] Data from the Russian archives which was based on an actual enumeration, put the number of ethnic Germans registered by the Soviets in Hungary at 50,292 civilians of whom 31,920 were deported to the USSR for reparations labor and that 9% (2,819) died[72] Balázs Apor has put the overall figure at between 100,000 and 170,000 Hungarian ethnic Germans as being transported to the Soviet Union.[73]

In 1945, official Hungarian figures showed 477,000 German speakers in Hungary, including a remarkable number of Jews of German mother tongue, 303,000 of whom had declared German nationality.[73] Of the German nationals, 33% were children younger than 12 or elderly people over 60; another 51% were women.[73]

On 29 December 1945, the postwar Hungarian Government, obeying the directions of the Potsdam Conference agreements, ordered the expulsion of everyone who had declared themselves German in the 1941 census, or had been a member of the Volksbund, the SS, or any other armed German organisation. Accordingly, mass expulsions began.[39] The rural population was affected more than the urban population or those ethnic Germans with needed skills, such as miners.[74][75] Germans married to Hungarians were not expelled, regardless of sex.[68] The first 5,788 expellees left from Budaörs (Wudersch) on 19 January 1946.[74] About 180,000 German-speaking Hungarian citizens were deprived of their citizenship and all possessions, and expelled to the Western zones of Germany.[76] Up to July 1948, a further 35,000 people were expelled to the Eastern zone of Germany.[76] Most of the expellees found new homes in the Southwest German province of Baden-Württemberg,[77] but many also in Bavaria and Hesse. Other research indicates that, between 1945 and 1950, 150,000 were expelled to western Germany, 103,000 to Austria, and none to eastern Germany.[67] During the expulsions, numerous organized protest demonstrations by the Hungarian population took place.[78]

Acquisition of land for distribution to Hungarian refugees and nationals was one of the main reasons for the expulsion of the ethnic Germans from Hungary,[75] and the botched organisation of the redistribution led to social tensions.[75]

By the end of the expulsions, an estimated 200,000 Germans remained in Hungary,[39] (Overy states 270,000[67]), but only 22,445 declared themselves German in the 1949 census.[75] An order of 15 June 1948 halted the expulsions, and a governmental decree of 25 March 1950 declared all expulsion orders void, allowing the expellees to return if they so wished.[75] After the fall of Communism, German victims of expulsion and Soviet forced labour were rehabilitated.[77] Post-Communist laws allowed expellees to be compensated, to return and to buy property.[79] There are no tensions in Hungarian-German relations regarding the expellee issue.[79]

In 1958 the West German government estimated based on a demographic analysis that by 1950 that 270,000 Germans remained in Hungary, 60,000 had been assimilated into the Hungarian population and that there were 57,000 "unresolved cases" that remained to be clarified.[80] The figure 57,000"unresolved cases" in Hungary is included in the total German expulsion dead of 2 million which is often cited in historical literature.[54]


Main article: Operation Black Tulip

After World War II, the Dutch government decided to expel the 25,000 German expatriates living in the Netherlands.[81] The Germans, even though they often had Dutch spouses and children, were called 'hostile subjects' (Dutch: vijandelijke onderdanen).[81] The operation began on 10 September 1946 in Amsterdam, when German expatriates and their families were arrested at their homes in the middle of the night and given one hour to pack 50 kg of luggage. They were allowed to take just 100 Guilders with them. The remainder of their possessions were seized by the state. They were taken to internment camps near the German border, the largest of which was Mariënbosch near Nijmegen. In all, about 3,691 Germans (less than 15 percent of the 25,000 German expatriates in the Netherlands) were expelled.

The Allied forces occupying the Western zone of Germany opposed this operation, fearing that other nations might follow suit. The Western zone was not in an economic condition to receive large numbers of expellees at that time. British troops retaliated by evicting 100,000 Dutch expatriates in Germany to the Netherlands.

The operation ceased in 1948. On 26 July 1951, the state of war between the Netherlands and Germany officially ended, and the German expatriates were no longer regarded as enemy aliens.

Poland, including former German territories

Throughout 1944 until May 1945, as the Red Army advanced through Eastern Europe and the provinces of eastern Germany some German civilians were killed in the fighting and others were subjected to revenge exacted on ethnic Germans and German nationals. The German Federal Archives estimated that overall about 1% (100,000) of the German civilian population east of Oder-Neisse perished prior to the surrender in May 1945.[21] While many had already fled ahead of the advancing Soviet Army, frightened by rumors of Soviet atrocities, which in some cases were exaggerated and exploited by Nazi Germany's propaganda,[82] millions still remained.[83] The Polish historians Witold Sienkiewicz and Grzegorz Hryciuk maintain that civilian deaths in the flight and evacuation were between 600,000 and 1.2 million. The main causes of death were cold, stress, and bombing.[84] A 2005 study by the Polish Academy of Sciences estimated that during the final months of the war, 4 to 5 million German civilians fled with the retreating German forces, and in mid-1945, 4.5 to 4.6 million Germans remained in the territories under Polish control. By 1950, 3,155,000 had been transported to Germany, 1,043,550 were naturalized as Polish citizens and 170,000 Germans still remained in Poland.[85]:455–60,466 According to the West German Schieder commission of 1953, 5,650,000 Germans remained in Poland in mid-1945, 3,500,000 had been expelled and 910,000 remained in Poland by 1950.[86] According to the West German Schieder commission of 1953, the civilian death toll was 2 million.[87] However in 1974, the German Federal Archives estimated the death toll at about 400,000.[88] (The controversy regarding the casualty figures is covered below in the section on casualties)

The Polish courier Jan Karski warned US President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943 of the possibility of Polish reprisals, describing them as "unavoidable" and "an encouragement for all the Germans in Poland to go west, to Germany proper, where they belong"[89] During the 1945 military campaign most of the male German population remaining east of the Oder-Neisse were considered potential combatants and held by Soviet military in detention camps subjected to verification by the NKVD. Members of Nazi party organizations and government officials were segregated and sent to the USSR as reparations for forced labor.[72]

During the 1945 military campaign in Poland the Soviet Union interned suspected Nazi party members and government officials in camps in the Soviet-occupied areas east of the Oder-Neisse line. Persons held in these short-lived camps east of the line were subsequently transferred to NKVD special camps in the Soviet occupation zone of Germany or for the Soviet Union for forced labor[90] In mid-1945, the eastern territories of pre-war Germany were turned over to the Soviet-controlled Polish military forces. Early expulsions were undertaken by the Polish communist military authorities[91] even before the Potsdam Conference placed them under temporary Polish administration pending the final Peace Treaty,[92] in an effort to ensure later territorial integration into an ethnically homogeneous Poland[93] as envisioned by the Polish communists: "We must expel all the Germans because countries are built on national lines and not on multinational ones".[94][95] Germans were defined as either Reichsdeutsche, people enlisted in first or second Volksliste groups, or those who held German citizenship. About 1.1 million[96] German citizens of Slavic descent were "verified" as "autochthonous" Poles.[97] Of these, most were not expelled; 894,000 chose to emigrate to Germany from 1951 to 1982,[98] including most of the Masurians of East Prussia.[99]

At the Potsdam Conference (17 July - 2 August 1945) the territory to the east of the Oder-Neisse line was assigned to Polish and Soviet Union administration pending the Final Peace Treaty. All Germans had their property confiscated and were placed under restrictive jurisdiction.[97][100] The Silesian voivode Aleksander Zawadzki in part expropriated the property of the German Silesians already on 26 January 1945, another decree of 2 March expropriated that of all Germans east of the Oder and Neisse, and a subsequent decree of 6 May declared all "abandoned" property as belonging to the Polish state.[101] Additionally, Germans were not permitted to own Polish currency, the only legal currency since July, other than earnings from work assigned to them.[102] The remaining population was de facto deprived of all civil rights, and faced theft and looting and also in some instances rape and murder by the Polish Communist controlled Milicja Obywatelska, in addition to similar acts by criminal gangs that were neither prevented nor prosecuted by the Polish militia and judiciary.[103]

In mid-1945, 4.5 to 4.6 million Germans were on Polish territory. By the beginning of 1946, 550,000 Germans had already been expelled from Poland and 932,000 had been verified as having Polish nationality. In the February 1946 census, 2,288,000 persons were classified as Germans and subject to expulsion and 417,400 were subject to verification action, aiming at the establishment of nationality.[85]:312,452–66 The negatively verified persons, who did not succeed in demonstrating their "Polish nationality", were directed for resettlement.[41] Those persons who had collaborated with the Nazi occupiers, were considered "traitors of the nation" and sentenced to forced labor prior to being expelled.[21] By 1950, 3,155,000 German civilians had been expelled and 1,043,550 were naturalized as Polish citizens. 170,000[41] Germans considered "indispensable" for the Polish economy were retained until the early 1950s,[100] though virtually almost all had left by 1960.[99] Some 200,000 Germans in Poland were employed as forced labor in communist-administered camps prior to being expelled from Poland[85]:312 These included Central Labour Camp Jaworzno, Central Labour Camp Potulice, Łambinowice and Zgoda labour camp. Besides these large camps, numerous other forced labor, punitive and internment camps, urban ghettos and detention centres, sometimes consisting only of a small cellar, were set up.[100] The German Federal Archives estimated in 1974 that more than 200,000 German civilians were interned in Polish camps, they put the death rate at 20-50% and estimated that more than likely over 60,000 persons perished.[104] The Polish historians Witold Sienkiewicz and Grzegorz Hryciuk maintain that the internment "resulted in numerous deaths, which cannot be accurately determined because of lack of statistics or falsification . Periodically, they could be 10% of inmates. Those interned are estimated at 200-250,000 Germans and the local population, and deaths might range from 15,000 to 60,000 persons." [105] Since the collapse of the communist system in Poland the former camp commanders Salomon Morel (d. 2007) and Czesław Gęborski (d. 2006) have been charged by Polish authorities for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Federal Statistical Office of Germany estimated that in mid-1945, 250,000 Germans remained in the former northern East Prussia which became the Kaliningrad Oblast. They also estimated that more than 100,000 persons surviving the Soviet occupation were evacuated to Germany beginning in 1947.[106]

German civilians were also held as "reparations labor" by the USSR. Data from the Russian archives published in 2001, based on an actual enumeration, put the number of German civilians deported from Poland to the USSR in early 1945 for reparations labor at 155,262 where 37% (57,586) died.[72] However, the West German Red Cross estimated in 1964 that 233,000 German civilians were deported to the USSR from Poland as forced laborers where 45% (105,000) were dead or missing.[107] The West German Red Cross also estimated 110,000 German civilians were held as forced labor in Kaliningrad Oblast, where 50,000 were dead or missing.[107] The Soviets also deported from Poland 7,448 Poles of the Armia Krajowa, Soviet records indicated 506 of the Poles died in captivity.[72] Tomasz Kamusella maintains that in early 1945 165,000 Germans were transported to the Soviet Union.[108] According to Gerhardt Reichling, 520,000 German civilians from the Oder-Neisse region were conscripted for forced labor by both the USSR and Poland, he maintains that 206,000 perished.[109]

The attitude of the surviving Polish civilians, many of whom had experienced brutalities and atrocities only surpassed by the German policies against Jews of all nationalities during the Nazi occupation, combined with the fact that the Germans had recently expelled more than a million Poles from territories they annexed during the war, was ambiguous.[15] Some engaged in looting and various crimes, including murders, beatings and rapes, against Germans.[15] On the other hand, in many instances Poles, including some who had been made slave labourers by the Germans during the war, protected Germans, for instance by disguising them as Poles.[15] Moreover, in the Opole (Oppeln) region of Upper Silesia, citizens who claimed Polish ethnicity were allowed to remain. In fact, some (though not all) had uncertain nationality or actually considered themselves to be Germans. Their status as a national minority was accepted in 1955, along with state subsidies, with regard to economic assistance and education.[110] The attitude of Soviet soldiers was also ambiguous. Many committed atrocities, most notably rape and murder,[16] and did not always distinguish between Poles and Germans, mistreating them equally.[111] Yet some other Soviets were taken aback by the brutal treatment of the German civilians and tried to protect them.[112]

Richard Overy cites an approximate total of 7.5 million evacuated, migrated, or expelled Germans from Poland between 1944 and 1950.[113]

Tomasz Kamusella cites estimates of 7 million expelled during both the "wild" and "legal" expulsions from the recovered territories from 1945 to 1948, plus an additional 700,000 from areas of pre-war Poland.[100]


Main article: Deportation of Germans from Romania after World War II

The ethnic German population of Romania in 1939 was estimated at 786,000.[114][115] In 1940 Bessarabia and Bukovina were occupied by the U.S.S.R. and the ethnic German population of 200,000 was deported to German held territory during the Nazi–Soviet population transfers. Included with those deported to German held territory were 140,000 persons who were resettled in German occupied Poland, in 1945 they were caught up in the flight and expulsion from Poland.[116] Most of the ethnic Germans in Romania resided in Transylvania, the northern part of which was annexed by Hungary during World War II. The pro-German Hungarian government, as well as the pro-German Romanian Government of Ion Antonescu allowed Germany to enlist the German population in Nazi sponsored organizations. During the war 54,000 of the male population was conscripted by Nazi Germany, many into the Waffen SS[117] In the summer of 1944 roughly 100,000 Germans fled from Romania with the retreating German forces.[118] According to the West German Schieder commission report of 1957, 75,000 German civilians were deported to the USSR as forced labor and that 15%(10,000) did not return.[119] Data from the Russian archives which was based on an actual enumeration, put the number of ethnic Germans registered by the Soviets in Romania at 421,846 civilians of whom 67,332 were deported to the USSR for reparations labor and that 9% (6,260) died[72]

The roughly 400,000 ethnic Germans who remained in Romania were treated as guilty of collaboration with Nazi Germany and were deprived of their civil liberties and property, many were impressed into forced labor and deported from their homes to other regions of Romania. In 1948 Romania began a gradual rehabilitation of the ethnic Germans, they were not expelled and the communist regime gave them status of a national minority, the only country east bloc to do so.[120] In 1958 the West German government estimated based on a demographic analysis that by 1950; 253,000 were counted as expellees in Germany or the west; 400,000 Germans still remained in Romania; 32,000 had been assimilated into the Romanian population; and that there were 101,000 "unresolved cases" that remained to be clarified.[121] The figure 101,000"unresolved cases" in Romania is included in the total German expulsion dead of 2 million which is often cited in historical literature.[54] In Romania there were still 355,000 Germans in 1977. During the 1980s many started to leave the country, with over 160,000 leaving in 1989 alone. By 2002, the number of ethnic Germans was 60,000 citizens.[39][67]

Soviet Union and annexed territories

The Baltic, Bessarabian and ethnic Germans in areas that became Soviet-controlled following the partition of eastern Europe by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 were resettled to the Third Reich, including annexed areas like Warthegau, during the Nazi-Soviet population exchange. Only a few returned to their former homes when Germany invaded the Soviet Union and temporarily gained control of those areas. These returnees were employed by the Nazi occupation forces to establish a link between the German administration and the local population. Those resettled elsewhere shared the fate of the other Germans in their resettlement area.[122]

The ethnic German minority in the USSR was considered a security risk by the Soviet government and they were deported during the war in order to prevent their possible collaboration with the Nazi invaders. In August 1941 the Soviet government ordered ethnic Germans to be deported from the European USSR. By the end of 1942 1,209,000 Germans had been banished to Central Asia and Siberia.[123] Life in the special settlements was harsh and severe, food was limited and the deported population was governed by strict regulations, shortages of food plagued the whole Soviet Union and especially the special settlements. According to data from the Soviet archives by October 1945 687,300 Germans remained alive in the special settlements,[124] an additional 316,600 Soviet Germans served labor conscripts during World War II. Soviet Germans were not accepted in the regular armed forces but were employed instead as conscript labor. The labor army members were arranged into worker battalions that followed camp-like regulations and received the GULag rations[125] During 1945 the Soviets deported to the special settlements 203,796 Soviet ethnic Germans who had been resettled by Germany in Poland.[126] These post war deportees increased the German population in the special settlements to 1,035,701 by 1949[127] According to J. Otto Pohl 65,599 Germans perished in the special settlements, he believes that an additional 176,352 unaccounted for persons "probably died in the labor army".[128] During the Stalin era the Soviet Germans continued to be confined to the special settlements under strict supervision, in 1955 they were rehabilitated but were not allowed to return to the European USSR[129] The Soviet German population grew despite the deportations and forced labor during the war; in the 1939 Soviet census the German population was 1.427 million by 1959 it had increased to 1.619 million[130]

The calculations of the West German researcher Gerhard Reichling indicate a total of 980,000 Soviet ethnic Germans were deported during the war, he estimated 310,000 died in forced labor.[131] During the early months of the invasion of the USSR in 1941 the Germans occupied the western regions of the USSR that had German settlements. A total of 370,000 ethnic Germans from the USSR were deported to Poland by Germany during the war. In 1945 the Soviets found 280,000 of these resettlers in Soviet held territory and returned them to the USSR; 90,000 became refugees in Germany after the war.[131]

Those ethnic Germans who remained in Soviet-controlled territory despite the Nazi-Soviet population transfers, and whose settlement areas had become German-controlled before the Soviet authorities could resettle them, remained where they were until 1943, when the Red Army liberated Soviet territory and the Wehrmacht withdrew westward.[132] From January 1943, most of these ethnic Germans moved in treks to the Warthegau or to Silesia, where they were to settle.[133] Between 250,000 and 320,000 had reached Nazi Germany by the end of 1944.[134] On their arrival, they were placed in camps and underwent 'racial evaluation' by the Nazi authorities, who dispersed those deemed 'racially valuable' as farm workers in the annexed provinces, while those deemed to be of "questionable racial value" were sent to work in Germany.[135] The Red Army captured these areas in early 1945, and 200,000 Soviet Germans had not yet been evacuated by the Nazi authorities,[133] who were still occupied with their 'racial evaluation'.[136] They were regarded by the USSR as Soviet citizens and repatriated to camps and special settlements in the Soviet Union.[133] Some 70,000 to 80,000 who found themselves in the Soviet occupation zone after the war were also returned to the USSR, based on an agreement with the Western Allies.[133] The death toll during their capture and transportation was estimated at 15% to 30%, and many families were torn apart.[133] The special "German settlements" in the post-war Soviet Union were controlled by the Internal Affairs Commissioner, and the inhabitants had to perform forced labour until the end of 1955.[133] At this time, all of the 1.5 million ethnic Germans in the Soviet Union were in banished to special settlements in Central Asia and Siberia.[133] They were released after Stalin's death by an amnesty decree of 13 September 1955[133] and the Nazi collaboration charge was revoked by a decree of 23 August 1964,[137] they were not allowed to return to their former homes and remained in the eastern regions of the USSR, yet no individual's former property was restored.[133][137] Since the 1980s the Soviet and Russian governments have allowed ethnic Germans to emigrate to Germany.

Different situations emerged in northern East Prussia regarding Königsberg (renamed Kaliningrad) and the adjacent Memel territory around Memel (Klaipėda). The Königsberg area of East Prussia was annexed by the Soviet Union, becoming an exclave of the Russian Soviet Republic. Memel was integrated into the Lithuanian Soviet Republic. Many Germans were evacuated from East Prussia and the Memel territory by Nazi authorities during Operation Hannibal or fled in panic as the Red Army approached. At the war's end, most surviving Germans were soon expelled.[39] Ethnic Russians and the families of military staff were settled in the area. In June 1946, 114,070 Germans and 41,029 Soviet citizens were registered as living in the Kaliningrad Oblast, with an unknown number of unregistered Germans ignored. However, between June 1945 and 1947, roughly half a million Germans were expelled.[138] Between 24 August and 26 October 1948, 21 transports with a total of 42,094 Germans left the Kaliningrad Oblast for the Soviet Occupation Zone. The last remaining Germans were expelled between November 1949[39] (1,401 persons) and January 1950 (7 persons).[139] Thousands of German children, called the wolf children, had been left orphaned and unattended or died with their parents during the harsh winter without food. Between 1945 and 1947, some 600,000 Soviet citizens settled the oblast.[140]


Before World War II, roughly 500,000 German-speaking people (mostly Danube Swabians) lived in Yugoslavia.[39][141] Most fled during the war or emigrated after 1950, thanks to the "displaced persons" act (of 1948); some were also able to emigrate to the USA. During the final months of World War II at least 200,000 ethnic Germans fled from Yugoslavia with the retreating Nazi forces.[142] After the liberation Yugoslav partisans exacted revenge on ethnic Germans for the wartime atrocities of Nazi Germany, the 200,000 ethnic Germans remaining in Yugoslavia suffered persecution and sustained personal and economic losses.[39] About 7,000 were killed as local populations and partisans took revenge for German wartime atrocities,[39][143] from 1945 to 1948 ethnic Germans were held in labor camps where about 50,000 perished.[143] Those surviving were allowed to emigrate to Germany after 1948.[143]

According to West German figures in late 1944 the Soviets transported 27,000 to 30,000 ethnic Germans, a majority of whom were women aged 18 to 35, to the Ukraine and Donets basin for forced labour; about 20% (5,683) were reported dead or missing.[39][143][144] Data from the Russian archives published in 2001, based on an actual enumeration, put the number of German civilians deported from Yugoslavia to the USSR in early 1945 for reparations labor at 12,579 where 16% (1,994) died.[145] After March 1945 a second phase began in which ethnic Germans were massed into villages such as Gakowa and Krushiwilje converted into labor camps. All furniture was removed, straw placed on the floor and the expellees housed like animals under military guard, with minimal food and rampant, untreated disease. Families were divided into the unfit women, old, and children and those fit for slave labor. A total of 166,970 ethnic Germans were interned and (29%) 48,447 perished.[37] The camp system was shut down in March 1948.[146]

In Slovenia, the German population at the end of World War II was concentrated in Slovenian Styria, more precisely in Maribor, Celje, and a few other smaller towns (like Ptuj and Dravograd), and in the rural area around Apače on the Austrian border. The second largest ethnic German community in Slovenia was the predominantly rural Gottschee County around Kočevje in Lower Carniola, south of Ljubljana. Smaller numbers of ethnic Germans also lived in Ljubljana and in some western villages in the Prekmurje region. In 1931, the total number of ethnic Germans in Slovenia was around 28,000: around half of them lived in Styria and in Prekmurje, while the other half lived in the Gottschee County and in Ljubljana. In April 1941, southern Slovenia was occupied by Italian troops. By the spring 1942, the ethnic Germans from Gottschee/Kočevje were forcefully transferred to German-occupied Styria by the new German authorities. Most of them were resettled to the Posavje region (a territory along the Sava river between the towns of Brežice and Litija), from where around 50,000 Slovenes had been expelled. Gottschee Germans were generally unhappy about their forced transfer from their historical home region. One reason was that the agricultural value of their new area of settlement was perceived as much lower than the Gottschee area. As German forces retreated before the Yugoslav Partisans, most ethnic Germans fled with them in fear of reprisals. By May 1945, only few Germans remained, mostly in the Styrian towns of Maribor and Celje. The Liberation Front of the Slovenian People expelled most of the remainder after it seized complete control in the region in May 1945.[146] Many were imprisoned in the concentration camps of Sterntal and Teharje.

The government nationalized their property on a "decision on the transition of enemy property into state ownership, on state administration over the property of absent persons, and on sequestration of property forcibly appropriated by occupation authorities" of 21 November 1944 by the Presidency of the Anti-Fascist Council for the People's Liberation of Yugoslavia[146][147]

After March 1945, ethnic Germans were placed in so-called 'village camps'.[148] Separate camps existed for those able to work and for those who were not.[146] In the latter camps, containing mainly children and the elderly, the mortality rate was about 50%.[146] Most of the children under 14 were then placed in state-run homes, where conditions were better, though the German language was banned.[146] These children were later given to Yugoslav families, and not all German parents seeking to reclaim their children in the 1950s were successful[146]

West German government figures from 1958 put the death toll at 135,800 civilians.[149] However a recent study published by the ethnic Germans of Yugoslavia based on an actual enumeration has revised the death toll down to about 58,000. A total of 48,447 people had died in the camps; 7,199 were shot by partisans, and another 1,994 perished in Soviet labor camps.[150] Those Germans still considered Yugoslav citizens were employed in industry or the military, but could buy themselves free of Yugoslav citizenship for the equivalent of three months' salary.[146] By 1950, 150,000 of these had made their way to post-war Germany, another 150,000 to Austria, 10,000 to the USA, and 3,000 to France[146]

According to West German figures 82,000 ethnic Germans remained in Yugoslavia in 1950.[67] After 1950 most emigrated to Germany or have been assimilated into the local population.


The population of the Southwest German town of Kehl (12 000 people), on the right bank of the Rhine opposite Strasbourg, fled and were evacuated in the course of the Battle of France, on 23 November 1944.[151] French forces occupied the town in March 1945 and prevented the inhabitants from returning until 1953.[151][152]

United Kingdom and the United States

Internment and expulsion of Germans occurred during the war in both the United Kingdom and the United States. In the US internment program a total of 11,507 people of German ancestry were interned during the war (compared to 110,000 interned Japanese-Americans), constituting 36.1% of the total internments in the Department of Justice's Enemy Alien Control Program.[153] Also 4,058 Germans were expelled from several Latin American countries to US internment camps.[154] Mass expulsion from the East and West coasts for reasons of military security were considered by the War Department, but not executed.[155]


Expulsion area

The Federal Expellee Law (BVFG[156]) defines the expulsion area ("einheitliches Vertreibungsgebiet"; i.e. uniform territory of expulsion) as the former eastern territories of Germany (lost by the First or Second World War), the former Austria-Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.[157]

According to a 1967 report by the West German Federal Ministry for Expellees in 1950 there were 14,447,000 persons affected by the expulsions, 11,730,000 had fled or were expelled and 2,717,000 still remained in their homelands. By 1966 the sum total of German expellees and their offspring had increased to 14,600,000 persons.[158] The higher figure of 14 million expellees is often cited by historians.[159][160][161][162][163]

During the period of 1944/1945 to 1950 12 million ethnic Germans had fled or were expelled from east-central Europe. From 1951 to 1982 an additional 1.1 million persons of German ancestry emigrated to Germany from East-Central Europe.[164] In the eyes of German law there were a total of 16 million expellees in 1982 (see schedule below) if one also includes Germans resettled in Poland during the war by the Nazis, children born to expellees and persons who emigrated as Aussiedler to Germany from eastern Europe after 1950.[165][166][167]

Germans fled, were evacuated, or were expelled as a result of actions of Nazi Germany, the Red Army, civilian militias, and/or the organized efforts of governments of the reconstituted states of Eastern Europe. Between 1944 and 1950, at least 12 million had fled or had been expelled and resettled to post-war Germany, most of them (11.5 million) from the territories of post-war Poland and Czechoslovakia.[168] About three million persons of German ancestry remained in the expulsion areas, but gradually emigrated westward in the Cold War era or have been assimilated into the local populations.[169] The areas from which the Germans fled or were expelled were subsequently repopulated by nationals of the states to which that territory now belonged, many of whom were Poles who fled or were expelled from the former Polish territories in the USSR. 148 000 of Polish citizens declared German nationality in 2011.[170]

In the eyes of the German Federal Expellee Law (BVFG) expellees (Vertriebene) include;

  • 1) Those German citizens or ethnic Germans who resided in the expulsion area prior to 31 December 1937 but fled or had been expelled (termed: Heimatvertriebene, i.e. homeland expellees;[171] BVFG § 1 (1)).
  • 2) German citizens or foreigners of German ethnicity who fled Nazi Germany, or any area it annexed or occupied, due to factual or impending Nazi persecution on political, racist or religious grounds (BVFG § 1 (1) No. 1).
  • 3) Ethnic Germans of originally foreign citizenship who were resettled during the war by the Nazis in eastern and western Europe and then fled or had been expelled are defined as expellees of the sub-group of Umsiedler by the West German Federal Expellee Law;[172] BVFG § 1 (1) No. 2);
  • 4) German citizens (expatriates) from pre-war western Europe and abroad who resettled in post war Germany as a consequency of the Second World War (BVFG § 1 (1)). Western European democracies did not denaturalise their citizens of German ethnicity, so they were not systematically expelled, but German expatriates often had to quit as enemy aliens.
  • 5) Refugees and emigrants either originally of foreign citizenship but of German ethnicity, or who themselves or whose ancestors had involuntarily lost German citizenship, coming from the above-mentioned uniform territory of expulsion or from Albania, Bulgaria, China, Romania, the Soviet Union, or Yugoslavia, and arriving only after the end of general expulsions (usually by 1950) but not later as 31 December 1992 are also considered expellees under German law (termed: Aussiedler, about: emigrant of German ethnicity or descent; BVFG § 1 (2) No. 3).
  • 6) Expellees' spouses of whichever ethnicity or citizenship and children born to expellees living in post war Germany and abroad are classified as expellees too.[173]

Those ethnic Germans who emigrated from eastern Europe after 1 January 1993 are no longer classified as expellees under German law, but can apply for immigration and naturalisation under the special terms for Spätaussiedler (about: ethnic German late emigrant).[156] Also Nazi German occupational functionaries and other German expatriates, who had relocated to German-annexed or German-occupied foreign territory during the war are not considered expellees by German law unless they showed circumstances (such as marrying a resident of the respective area) indicating for the intention to permanently settle abroad also for the time after the war (BVFG § 1 (4)). Treated separately are refugees and expellees who had neither German citizenship nor German ethnicity but had fled or been expelled from their former domiciles and stranded in West Germany or West Berlin before 1951, amounting to 130,000 in 1951, and only less than 3,000 in 2011. They were classified as displaced persons by the international refugee organizations until 1950 when West German authorities granted them the special status of heimatloser Ausländer (i.e. homeless foreigner, comprising either foreign citizens unable or unwilling to repatriate, or stateless persons nowhere to go). They were covered under preferential naturalization rules, distinct from other legal aliens or stateless persons.[174]

Flight, Expulsion and Accounting for Expellees up to 1950

Description Population
Flight of civilians & returned POW during 1945 4,500,000
Official Deportations 1946-50 4,500,000
Returned POW 1946-1950 2,600,000
Total 11,600,000

Source:Hans Henning Hahn and Eva Hahnova, Die Vertreibung im deutschen Erinnern. Legenden, Mythos, Geschichte, Paderborn: Schöningh, 2010, Page 659

Expellees as defined by German Law

Category of Expellees(pre war origin) 1950 1982
1 - Pre-war Eastern Europe and Oder-Neisse region 11,890,000 15,150,000
2 - Pre-war Soviet Union 100,000 250,000
3 - Germans from west of Oder Neisse Resettled during war 460,000 500,000
4 - Pre-war Western Europe and Abroad 235,000 240,000
5 - Resettled in Western Europe during war 65,000 80,000
Total 12,750,000 16,220,000

Source: Gerhard Reichling, Die deutschen Vertriebenen in Zahlen, part 1, Bonn: 1995, pp. 44–59

1-Pre-war eastern Europe-ethnic Germans who resided in eastern Europe prior to the war.

1950-Oder-Neisse region(pre war Germany):(6,980,000); Poland: (690,000); Danzig (290,000); Czechoslovakia: (3,000,000); Hungary: (210,000); Romania: (250,000); Yugoslavia (300,000) and Baltic States (170,000).

1982-Oder-Neisse region(pre war Germany):(8,850,000); Poland: (1,000,000); Danzig (357,000); Czechoslovakia: (3,521,000); Hungary: (279,000); Romania: (498,000); Yugoslavia (445,000) and Baltic States (200,000).

2-Pre-war Soviet Union - ethnic Germans from the USSR who were resettled in German-annexed or occupied Poland during the war. 1950-(100,000); 1982 (250,000). During the war the Nazis resettled 370,000 ethnic Germans from the USSR in Poland, the Soviets returned 280,000 to the USSR after the war.

3- -Germans from west of Oder Neisse resettled during war This category includes only those German nationals living west of the Oder-Neisse in 1939 who were resettled in occupied eastern Europe by Nazi Germany. In all 560,000 were resettled in Eastern Europe (530,000 on the post war territory of Poland and 30,000 in Czechoslovakia). They are considered expellees in the eyes of German law. In 1950 460,000 were counted as expellees and by 1982 the number increased to 500,000.

Not included in the figure of 560,000 are an additional 1,330,000 Germans from East Europe resettled during war, including 410,000 German nationals living in the pre war German Oder-Neisse region, 540,000 ethnic Germans from other Eastern European nations and 370,000 ethnic Germans from the Soviet Union who were also resettled by Nazi Germany, they are included above in the first two categories 1- Pre-war Eastern Europe and Oder-Neisse region and 2- Pre-war Soviet Union.

4-Pre-war Western Europe and Abroad -Ethnic Germans from pre war western Europe and abroad who resided in post war Germany.

5-Resettled in western Europe during war- During the war the Nazis resettled German nationals in western Europe. After the war those who returned to post war Germany were considered expellees.

Expellees Place of Residence

Place of Residence 1950 1982
West Germany 8,100,000 11,000,000
East Germany 4,100,000 4,070,000
Austria 430,000 400,000
Other Countries 120,000 750,000
Total 12,750,000 16,220,000

Source: Gerhard Reichling, Die deutschen Vertriebenen in Zahlen, part 1, Bonn: 1995, pp. 44–59

Post-war Germany and Austria

On 29 October 1946, the Allied Occupation Zones in Germany already held 9.5 million refugees and expellees: 3.6 million in the British zone, 3.1 million in the U.S. zone, 2.7 million in the Soviet zone, 100,000 in Berlin and 60,000 in the French zone.[175]

These numbers subsequently increased, with two million additional expellees counted in West Germany in 1950 for a total of 7.9 million[176] (16.3% of the population).[175][177] By origin, the West German expellee population consisted of about 5.5 million people from post-war Poland, primarily the former German East/new Polish West, two million from former Sudetenland, and the rest primarily from Southeast Europe, the Baltic states and Russia.[169]

According to estimates made in West Germany, in the Soviet zone the number rose to 4.2 million by 1948 (24.2% of the population) and 4.4 million[176] by 1950,[177][178] when the Soviet zone had become the state of East Germany.

Thus, a total of 12.3 million Heimatvertriebene comprised 18% of the population in the two German states created from the Allied occupation zones (Federal Republic of Germany and German Democratic Republic) in 1950, while another 500,000 expellees found refuge in Austria and other countries.[177] Because of their influx, the population of the post-war German territory had risen by 9.3 million (16%) from 1939 to 1950 despite wartime population losses.[176]

After the war, the area west of the new eastern border of Germany was crowded with expellees, some of them living in camps, some looking for relatives, some just stranded. Between 16.5%[179] and 19.3%[166] of the total population were expellees in the Western occupation zones and 24.2% in the Soviet occupation zone.[179] Expellees made up 45% of the population in Schleswig-Holstein, 40% in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern; similar percentages existed along the eastern border all the way to Bavaria, while in the westernmost German regions the numbers were significantly lower, especially in the French zone of occupation. Of the expellees initially stranded in East Germany, many migrated to West Germany, making up a disproportionally high number of post-war inner-German East-West migrants (close to one million of a three million total between 1949, when the West and East German states were created, and 1961, when the inner-German border was closed).[180]

German naturalisation of foreign ethnic German refugees and expellees

Ethnic German refugees and expellees of foreign or no citizenship, residing within the German borders as they stood in 1937, were granted German citizenship by the West German constitution (Grundgesetz, Art. 116 (1) when this came into force in 1949. Expellees arriving later in the Federal Republic of Germany were almost all granted German citizenship as well, but their detailed legal treatment varied, depending on their or their ancestors' citizenship. Aussiedler (see above) who themselves or whose ancestors had been German citizens before 1945 were mostly legally considered as being German citizens, regardless of any other citizenships they may have held.[181] Those Aussiedler of foreign citizenship but descending from ancestors holding German citizenship before 1918 (regardless of ethnicity) were granted German citizenship by the Federal Expellee Law (BVFG § 6 (2)), those Aussiedler without such German descent but of German ethnicity (to be evidenced by German culture, language, traditions etc.) received German citizenship too (BVFG § 1 (1) No. 1).

Religion of the Eastern Germans

The West German researcher Gerhard Reichling published a study that estimated the prewar German population at 18,267,000 in Eastern Europe (including the USSR) of whom 2,020,000 were dead in the expulsions and forced labor in the USSR. In addition Reichling estimated military and civilian war dead in the area of the expulsions at 1,250,000, he did not provide details for this figure. Reichling provided a breakout of the ethnic German population by religion which included German speaking Jews with other religions and beliefs. Reichling did not give a separate total for German Jews included in his figure for "others", nor he did enumerate Jewish dead in his figures of wartime and post war losses. Kurt Horstmann of the Federal Statistical Office of Germany wrote the forward to the study endorsing the work of Reichling. Reichling was an employee of the Federal Statistical Office who was involved in the study of German expulsion statistics since 1953.

Religion of the Eastern Germans According to Gerhard Reichling[182]

Description PreWar German Population Protestant Roman Catholic Other
Former eastern territories of Germany 9,575,000 6,411,000 2,862,000 302,000
Danzig 380,000 215,000 147,000 18,000
Poland 1,200,000 736,000 457,000 7,000
Czechoslovakia 3,544,000 166,000 3,231,000 147,000
Baltic States 250,000 239,000 8,000 3,000
USSR 1,400,000 1,119,000 254,000 27,000
Hungary 600,000 94,000 492,000 14,000
Romania 782,000 437,000 330,000 15,000
Yugoslavia 536,000 108,000 415,000 13,000
Total 18,267,000 9,525,000 8,196,000 546,000

Reichling defines others as -The term "other" includes other creeds (Jewish communities and groups, other peoples and world religions, freethinkers and enlightenment associations) and those without a creed or no report of religious belief.[183]

German speaking Jews in Eastern Europe prior to the war

A. Former eastern territories of Germany Based on the May 1939 census in the eastern regions of Germany there were according to Nazi antisemitic terminology - Full Jews 27,526; one-Half Jewish 6,371 and one-quarter Jewish 4,464.[184][185][186] Ingo Haar maintains that 27,533 Jews in the former eastern territories of Germany, most of whom perished in the Holocaust were included with the expulsion dead in West German figures.[187]

B. Czechoslovakia-The Polish demographer Piotr Eberhardt estimated that there were 75,000 German speaking Jews in the Czech lands in 1930, he did not give a figure for Slovakia.[188] Based on the May 1939 census in the Sudetenland there were – using nazi terminology – Full Jews 2,363; one-Half Jewish 2,183 and one-quarter Jewish 1,396.[184] 2,035 Jews in the Sudetenland were included with the German population in the West German figures used to calculate expulsion losses.[50]

C. Hungary- The Polish demographer Piotr Eberhardt estimated that there were 10,000 German speaking Jews in the Hungary in 1930.[189]

D.Poland- According to the December 1931 census of Poland there were 7,000 German speaking Jews in Poland.[190]

C. Yugoslavia- The Schieder commission report for Yugoslavia put the number of German speaking Jews at 10,026 in 1931.[191]

The German historians Hans Henning Hahn and Eva Hahnova have raised the issue of the German minority in Eastern Europe and the Holocaust. They point out that German historians of the expulsions have hardly covered the fate of the German-speaking Jews in the Holocaust. There were many Jews in Eastern Europe who spoke German as a primary language and identified with the German nationality prior to the war, many others spoke German as a second language. In Czechoslovakia there 46,000 Jews that identified with the German nationality in 1930. Many Jews fled Czechoslovakia in 1939 prior to the beginning of the war, most of those who remained perished in the Holocaust. The Hahns mentioned that many of the Jewish victims in Czechoslovakia have German sounding names. According to the Hahns a wartime estimate by a Nazi researcher put the number of Jews outside of Czech lands at 6.8 million of whom 4% spoke German.[192]

Germans remaining in Central Europe 1950

Country Per West Germany Per Reichling Per Eberhardt
Poland 1,536,000 1,700,000 170,000
Czechoslovakia 250,000 300,000 165,000
Hungary 270,000 270,000 22,500
Romania 400,000 400,000 343,900
Baltic (Memel/Klaipėda ) 15,000 18,000 0
Yugoslavia 82,000 82,000 0
Total 2,553,000 2,770,000 701,400

The table summarizes the estimates for ethnic Germans remaining in eastern Europe in 1950. The West German government in 1958 made an estimate that is often cited in historical literature.[149] In 1985 Gerhard Reichling a researcher employed by the West German government provided his own estimate of Germans remaining in east Europe in 1950, plus an additional 1,312,000 living in the USSR. Reichling detailed 1,410,000 persons who emigrated from 1951 to 1982 who were also considered expellees under West German law; Poland: 894,000; Czechoslovakia: 160,000; Hungary: 30,000; Romania: 144,000; Yugoslavia 80,000 and USSR 102,000.[98] In 2003 the Polish demographer Piotr Eberhardt made his estimates for remaining Germans in 1950 that are significantly lower than those made in Germany.[193]


Estimates of total deaths of German civilians have ranged from 500,000 to a maximum of 3.0 million persons.[194] The death toll also includes the Forced labor of Germans in the Soviet Union. Although the German government's official estimate of deaths due to the flight and expulsions has stood at 2.2 million for several decades, recent analysis has led some historians to the conclusion that the actual number was much lower - in the range of 500,000 to 600,000. The higher figure of 3.0 million was a preliminary estimate from 1950. Estimates made in West Germany during the Cold War were calculated by balancing pre- and post-expulsion populations or on researches attempting to account for the number of verified deaths. There is an academic discourse regarding the validity of the methods and their results.[194][195][196][197][198][199] English language sources have put the death toll at 2 to 3 million based on the West German government statistical analysis of the 1950s.[200][201][202][203][204][205][206][207][208][209]

The German government figures for the estimated death toll of the flight and expulsions are not directly comparable. The Schieder commission(1953–1961), which consisted primarily of distinguished historians with a Nazi past, put the death toll at about 2.3 million based on preliminary data.[210] A 1958 demographic study of the population balance by the Statistisches Bundesamt estimated a death toll of 2,225,000.[211] The German Church Search Service of the German Red Cross attempted to trace the individual fates of Germans in the post war expulsions, by 1964 they confirmed 473,013 deaths and listed 1,905,991 "unsolved cases" in the entire area of eastern Europe.[212] A 1974 German Federal Archives report estimated 600,000 deaths only due to what the authors describe as "crimes against humanity" (völkerrechtswidrige Verbrechen), excluding excess post war deaths due to malnutrition and disease.[213] In 1982 the German Ministry of the Interior put the figure at 2.0-2.5 million civilian deaths[214] The German Red Cross in 2005 still maintained that death toll in the expulsions is 2,251,500 persons.[215] The German Federal Agency for Civic Education puts the figure at 2 million.[216]

Since the end of the cold war material on the expulsions from the German archives has been released to the public. Based on this recently disclosed information the German historians Ingo Haar, Rüdiger Overmans and Hans Henning Hahn and Eva Hahnova believe the figures and methodology of the studies by the West German government from the 1950s are inaccurate. (See section on discourse below) The German Historical Museum puts the figure at 600,000 victims, they maintain the official figure of 2 million cannot be supported.[217]

The German historians Ingo Haar, and Hans Henning Hahn and Eva Hahnova maintain that German speaking Jews are included with the German population used to compute overall losses (See section on the Religion of the Eastern Germans above)

Early estimates - population balances

In 1950 the West German Government made a preliminary estimate of three million German civilians missing in eastern Europe whose fate needed to be clarified.[218] One of the first attempts at estimating the number of deaths due to flight and expulsions was published in 1953 by Bruno Gleitze,[55][219] who was trying to estimate overall German civilian casualties during World War II. Because accurate data on individual deaths was unavailable, Gleitze had to resort to the a 'population balance method', which estimates the likely number of Germans in the relevant territories before the expulsions and compares it to the population that arrived in the West as expellees.[220] He estimated 800,000 civilian deaths (for Germany within 1937 borders only) among only "Eastern Germans" in the area of the expulsions.[219] The German historian Ingo Haar points out that the figures in the Gleitze study were ignored by the Schieder commission report, issued in 1953, which gave a figure of 1.7 million civilian deaths among the eastern Germans (in 1937 borders).[55][221] In 1953 Gotthold Rhode estimated the casualties (including military) to be 3.14 million in all of Eastern Europe.[222][223][224]

The Schieder Commission was set up by the West German government in the Cold War Era (1952) to document the fate of the Germans in eastern Europe.[223] The head of the commission was Theodor Schieder, a rehabilitated former member of the Nazi party, and a Nazi Lebensraum concept advocate. In 1939 Schieder had proposed the expulsion of millions of Jews, Poles, Russians and other nationalities from Eastern Europe, in order to create "room" for German settlers.[225][226] The other members of the commission included Martin Broszat and Hans-Ulrich Wehler, Schieder's students.[227] In September 1953, West German minister for expellees Hans Lukaschek presented an interim report of the commission for the territory that is today Poland and the Russian Kaliningrad region, estimating 2.5 million deaths which included 2.0 million civilians and 550,000 military and aerial warfare casualties.[223][228]

1958 Demographic Study

The Schieder commission prepared reports that documented the fate of the ethnic Germans in eastern Europe, it did not issue the final figures for the losses. Schieder's preliminary estimates were superseded in 1958, when the West German government statistical office issued its final report, estimating a demographic loss of some 2.225 million German civilians in all of eastern Europe which included 1.339 million among the eastern Germans (in 1937 borders). The West German government report used population figures enumerated in Nazi Germany and estimates of the population in eastern Europe made in post war West Germany.[149][218]

English language sources published during the cold war dealing with the expulsions put the death toll at 2 to 3 million based on the West German government statistical analysis of the 1950s.[229][230][231][232][233][234][235][236][237][238]

Based on recently disclosed information the German historians Ingo Haar, Rüdiger Overmans and Hans Henning Hahn and Eva Hahnova believe the figures and methodology of the West German government 1958 Demographic Study are inaccurate(See section on discourse below)

Research tracing individual fates by the German Red Cross

Already in 1953, the West German government ordered a study by the Suchdienst (search service) of the German Red Cross to do a complete accounting to trace the individual fates of Germans in the expulsions.[194] By 1965, the search service was able to confirm 473,013 deaths.[239][240] and an additional 1,905,991 "unsolved cases" of persons reported as missing and presumed dead. This report remained confidential until the end of the Cold War, when the West German government authorized its release and summary of the findings was published in 1987.[241] The German Search Service is currently located in Munich, Germany; they continue to investigate the fates of those persons missing in the war; in 2005 they maintained that their research put losses at 2,251,500 persons in the expulsions and deportations. They did not provide details of the figure.[242]

Rüdiger Overmans provided an analysis of the data from the search service at an academic conference in Warsaw in 1994. Overmans found the figures to be unreliable. The German historians Ingo Haar and Hans Henning Hahn and Eva Hahnova maintain that the figure of confirmed 473,013 deaths is an accurate accounting of the death toll in the expulsions; they believe the figure of 1.9 million missing persons to be unreliable (see section on discourse below).

1974 study by German Federal Archives

In 1969, the Federal West German government ordered a further study to be conducted by the German Federal Archives, which was finished in 1974 and published in 1989. Thereby false positives from the Suchdienst report were excluded and additional sources evaluated, resulting in a number of about 600,000 estimated deaths caused by "crimes against humanity" (völkerrechtswidrige Verbrechen). The definition of crimes against humanity used by the 1974 archives report includes deaths caused by military activity in the 1944–45 campaign as well as deliberate killings and deaths due to forced labor and in internment camps.[243][244] The 1958 demographic study estimated total losses of 2.225 million persons including post-war losses due to famine and disease. The authors of the German Federal Archives study maintain that their figures do not include post-war losses due to famine and disease. The study did not include Hungarian, Romanian and Soviet ethnic Germans. A summary of the figures given in the 1974 German Federal Archives report is as follows: Total losses: about 600,000 (violent deaths during war 1945 – 150,000; deported to USSR for forced labor - 200,000; in post-war internment camps - 250,000). By country (Poland/Soviet Kaliningrad region 400,000; Czechoslovakia 130,000 and Yugoslavia 80,000. The sources for these figures cited by the authors of the report were the Schieder commission and the 1965 study by the German Red Cross.[245]

Both Ingo Haar and Rüdiger Overmans have cited statistics from this report. The findings of this study were kept secret during the cold war in order not to disturb West German-Polish rapprochement, and were only made public in 1989.[194][246][247] The German Archives figure of 200,000 deaths of Germans during forced labor in the Soviet Union was based on West German estimates made in the 1960s. More recently since the fall of communism, the Soviet archives have been accessible to researchers. The Russian scholar Pavel Polian in 2001 published an account of the deportations during the Soviet era, Against Their Will. Polian detailed the Soviet employment of German civilian labor in the Stalin era. The Soviet archives listed a total of 66,456 deaths of 271,672 German civilians sent to the USSR as forced laborers.[72] In 1995, the organization of Germans expelled from Yugoslavia revised the figures for Yugoslavia, giving a total of 57,730 verified deaths and 889 reported missing.[248][249] In 1995, a joint German and Czech commission of historians revised the number of civilian deaths in Czechoslovakia, from previous demographic estimates of 220,000 to 270,000 down to between 15,000 and 30,000 confirmed deaths.[56] [250] [251]


The figure of 2 million deaths in the Flight and Expulsions was widely accepted by historians in the west prior to the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the end of the cold war.[200][201][202][203][204][252][253][254][255][209] The recent disclosure of the German Federal Archives study and the Church Search Service figures have caused some scholars in Germany and Poland to question the validity of the figure of 2 million deaths, they estimate the actual total at 500-600,000.[256][257][258] However, the German government still maintains that the figure of 2 million deaths is correct.[259] The expulsions has been a contentious issue in German politics with the Federation of Expellees staunchly defending the higher figure.[260] The writings of Alfred-Maurice de Zayas and Rudolph Rummel continue to remain influential in the English-speaking world, they base their estimates of casualties on the 1958 German government estimate of 2.2 million deaths.[200][201]

Analysis by Rüdiger Overmans

In 2000 the German historian Rüdiger Overmans published a study of German military casualties, his project did not investigate civilian expulsion deaths.[261] In 1994 Overmans did however provide a critical analysis of the previous studies by German government which he believes are unreliable. Overmans maintains there are more arguments for the lower figure of 500,000 rather than the higher figure of over 2.0 million.[194] In a 2006 interview Overmans maintained that new research is needed to clarify the fate of those reported as missing.[262] Overmans found the 1965 figures of the search service to be unreliable because they include non-Germans; the figures probably include some military deaths; the numbers of surviving persons, natural deaths and births after the war in Eastern Europe are unreliable because the Communist governments in Eastern Europe did not extend full cooperation West German efforts to trace persons in Eastern Europe; the reports given by eye witnesses surveyed are not reliable in all cases. In particular Overmans maintains that the figure of 1.9 million missing persons was based on incomplete information.[263] Overmans found the 1958 demographic study to be unreliable because it inflated the figures of ethnic Germans deaths by including missing persons of doubtful German ethnic identity who survived the war in Eastern Europe; the figures of military deaths is understated; the numbers of surviving persons, natural deaths and births after the war in Eastern Europe are unreliable because the Communist governments in Eastern Europe who did not extend full cooperation for West German efforts to trace persons in Eastern Europe.[194] Overmans maintains that the 600,000 deaths found by the German Federal Archives in 1974 is only a rough estimate of those killed, not a definitive figure, he pointed out that some deaths were not reported because there were no surviving eyewitnesses of the events, also there was no estimate of losses in Hungary, Romania and the USSR.[264] Overmans believes that since these previous studies have confirmed 500,000 deaths that new research is needed to clarify the fates of the 1.9 million reported missing.[194][265]

Overmans conducted a research project that studied the casualties of the German military during the war and found that the previous estimate of 4.3 million dead and missing, especially in the final stages of the war, was about one million short of the actual toll,[266] In this 2000 study, he found that German military deaths from areas in east Europe were about 1.444 million, and thus 334,000 higher than the 1.1 million figure in the 1958 demographic study, lacking documents available today included the figures with civilian deaths. Overmans believes this will reduce the number of civilian deaths in the expulsions. Overmans further pointed out that the 2.225 million number estimated by the 1958 study would imply that the casualty rate among the expellees was equal to or higher than that of the military, which he found implausible. In his study Overmans researched only military deaths, his project did not investigate civilian expulsion deaths, he merely noted the difference between the 2.2 million dead estimated in the 1958 demographic studie of which 500,000 have so far have been verified.

Analysis by Ingo Haar

In 2006 the German historian Ingo Haar called into question the validity of the official government figure of 2.0 million expulsion deaths in an article in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.[187] Since then Haar has published three articles in academic journals that covered the background of the research by the West German government on the expulsions.[198][267] [268][269]

Ingo Haar maintains that all reasonable estimates of deaths from expulsions lie between around 500,000 and 600,000, based on the information of Red Cross Church Service and German Federal Archives. Haar believes figures have been inflated in Germany due to the Cold War and domestic German politics, he also maintains that the 2.225 million number relies on improper statistical methodology and incomplete data, particularly in regard to the expellees who arrived in East Germany. Haar questions the validity of population balances in general. Haar maintains that 27,000 German Jews who were Nazi victims are included in the West German figures. Haar rejects the statement by the German government that the figure of 500-600,000 deaths omitted those people who died of disease and hunger; Haar stated that this is a "mistaken interpretation" of the data, he maintains that deaths due to disease, hunger and other conditions are already included in the lower numbers. According to Ingo Haar the numbers have been set too high for decades, for postwar political reasons.[270][198] [269][271][272]

Studies in Poland

In 2001 the Polish scholar Bernadetta Nitschke noted that historians in Poland maintain that most of the deaths occurred during the flight and evacuation during the war, the deportation to the U.S.S.R. for forced labor and after the resettlement due to the harsh conditions in the Soviet occupation zone in post war Germany.[273] The Polish scholar Piotr Eberhardt found that; Generally speaking, the German estimates…are not only highly arbitrary, but also clearly tendentious in presentation of the German losses He maintains that the German government figures from 1958 overstated the total number of the ethnic Germans living in Poland prior to war as well as the total civilian deaths due to the expulsions. For example, Eberhardt points out that the total number of Germans in Poland is given as equal 1,371,000. According to the Polish census of 1931 there were altogether only 741,000 Germans on the entire territory of Poland.[274]

Study by Hans Henning Hahn and Eva Hahnova

The German historians Hans Henning Hahn and Eva Hahnova have published a detailed study of the flight and expulsions that is sharply critical of German accounts of the cold war era. The Hahn's believe that the official German figure of 2 million deaths is an historical myth that lacks foundation. They place the ultimate blame for the mass flight and expulsion was the wartime policy of the Nazis in Eastern Europe. The Hahn's maintain that most of the reported 473,013 deaths occurred during the Nazi organized flight and evacuation during the war, and the Forced labor of Germans in the Soviet Union; they point out that there are 80,522 confirmed deaths in the post war internment camps. They put the post war losses in eastern Europe at a fraction of the total losses: Poland-15,000 deaths from 1945 to 1949 in internment camps; Czechoslovakia- 15,000-30,000 dead, including 4-5,000 in internment camps and ca. 15,000 in the Prague uprising. Yugoslavia-5,777 deliberate killings and 48,027 deaths in internment camps. Denmark- 17,209 dead in internment camps. Hungary and Romania no post war losses were reported. The Hahns pointed out that the official 1958 figure of 273,000 deaths for Czechoslovakia was prepared by Alfred Bohmann an ex-Nazi party member who had served in the wartime SS, Bohmann was a journalist for an ultra-nationalist Sudeten-Deutsch newspaper in post war West Germany. The Hahn's believe that the population figures of ethnic Germans for eastern Europe include German speaking Jews killed in the Holocaust, they believe that the fate of German speaking Jews in East Europe deserves the attention of German historians.[275]

Rebuttal by the German government

The German government still maintains that the figure of 2.0- 2.5 million expulsion deaths is correct. In 2005 the German Red Cross Search Service put the death toll at 2,251,500, they did not provide the details of the figure.[276] On 29 November 2006 State Secretary in the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Christoph Bergner, outlined the stance of the respective governmental institutions in Deutschlandfunk saying that the numbers presented by the German government and others are not contradictory to the numbers cited by Haar, and that the below 600,000 estimate comprises the deaths directly caused by atrocities during the expulsion measures and thus only includes people who on the spot were raped, beaten, or else brought to death, while the above two millions estimate also includes people who on their way to post-war Germany have died of epidemics, hunger, cold, air raids and the like.[277]

Research by Rudolph Rummel

In 1998 Rudolph Rummel examined the data by only English-language authors published before 1991 and found a range from 528,000 to 3,724,000 deaths due to the expulsions. In his own analysis of these sources, he calculated the total post-war expulsion deaths to be 1,863,000.[278] He estimated an additional one million civilians perished during the wartime flight and evacuation before the expulsions.[278] Rummel maintains that one has to rely on population balances for casualty estimates since accurate records of the dead are not available. Rummel did not take into account the recent material published in Germany by Rüdiger Overmans and Ingo Haar that put the death toll at 500,000.

Schwarzbuch der Vertreibung by Heinz Nawratil

The German lawyer Heinz Nawratil has published a study of the expulsions Schwarzbuch der Vertreibung (Black book of the Expulsion) that has wide circulation in modern day Germany.[279] Nawratil claims that the death toll was 2.8 million, he includes the losses of 2.2 million listed in the 1958 West German study, and an estimated 250,000 deaths of Germans resettled in Poland during the war, plus 350,000 ethnic Germans in the USSR. In 1987 the German historian Martin Broszat (former head of Institute of Contemporary History in Munich) described Nawratil's writings as "polemics with a nationalist-rightist point of view and exaggerates in an absurd manner the scale of "expulsion crimes". Broszat also found Nawratil's book to have 'factual errors taken out of context'[280][281] German historian Thomas E. Fischer calls the book problematic.[282] James Bjork (Department of History, King's College London) criticizes German educational DVD based on the book.[283]

Condition of the expellees after arriving in post-war Germany

Those who arrived were in bad shape—particularly during the harsh winter of 1945-46, when arriving trains carried "the dead and dying in each carriage (other dead had been thrown from the train along the way)".[112] After experiencing Red Army atrocities, Germans in the expulsion areas were subject to harsh punitive measures by Yugoslav partisans and in post-war Poland and Czechoslovakia.[169] Beatings, rapes and murders accompanied the expulsions.[112][169] Some had experienced massacres, such as the Ústí (Aussig) massacre, in which 80-100 ethnic Germans died, or conditions like those in the Upper Silesian Camp Łambinowice (Lamsdorf), where interned Germans were exposed to sadistic practices and at least 1,000 perished.[169] In addition to the atrocities, the expellees had experienced hunger, thirst and disease, separation from family members, loss of civil rights and familiar environment, and sometimes internment and forced labour.[169] Thus, many expellees were traumatized and carried a psychological burden for years, which especially the young and elderly were often unable to cope with.[169]

Once they arrived, they found themselves in a country devastated by war. Housing shortages lasted until the 1960s, which along with other shortages led to conflicts with the local population.[284][285] The situation eased only with the West German economic boom in the 1950s that drove unemployment rates close to zero.[286]

France did not participate in the Potsdam Conference, so it felt free to approve some of the Potsdam Agreements and dismiss others. France maintained the position that it had not approved the expulsions and therefore was not responsible for accommodating and nourishing the destitute expellees in its zone of occupation. While the French military government provided for the few refugees who arrived before July 1945 in the area that became the French zone, it succeeded in preventing entrance by later arriving ethnic Germans deported from the East.[287]

Britain and the U.S. protested the actions of the French military government but had no means to force France to bear the consequences of the expulsion policy agreed upon by American, British and Soviet leaders in Potsdam. France persevered with its argument to clearly differentiate between war-related refugees and post-war expellees. In December 1946 it absorbed into its zone German refugees from Denmark,[287] where 250,000 Germans travelled by sea between February and May 1945 to take refuge from the Soviets. These were refugees from the eastern parts of Germany, not expellees; Danes of German ethnicity remained untouched and Denmark did not expel them. With this humanitarian act the French saved many lives, due to the high death toll German refugees faced in Denmark.[288][289][290]

Until the summer of 1945, the Allies had not reached an agreement on how to deal with the expellees. France suggested emigration to South America and Australia and the settlement of 'productive elements' in France, while the Soviets SMAD suggested a resettlement of millions of expellees in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.[291]

The Soviets, who encouraged and partly carried out the expulsions, offered little cooperation with humanitarian efforts, thereby requiring the Americans and Britons to absorb the expellees in their zones of occupation. In contradiction with the Potsdam Agreements, the Soviets neglected their obligation to provide supplies for the expellees. In Potsdam, it was agreed[292] that 15% of all equipment dismantled in the Western zones—especially from the metallurgical, chemical and machine manufacturing industries—would be transferred to the Soviets in return for food, coal, potash (a basic material for fertilisers), timber, clay products, petroleum products, etc. The Western deliveries started in 1946, but this turned out to be a one-way street. The Soviet deliveries—desperately needed to provide the expellees with food, warmth, and basic necessities and to increase agricultural production in the remaining cultivation area—did not materialize. Consequently, the U.S. stopped all deliveries on 3 May 1946,[293] while the expellees from the areas under Soviet rule were deported to the West until the end of 1947.

In the British and U.S. zones the supply situation worsened considerably, especially in the British zone. Due to its location on the Baltic, the British zone already harbored a great number of refugees who had come by sea, and the already modest rations had to be further shortened by a third in March 1946. In Hamburg for instance, the average living space per capita, reduced by air raids from 13.6 square metres in 1939 to 8.3 in 1945, was further reduced to 5.4 square metres in 1949 by billeting refugees and expellees.[294] In May 1947, Hamburg trade unions organized a strike against the small rations, with protesters complaining about the rapid absorption of expellees.[295]

The U.S. and Britain had to import food into their zones, even as Britain was financially exhausted and dependent on food imports having fought Nazi Germany for the entire war, partly as the single opponent (during the period when Poland and France were defeated, the Soviet Union supported Nazi Germany and the United States had yet entered the war). Consequently, Britain had to incur additional debt to the U.S. and the U.S. had to spend more for the survival of its zone, while the Soviets gained applause among Eastern Europeans—many of whom were impoverished by the war and German occupation—who plundered the belongings of refugees and expellees, often before they were actually expelled. Since the Soviet Union was the only power among the Allies that allowed and/or encouraged the looting and robbery in the area under its military influence, the perpetrators and profiteers blundered into a situation in which they became dependent on the perpetuation of Soviet rule in their countries in order not to be dispossessed of the booty and to stay unpunished.

With ever more expellees sweeping into post-war Germany, the Allies moved towards a policy of assimilation, which was believed to be the best way to stabilise Germany and ensure peace in Europe by preventing the creation of a marginalised population.[291] This policy led to the granting of German citizenship to the ethnic German expellees who had before their expulsion held citizenship as Poles, Czechoslovaks, Hungarians, Yugoslavs, Romanians, etc.

When the Federal Republic of Germany was founded, a law was drafted on 24 August 1952 that was primarily intended to ease the financial situation of the expellees. The law, termed Lastenausgleichsgesetz, granted partial compensation and easy credit to the expellees; the loss of their civilian property had been estimated at 299.6 billion Deutschmarks (out of a total loss of German property due to the border changes and expulsions of 355.3 billion Deutschmarks).[296] Administrative organisations were set up to integrate the expellees into post-war German society. While the Stalinist regime in the Soviet occupation zone did not allow the expellees to organise, in the Western zones expellees over time established a variety of organizations, including All-German Bloc/League of Expellees and Deprived of Rights.[297] The most prominent—still active today—is the Federation of Expellees (Bund der Vertriebenen).

"War children" of German ancestry in Western and Northern Europe

Main article: War children

In countries occupied by Nazi Germany during the war whose population was not dubbed "inferior" (Untermensch) by the Nazis, fraternisation between Wehrmacht soldiers and indigenous women resulted in offspring. After the Wehrmacht's withdrawal, these women and their children of German descent were ill-treated.[298][299] Though plans were made in Norway to expel the children and their mothers to Australia, these plans were never executed. For many war children, the situation would ease only decades after the war.[300][301][302]

Reasons and justifications for the expulsions

Given the complex history of the affected regions and the divergent interests of the victorious Allied powers, it is difficult to ascribe a definitive set of motives to the expulsions. The respective paragraph of the Potsdam Agreement only states vaguely: "The Three Governments, having considered the question in all its aspects, recognize that the transfer to Germany of German populations, or elements thereof, remaining in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, will have to be undertaken. They agree that any transfers that take place should be effected in an orderly and humane manner". The major motivations revealed are:

  • A desire to create ethnically homogeneous nation-states: This is presented by several authors as a key issue that motivated the expulsions.[303][304][305][306][307][308]
  • View of a German minority as potentially troublesome: From the Soviet perspective, shared by the communist administrations installed in Soviet-occupied Europe, the remaining large German populations outside post-war Germany were seen as a potentially troublesome 'fifth column' that would, because of its social structure, interfere with the envisioned Sovietisation of the respective countries.[309] The western allies also saw the threat of a potential German 'fifth column', especially in Poland after the agreed-to compensation with former German territory.[303] In general, the Western allies hoped to secure a more lasting peace by eliminating the German minorities, which they thought could be done in a humane manner.[303][310]
  • Soviet political considerations. Stalin saw the expulsions as a means of creating antagonism between the Soviet satellite states and their neighbours. The satellite states would then need the protection of the Soviet Union.[315] The expulsions served several practical purposes as well.

A desire to create ethnically homogeneous nation-states

The creation of ethnically homogeneous nation states in Central and Eastern Europe[304] was presented as the key reason for the official decisions of the Potsdam and previous Allied conferences as well as the resulting expulsions.[305] The principle of every nation inhabiting its own nation state gave rise to a series of expulsions and resettlements of Germans, Poles, Ukrainians and others who after the war found themselves outside their supposed home states.[306] The 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey lent legitimacy to the concept. Churchill cited the operation as a success in a speech discussing the German expulsions.[316][317]

In view of the desire for ethnically homogeneous nation-states it did not make sense to draw borders through regions which were already inhabited homogeneously by Germans without any minorities.

As early as on 9 September 1944, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and Polish communist Edward Osobka-Morawski of the Polish Committee of National Liberation signed a treaty in Lublin on population exchanges of Ukrainians and Poles living on the "wrong" side of the Curzon line.[306] Many of the 2.1 million Poles expelled from the Soviet-annexed Kresy, so-called 'repatriants', were resettled to former German territories, then dubbed 'Recovered Territories'.[314] Czech Eduard Beneš in his decree of 19 May 1945, termed ethnic Hungarians and Germans "unreliable for the state", clearing a way for confiscations and expulsions.[318]

View of a German minority as potentially troublesome

Distrust and enmity

One of the reasons given by Stalin for the population transfer of Germans from the former eastern territories of Germany was the claim that these areas were a stronghold of the Nazi movement.[319] However neither Stalin nor the other influential advocates of this argument required that expellees be checked for their political attitudes or their activities. Even in the few cases when this happened and expellees were proven to have been bystanders, opponents or even victims of the Nazi regime, they were rarely spared from expulsion.[320] Polish Communist propaganda used and manipulated hatred of the Nazis to intensify the expulsions.[307]

With German communities living within the pre-war borders of Poland, there was an expressed fear of disloyalty of Germans in Eastern Upper Silesia and Pomerelia, based on wartime Nazi activities.[321] Created on order of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, a Nazi ethnic German organisation called Selbstschutz carried out executions during Intelligenzaktion alongside operational groups of German military and police, in addition to such activities as identifying Poles for execution and illegally detaining them.[322] To Poles, expulsion of Germans was seen as an effort to avoid such events in the future and as a result, Polish exile authorities proposed a population transfer of Germans as early as 1941.[322] The Czechoslovak government-in-exile worked with the Polish government-in-exile towards this end during the war.[323]

Preventing ethnic violence

The participants at the Potsdam Conference asserted that 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, insofar 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 the prospect of disentanglement of populations, not even of these large transferences, which are more possible in modern conditions than they have ever been before".[324] From this point of view, the policy achieved its goals: the 1945 borders are stable and ethnic conflicts are relatively marginal.

Punishment for starting the war and Nazi crimes

The expulsions were also driven by a desire for retribution, given the brutal way German occupiers treated non-German civilians in the German occupied territories during the war. Thus, the expulsions were partly motivated by the animus engendered by the war crimes, atrocities, brutalities and uncivilised rule of the German conquerors.[305][311] Czechoslovak President Eduard Benes, in the National Congress, justified the expulsions on 28 October 1945 by stating that the majority of Germans had acted in full support of Hitler; during a ceremony in remembrance of the Lidice massacre, he blamed all Germans as responsible for the actions of the German state.[312] In Poland and Czechoslovakia, newspapers,[325] leaflets[325] and politicians across the political spectrum,[325][326] which narrowed during the post-war Communist take-over,[326] asked for retribution for wartime German activities.[325][326] Responsibility of the German population for the crimes committed in its name was also asserted by commanders of the late and post-war Polish military.[325] Karol Świerczewski, commander of the 2nd Polish army, briefed his soldiers to "exact on the Germans what they enacted on us, so they will flee on their own and thank God they saved their lives".[325] In Poland, which had suffered the loss of six million citizens, including her elite and almost an entire Jewish population due to the Holocaust and the Lebensraum concept, most Germans were seen as Nazi-perpetrators who could now finally be collectively punished for their past deeds.[314]

The Allies' Nuremberg Trials dealt only with individuals. The Trials indicted and found guilty numerous top Nazis for crimes against humanity and a variety of war crimes.

Soviet political considerations

Stalin, who had earlier directed a number of population transfers in the Soviet Union, strongly supported the expulsions, which worked to the Soviet Union's advantage in several ways. The satellite states would now feel the need to be protected by the Soviets from German anger over the expulsions.[315] The assets left by the expellees in Poland and Czechoslovakia were successfully used to reward cooperation with the new governments, and support for the Communists was especially strong in areas that had seen significant expulsions. Settlers in these territories welcomed the opportunities presented by their fertile soils and vacated homes and enterprises, increasing their loyalty.[327]

Legacy of the expulsions

With at least[328] 12 million[32][329][330] Germans directly involved, possibly 14 million[167][284] or more,[331] it was the largest movement or transfer of any single ethnic population in European history[330][332][333] and largest among the post-war expulsions in Central and Eastern Europe (which displaced more than 20 million people in total).[329]

The exact number of Germans expelled after the war is still unknown, because most recent research provides a combined estimate which includes those who were evacuated by the German authorities, fled or were killed during the war. However, it is estimated that between 12 and 14 million German citizens and foreign ethnic Germans and their descendants were displaced from their homes. The exact number of casualties is still unknown and is difficult to establish due to the chaotic nature of the last months of the war.

Census figures placed the total number of ethnic Germans still living in Eastern Europe in 1950, after the major expulsions were complete, at approximately 2.6 million, about 12 percent of the pre-war total.[67]

The events have been usually classified as population transfer,[334] or as ethnic cleansing.[335] R. J. Rummel has classified these events as democide,[331] and a few go as far as calling it a genocide.[336] Polish sociologist and philosopher Lech M. Nijakowski explains in his book why there was no genocide.[337]

The expulsions created major social disruptions in the receiving territories, which were tasked with providing housing and employment for millions of refugees.[338] West Germany established a ministry dedicated to the problem, and several laws created a legal framework. The expellees established several organisations, some demanding compensation. Their grievances, while remaining controversial, were incorporated into public discourse.[338] During 1945 the British press aired concerns over the refugees' situation;[339] this was followed by limited discussion of the issue during the Cold War outside West Germany.[340] East Germany sought to avoid alienating the Soviet Union and its neighbours; the Polish and Czechoslovakian governments characterised the expulsions as "a just punishment for Nazi crimes".[338] Western analysts were inclined to see the Soviet Union and its satellites as a single entity, disregarding the national disputes that had preceded the Cold War.[341] The fall of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany opened the door to a renewed examination of the expulsions in both scholarly and political circles.[342] A factor in the ongoing nature of the dispute is the high proportion of the German citizenry that consists of expellees and their descendents, estimated at about 20% in 2000.[343]

Status in international law

International law on population transfer underwent considerable evolution during the 20th century. Before 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. 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 nation-states to impose fiats which adversely affected them. The Charter of the then newly formed United Nations stated that its Security Council could take no enforcement actions regarding measures taken against World War II "enemy states", defined as enemies of a Charter signatory in World War II.[344] The Charter also stated that it did not preclude action in relation to such enemies "taken or authorized as a result of that war by the Governments having responsibility for such action."[344] Thus, the Charter did not invalidate or preclude action against World War II enemies following the war.[344] This argument is, however, contested by American professor of international law Alfred de Zayas.[345] ICRC's legal adviser Jean-Marie Henckaerts says that the contemporary expulsions conducted by the Allies of World War II themselves were the reason why expulsion issues were included neither in the UN Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, nor in the European Convention on Human Rights in 1950, and says it "may be called 'a tragic anomaly'" that while deportations were outlawed at Nuremberg they were used by the same powers as a "peacetime measure".[346] It was only in 1955 that the Settlement Convention regulated expulsions, yet only in respect to expulsions of individuals of the states who signed the convention.[346] The first international treaty condemning mass expulsions was a document issued by the Council of Europe on 16 September 1963 titled Protocol No 4 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms Securing Certain Rights and Freedoms Other than Those Already Included in the Convention and in the First Protocol [sic!],[346] stating in Article 4: "collective expulsion of aliens is prohibited".[347] This protocol entered into force on 2 May 1968, and as of 1995 was ratified by 19 states.[347]

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."[348] No legal distinction is made between one-way and two-way transfers, since the rights of each individual are regarded as independent of the experience of others.

Although the signatories to the Potsdam Agreements and the expelling countries may have considered the expulsions to be legal under international law at the time, there are historians and scholars in international law and human rights who argue that the expulsions of Germans from Central and Eastern Europe should now be considered as episodes of ethnic cleansing, and thus a violation of human rights. For example, 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.[349] In the 1970s and 1980s a Harvard-trained lawyer and historian, Alfred de Zayas, published Nemesis at Potsdam and A Terrible Revenge, both of which became bestsellers in Germany.[350] De Zayas argues that the expulsions were war crimes and crimes against humanity even in the context of international law of the time, stating "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".[350][351][352] He also argued that they violated the Nuremberg Principles.[350] In November 2000 a major conference on ethnic cleansing in the 20th century was held at Duquesne University, along with the publication of a book containing participants' conclusions.[353]

Numerous human rights experts have argued that all victims deserve compassion, and that it is unacceptable to discriminate amongst victims or to apply principles of collective guilt to innocent civilian populations. The first UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, José Ayala Lasso (Ecuador) endorsed the establishment of the Centre Against Expulsions in Berlin.[354] Ayala Lasso gave the German expellees recognition as victims of gross violations of human rights.[355] Professor de Zayas, a member of the advisory board of the Stiftung Zentrum gegen Vertreibungen, endorses the full participation of the organisation representing the expellees, the Bund der Vertriebenen, in the Centre in Berlin.[356]

Now the only real project is named "Visual Sign" (Sichtbares Zeichen)[357] and the name of the responsible foundation is Stiftung Flucht, Vertreibung, Versöhnung (SFVV).


The German historian Andreas Hillgruber called the expulsions a "national catastrophe" that was just as tragic as the Holocaust.[358] Against Hillgruber, the British historian Richard J. Evans wrote that though the expulsions of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe was done in an extremely brutal manner that could not be defended, the basic aim of expelling the ethnic German population of Poland and Czechoslovakia was justified by the subversive role played by the German minorities before World War II.[359] Evans wrote that under the Weimar Republic the vast majority of ethnic Germans in Poland and Czechoslovakia made it clear that they were not loyal to the states they happened to live under, and under the Third Reich the German minorities in Eastern Europe were willing tools of German foreign policy.[360] Evans wrote that many areas of Eastern Europe featured a jumble of various ethnic groups of which Germans were only one, and that it was the destructive role played by ethnic Germans as instruments of Nazi Germany that led to their expulsion after the war.[361] Finally Evans argued that the expulsions were justified as they put an end to a major problem that plagued Europe before the war; that gains to the cause of peace were a further benefit of the explusions; and that if the Germans had been allowed to remain in Eastern Europe after the war, West Germany would have used their presence to make territorial claims against Poland and Czechoslovakia, and that given the Cold War, this could have helped cause World War III.[362] The American historian Gerhard Weinberg wrote that the explusions of the Sudeten Germans was justified as the Germans themselves had scrapped the Munich Agreement.[363]

Political issues

In January 1990 the Czechoslovakian President Václav Havel requested forgiveness on his country's behalf, notably using the term expulsion rather than transfer.[364][365] Public approval for Havel's stance was limited; in a 1996 opinion poll, 86% of Czechs stated they would not support a party that endorsed such an apology.[366] The expulsion topic also surfaced in 2002 during the Czech Republic's application for membership in the European Union, since the authorisation decrees issued by Edvard Beneš had not been formally renounced.[367]

A Centre against Expulsions was to be set up in Berlin by the German government based on an initiative and with active participation of the German Federation of Expellees. The Centre's creation has been criticized in Poland.[368] It was strongly opposed by the Polish government and president Lech Kaczyński. Current Polish prime minister Donald Tusk restricted his comments to a recommendation that Germany pursue a neutral approach at the museum.[368] According to the Polish position, the centre seeks to paint a population of Germans as victims of World War II. Many in Poland argue that there is no moral equivalent to how Jews, Poles, Russians, Romani people and many others suffered at the hands of the German Nazis.[369] Now the only real project is named "Visual Sign" (Sichtbares Zeichen).

In October 2009 the Czech President Vaclav Klaus stated that the Czech Republic would require exemption from the European Charter of Fundamental Rights in order to ensure that the descendents of expelled Germans were unable to press claims against the Republic.[370]

See also


  1. "the expulsion of the Germans constitutes the largest mass transfer of a population in history"
  2. Europe and German unification,
  3. Renata Fritsch-Bournazel, p. 77, Berg Publishers 1992


  • Baziur, Grzegorz. Armia Czerwona na Pomorzu Gdańskim 1945-1947 [Red Army Gdańsk Pomerania 1945-1947], Warsaw: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, 2003. ISBN 83-89078-19-8
  • Beneš, Z., D. Jančík et al., Facing History: The Evolution of Czech and German Relations in the Czech Provinces, 1848-1948, Prague: Gallery. ISBN 80-86010-60-0
  • Blumenwitz, Dieter: Flucht und Vertreibung, Cologne: Carl Heymanns, 1987
  • Brandes, Detlef: Flucht und Vertreibung (1938–1950), European History Online, Mainz: Institute of European History, 2011, retrieved: 25 February 2013.
  • de Zayas, Alfred M.: "A terrible Revenge". Palgrave/Macmillan, New York, 1994. ISBN 1-4039-7308-3.
  • de Zayas, Alfred M.: "Nemesis at Potsdam." London, 1977. ISBN o-8032-4910-1.
  • R. M. Douglas: Orderly and Humane. The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War. Yale University Press 2012, ISBN 978-0300166606
  • German statistics (Statistical and graphical data illustrating German population movements in the aftermath of the Second World War published in 1966 by the West German Ministry of Refugees and Displaced Persons)
  • Grau, Karl F. Silesian Inferno, War Crimes of the Red Army on its March into Silesia in 1945, Valley Forge, PA: The Landpost Press, 1992. ISBN 1-880881-09-8
  • Höfer Verlag: Zweisprachige Landkarten mit separatem Ortsnamenverzeichnis. ISBN 978-3-931103-02-0. (Maps in both languages)
  • Jankowiak, Stanisław. Wysiedlenie i emigracja ludności niemieckiej w polityce władz polskich w latach 1945-1970 [Expulsion and emigration of German population in the policies of Polish authorities in 1945-1970], Warsaw: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, 2005. ISBN 83-89078-80-5
  • Naimark, Norman M. The Russians in Germany: A History of the Soviet Zone of Occupation, 1945-1949, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-674-78405-7
  • Naimark, Norman M.: Fires of Hatred. Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth - Century Europe. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001.
  • Overy, Richard. The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Third Reich, London: Penguin Books, 1996. ISBN 0-14-051330-2. In particular, p. 111.
  • Podlasek, Maria. Wypędzenie Niemców z terenów na wschód od Odry i Nysy Łużyckiej, Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Polsko-Niemieckie, 1995. ISBN 83-86653-00-0
  • Prauser, Steffen and Arfon Rees (eds.). The Expulsion of 'German' Communities from Eastern Europe at the end of the Second World War, (EUI Working Paper HEC No. 2004/1) Florence: European University Institute.
  • Reichling, Gerhard. Die deutschen Vertriebenen in Zahlen, 1986. ISBN 3-88557-046-7
  • Truman Presidential Library: Marshal Plan Documents
  • Zybura, Marek. Niemcy w Polsce [Germans in Poland], Wrocław: Wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie, 2004. ISBN 83-7384-171-7

External links

  • A documentary film about the expulsion of the Germans from Hungary
  • University of Mississippi School of Law (PDF)
  • Main URL, wisc.edu)
  • Frontiers and areas of administration Foreign relations of the United States (the Potsdam Conference), Volume I (1945), wisc.edu
  • History and Memory: mass expulsions and transfers 1939-1945-1949 M. Rutowska, Z. Mazur, H. Orłowski
  • Forced Migration in Central and Eastern Europe, 1939-1950
  • „Unsere Heimat ist uns ein fremdes Land geworden...“ Die Deutschen östlich von Oder und Neiße 1945-1950. Dokumente aus polnischen Archiven. Band 1: Zentrale Behörden, Wojewodschaft Allenstein
  • Dokumentation der Vertreibung (German)
  • Displaced Persons Act of 1948
  • Flucht und Vertreibung Gallerie- Flight & Expulsion Gallery
  • Deutsche Vertriebenen – German Expulsions (Histories & Documentation)
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