World War II Ethnic Clensing: Expullsion of Germans from Eastern Europe

Figure 1.--This photograph was taken by a German soldier, probably in 1941 or 42. The location is not identified, but we would guess it was taken in Romania or the Ukraine. One subject we have not been able to find much information on is the extent o which the German minorities in Eastern European countries were involved in NAZI war crimes.

The fate of the Volksdeutche is one of the many depressing stories of World War II. The irony is that while NAZIs who set out to ethnically clense newly acquired areas of the Reich, it was the Germans that were ethnically clensed from Eastern Europe. Those Germans expelled are today referred to in Germany as " Vertriebenen " (expelled ones). Nearly all lived in countries invaded and occupied by NAZI Germany. Many but not all participated in NAZI genocidal or explotive programs to colonize the occupied East. As a result, both the Russian Army and partisans targetted them as the Wehrmacht was forced to retreat. Many wisely fled with the Wehrmacht. Others were reluctant to leave the farms and towns where their families had lived for generations. After the Wehrmacht withdrew and after the end of the War, millions of these ethnic Germans were murdered, deported or otherwise ethnically cleansed. Many first hand accounts describe the violence directed at those of German ancestry. A great deal of documentation was gathered by the German Wehrmacht War Crimes Bureau. (Yes, the Wehrmacht was collecting evidence of war crimes.) There are many incidents of unimagined savegery. There were women crucified in Nemmersdorf and the wholesale murder of children. [De Zayas and Barber]

NAZI Ethnic Clensing

The fate of the Volksdeutche is one of the many depressing stories of World War II. The irony is that while NAZIs who set out to ethnically clense newly acquired areas of the Reich, it was the Germans that were ethnically clensed from Eastern Europe.

Germans in Foreign Countries

Throughout the Medieval era, Germans moved east and established communities as far east as the Volga. It is brelieved that well over 10 million Germans lived outside the Reich in eastern and southern Europe. Many of these Germans lived in separate communities and had separate schools and other institutions. Many of these Germans lived abrod for centuries. The German defeat in World War I resulted in large numbers of Germans being left outside the boundaries of the Reich against their will. Hitler made extensive political capital out of these Germans and used them to justify German demands on neighboring countries. There were also Germans in Western Europe. Various terms have been used for Germans, both Germans livibng within the Reich and Germans living in foreign countries. Some of these terms are difficult to translate. This is in part because the terms have taken on connotations not actually associated with the dictionary definition. This has especially been the case in the aftermath of World War II when NAZI officials perpetrated attrocities of apaling proportions. Local Germans in occupied countries played arranged of roles. Some collaborated with the NAZIs. Some assisted the resistance. Others avoid political involvement. We can not as this time just how common these different patterns were. The local hostilityb toward all Germans, however, was so intense that local Germans were often the targets of borth offical persecution and localized vigelante justice.

Political Orientation: Before and during World War II

We do not know of a detailed political assessment of the political orientation of the Volksdeutsche and other German ethnic minorities in Eastern and Central Europe. And how this was affected by the rise of the NAZIs in Germany. This is a complex topics and involved a dozen or so countries. The Volksdeutsche history and situation varied from country to country as did the resoponse to the rise of the NAZIs. The most highly politicized ethic Germans were those that had lived in the German or Austro-Hungarin Empire before World War I. They were acustomed to being a part of the ruling elite and thus found themseselves a minority and reduced in status. This included communities in western Poland, Czechoslovakia, and northern Yugoslavia (Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia). The German Sudentens were strongly politicized, but this seems to have been primarily a development after Hitler's seizire of power. And the Sudeten Germans were unique in that they lived in a concentrated area along the German and Austrian border. German communities in other countries seem less politicized, but we note that ethnic Germans in the Baltics and notheastern Romania (Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina) complied with NAZI instructions to Come Home to the Reich. Volksdeutsche in the Soviet Union seem apolitical, but we are not sure just how the arrival of German troops affected their political orientation. Stalin deported the Volga Germans east, but the German advance was so rapid that Germans located further West escaped deportation. This is a topic that we have not yet researched in detail, but hope to so as our website expands.

Level of Complicity

Many Germans in Eastern Europe participated either actively or passively in NAZI genocidal or explotive programs to colonize the occupied East. Here there was considerable variation. Many of the Sudeten Germans had been politicized and were happy to be "liberated" by the NAZIs. When the NAZIs entered first the Sudeten land (October 1938) and then the rest of what remained of Czechoslovakia, the SS had lists of people to be arrested. We suspect that the Sudeten Germns help compile those lists and added to the lo lists after the NAZI occupation. I suspect that many Sudeten Germans worked actively with the NAZIs. The Carpathian Germans were much less politicized. When the NAZIs entered Poland, the SS also came with lists of Poles to arrest. We do not know if Polish Germns helped prepare those lists. This is a topic that requires much needed research.

Allied Conferences

The expulsion of the Germans was decided and agreed at the Allied War Conferences of Teheran (1943) and Yalta (1945) and sealed in Potsdam immediately after the War. The United States participated in the agreement) "in order to bring peace within the new boundaries and to solve the minorities problems once and for all". Winston Churchill said on December 15 1944 in the British Parliament: "The expulsion (of the Germans), as far as I can judge, is the most satisfying and durable remedy. There won't be any mixture in the population any more, so that we can avoid unpleasant situations like we had in Alsace-Lorraine. We need a clean sweep". The Allis at the Potsdam Conference agreed to '... recognise that the transfer to Germany of German populations ... remaining in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, will have to be undertaken.' (July 1945). They insisted '... any transfers that take place should be effected in an orderly and humane manner.' Many Germans recognized the ineviable and moved west without any prodding. Others wanted toi remain in homes and ftms where their families and lived for generations and they had deep roots. Thus after the War, forced expulsions began. And many were conductd in an often ruthless manner, by people who had been brutalkized by the NAZIs.


As a result, both the Russian Army and partisans targetted them as the Wehrmacht was forced to retreat. Of course the people targeted in most instances were not those who had committed war crimes.


Europe was awash with refugees at the end of World War II. They were a pitiful site, but they were actually the lucky ones--they had survived. Germany was a mix of over 10 million foreign slave and other forced laborers trying to get home as well as several million POWS. A much smaller number of Jewish survivors, many of which could not go home. These non-German refugees are the ones which most commonly come to mind when people think of World War II refugees. Actually, there was another group of refugees headed the other way--over 10 million Germans from the liberated countries. One of the ironies of history was the NAZI policy of remaking the ethnic map of Europe (Generalplan Ost) resulted not in expanded German populations in the East, but in driving the Germans west from areas where they had lived for centuries. And the numbers of German refugees from the East were swelled by the Germans whose homes were destroyed by the Allied bombing or fleeing Soviet rule. Many Germans from Eastern Europe wisely fled the advancing Red Army as the Wehrmacht retreted west. The NAZIs organized ships to take the German refugees from East Prussia. Memel and other Baltic ports were used. They were for women and children and the elderly. Men and older boys were susposed to stay and fight. Some of these ships were sunk by Soviet submarines with great loss of life. Some came by rail, the rail system in eastern Germany was not as damaged as that in the west. Many came the old fashion way--on foot. And at the end of the war, refugees began to come from areas of Germany thay had been German for centuries. These were areas that were seized by the Soviet Union such as Köninsberg (Kalinigrad) or transfrred to Poland (such as Danzig, Pomerania, and Silesia). And adding further to the dislocation and tumault were Germans in the Soviet occupation zone that decided to live in the west. The Germans who tried to stay in their ancestral homes in Eastern Europe (Czechosolvakia, Poland, Yugoslavia, and other countries) were forcibly expelled, both by local vigelantees and/or expulsion laws. The Germans in motion at the end of the War, constituted the lsrgest migration in European history.

Reluctance to Leave

Others were reluctant to leave the farms and towns where their families had lived for generations.


After the Wehrmacht withdrew and after the end of the War, millions of these ethnic Germans were murdered, deported or otherwise ethnically cleansed. Many first hand accounts describe the violence directed at those of German ancestry. A great deal of documentation was gathered by the German Wehrmacht War Crimes Bureau. (Yes, the Wehrmacht was collecting evidence of war crimes.) There are many incidents of unimagined savegery. There were women crucified in Nemmersdorf and the wholesale murder of children. [De Zayas and Barber] Estimates vary, but one source estimates that about 2 Million "Volksdeutsche" died during these expulsions. The attitude at the time in the acrimonious atmosphere following the War and with menories of the NAZU attrocities still fresh was (and often still is): "They deserved it".

Country Trends

The circumstances and pattern of the expullsions varied some what in the different liberated countries after the War. At this time we have few details.

(The) Baltics

As a result of Hitler's "Back to the Reich" order in 1939, there were few Baltic Germans left in the former Baltic republics.


After World War I Belgium got a piece of German land at the Eastern border, the region of Eupen-Malmedy, where most of the people were German-speaking. When NAZI Germany invaded Belgium in 1940 Eupen-Malmedy was anexed back to the Reich. The people there received automatically German citizenship, meaning that the men were drafted into the Wehrmacht! In 1945 the area became Belgian again, but the people were looked upon with contempt and suspicion by the other Belgians. Some of these German Belgians were forced to leave, but most of them could stay and through the years they changed into valuable citizens after the Common Market was created on account of their language skills. They all spoke French, and often Dutch and German was their mother tongue, which was very important in the new European Union. Eupen-Malmedy is pretty much autonomous and German now is an official language in Belgium. [Stueck]


The first NAZI aggression against a foreign country was against Czechoslovakia. Hitler had used the Sudeten Germans as the basis for his demands at Munich (1938). The Czechs were forced out of he Sudetenland even before the ehrny occupied all of Czecholovakia. Many left willingly fearg Germn rle. The resulting NAZI occupation of Czechoslovakia was brutal. And the Czechs were largely unaware of the horrendous plans that the Germans had to eliminate not just the Czech state, but the Czech people themselves as part of Generalpan Ost. When SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamt Heydrich was asasinated, he was preparing to travel to Berlin to duscss this project (1942). The Czechs after the war were thus understandably anxious to remove this possible future source of tensions. President Benesch in his London exile in 1941 demanded the complete expulsion of the 3.5 million Germans from Czechoslavakia. The Czechs passed a law concerning the deportment of Germans--the Law of Liberation from Nazism and Militarism (March 5, 1946). The country's 2.2 million Germans were forcibly expelled. Their property was expropriated without compensation. The Czechs at the peak ofthis operiom were forcing over 14,000 people a day across the birder (July 1946). Something like three quarters went to the American occupation zone. Most of the remainder to the Soviet zone. We are unsure just how much choice was involved. We do not yet have details but note that the Panzer Prince was not affected, probably because of his Czech mother.


Also Denmark has a German minority. After the war with Prussia (1864), a sizable part of North Schleswig became German territory. Many Danes lived in that area, but also German-speaking farmers. Towns like Aabenra (Apenrade) and Haderslev (Hadersleben) had a mixed population. After World War I the border shifted to the south just north of Flensburg until 1940 when the Germans occupied Denmark. Then again, in 1945 the region became Danish. The German minority north of the border had initially a hard time, but things had to be worked out, because West Germany also had a sizable Danish minority in Schleswig-Holstein, who wanted their own schools, libraries, church services and soccer clubs. A deal was made and the German-speaking minority in Denmark now also has its own schools, newspaper, clubs, etc. An interesting aspect here is that one cannot tell by the last name who is German or Danish, because most of the people have names like Hansen, Larsen and Christiansen.


The situation in France in regard to its German-speaking minority is substantially different from that in neighboring Belgium. Although Alsace-Lorraine has a Germanic background and culture (Alsace more than Lorraine) and the people speak an Alemannic dialect, the inhabitants feel French. That was not always the case, but since King Louis XIV took the cities of Metz and Strasbourg and declared all the land west of the Rhine river to be French territory the Alsatians became attached to France. However, they kept on speaking their own language at home and preserved many German characteristics in the way they built their houses and cooked their meals. After the Franco-Prussian War provinces of Alsace-Loraine were made Reichsländer in the newly declared German Empire (1872). If the Germans had given them some autonomy they might have developed some sympathy for Germany, but the area was ruled with an iron fist. When Alsace-Lorraine became French again in 1919 most of the people were happy about it. It did not last long, because in 1940 lsace-Lorraine was made part of the Third Reich and young Alsatian men were drafted into the German army or forced to work in German factories. The liberation in 1945 was greeted with tremendous enthusiasm. As far as I know no action was taken against German speakers that could claim French citzenship and did no collaborate. Now of course the people are again French for nearly 60 years, and the hatred between the two countries is gone and they all feel that they understand each other better as good Europeans.


German farmers, merchants and craftsmen had settled in Hungary since the Middle Ages. The law books of many Hungarian cities were written in German, incl. Ofen (later called Budapest). The Germans in Hungary and Yugoslavia were called " Swabians". Many famous Hungarians, like Franz Liszt and Ignaz Semmelweisz, were actually Swabians. Liszt for example never learned to speak Hungarian. As in other countries with large German settlements the Swabians had their own schools and organizations. Hungarey since the Middle Ages had been a Hapsburg-ruled kingdom. (The last Hungarian king had been killed in fighting with the Turks.) Thus Hungary for centuries was ruled by the Germans (Austrians). After World War II many Germans were expelled, often brutally. Some 60,000 Germans managed to flee Hungary as the Red Army approached. Unlike other Germans in th East, there was a relatively easy route, by boat up the Danube. After the war the new Hungarian Givernment ordered ethnic Germans to leave en masse. This was done largely by train. There are reports of some deportees affirming their loyalty by waving Hungarian flags, singing Magyar folk songs, and chalking on the sides of the train cars phrases such as 'We don't say goodbye, only au revoir!' Most of the deportees were sent to Germany. Thee are reprts of the Soviets deporting the entire adult population of some villages to labor camps deep in the Soviet Union--the Donets Basin. Some 200,000 Germans managed to remin in Hungary. we are unsure just how determinatiins were made. Political orinttions my hve ben involvd. They were even allowed maintain their identity. The Communists even allowed the remaining Germans to publish newspapers and books in German for the Swabian communities.


There was a small German community in northern Italy. The Allies had rewarded the Italians for coming over to the Allies rather than honoring their treaty with the Central Powers in World War I (1915). The Italians received a beautiful area in the North. That was the Austrian province of South Tirol. The only trouble was that the people spoke German and actually looked down on Italians. They were a stubborn people, staunchly Catholic and proud of their own ways. Things became bad under Mussolini. He settled hundreds of Italians from Calabria and Sicily in the cities of Bolzano and Merano to increase the Italian element. German schools were closed and street signs had to be written in Italian only. This was the one German community in Europe that Hitler did not use to stir up trouble. Hitler knew about the oppression of his people there, but never said anything, because he needed the Duce as his Axis ally in his future endeavours. Hitler tried to get the Tiroleans to move to Germany, but very few went. They just waited for better times to arrive. Italy was of course a German ally until late 1943. The Germans after late 1943 seized control of mich of Italy and a number of attrocities were reported, although not on the scale perpetrated in Eastern Europe. As far as I know, the Italians took no action against the Germans in South Tirol. After considerable effort the South Tiroleans got autonomy about 10 years after World War II. All signs are bilingual, people are allowed to have their own organisations, German-language papers, and libraries. The area is very mountanous and tourism is a large source of income. Especially Germans come on vacation. The best Italian skiers, and bobsledders are Tiroleans and when Gerhard Plankensteiner or Oswald Hasenrieder are winning a gold medal at the Winter Olympics, the Italian announcers are not able to pronounce the names of their heroes.

(The) Netherlands

A Dutch reader tells us, "In Holland there always were many Germans. Most of them stayed and became Dutch citizens (like my father). Actually the Dutch royal family, Orange-Nassau, is more than 90 percent of German descent. Not only was the founder of the Netherlands, William of Nassau, born in Germany, but nearly all Dutch rulers kept marrying Germans until now. Our national anthem starts with the words: "Wilhelmus van Nassouwe, ben ick van Duytschen bloet" (Old Dutch, it means " William of Nassau, I am of German blood"). The Dutch tried to change the words during and after World War II, but tradition won over fanatism, so nothing changed. The Germans in Holland never lived in certain areas, but most of them were in the cities. Many who were German citizens left for Germany in September 1944 as the Allied armies surged north into Belgium and the Netherlands. Others were imprisoned or sent back to Germany after the War. It all depended to what degree they had been involved with the NAZI occupation authorities. Their property was then confiscated by the Dutch authorities." [Stueck]


Following World war II, the Soviets pushed the Poland west. The new Polish state included areas that had been German for centuries. Most Germans living in the areas taken over by Poland had fleed with the retreating Wehrmacht. Wether they were officialy urged to flee – this would be deportation, isn`t it? – I don´t know. Many were fleeing when the German army had to leave these areas as they were anxious what the Soviet Russian army and soldiers would do; asking for the „Uru, Uru“ („Uhr“ in German for watch) by Russian soldiers certainly was harmless; but people were more anxious – and had some reason for it. Soviet troops in Germany engaged in widespread looting and raping. I assume this began with the Germand that they encounterd in Poland. Most Germans remaining were forced to migrate west to Germany without any assistance in doing so. Russian policy was to drive the Germans further west out of the new Poland. One account reported, "... the Russians are acting little better than thugs. They have wiped out all the liquid assets. No food cards are issued to Germans, who are forced to travel on foot into the Russian zone, often more dead than alive. An iron curtain has descended over the fate of these people and very likely conditions are truly terrible. The promises at Yalta to the contrary, probably 8 to 10 million people are being enslaved." [Dulles] It was not just the Russians forcing the Germans west. Poles who had been terribly abused by the Germans during the War, now took revenge on any Germans who tried to remain. The Polish Government reportedly mprisoned about 100,000 Germans, mostly civilians, who were judged to be threats to the state. The conditions were similar to those in NAZI concentration camps. About 15,000 are believed to have died from ill-treatment. Some of these Germans were not released until 1950.


We have only limited information on Romania. Germans began settling in Transsylvania in the 13th century. The Germans that settled in Transsylvania were called "Saxons", because many came from Saxony. Of the 500,000 Saxons before the advent of World War II, about 100,000 still remain in Transsylvania

Soviet Union

There were two groups of Germans deported by the Soviets. One was the Germans in East Prussia, which was prtioned between the Soviet Union and Poland. The Soviet portion is today known as Kalinigrad and is built around the histoiic German city of Königsberg. Many Germans in East Prussia fled west even befire the Soivietrs arrived. But because NAZI leaders faled to issue timely evacuation order, many had not. Thousands peished in chotic evcuations, many drowned in overloaded ships were torpeoded by Soviet submarines in the Baltic Sea. In German inhabited city of Königsberg, annexed by the Soviets, the food supply yotally broke down. Horrendous stories emerged. People were eating offal. There were even reports of minced human flesh being sold as meatballs. One report summarizes what happebed, "Seven centuries of German civilisation, in the city that had nurtured philosophers such as Immanuel Kant and Johann Gottfried von Herder, thus ended in cannibalism." The Soviets drove outall of the memining Germans. The largest German population in the Soviet Union was the Volga Germans. I do not know if the NAZIs tried to get Stalin to allow them to return to the Reich after the NAZI invasion (June 1941). This was one group that was forced back to Germany after the War. The Volga Germns were one of several nationalities Stalin deported to isolated areas of the country. The Soviet Government ordered the total deportation of Germans from the Autonomous Republic of the Volga Germans (August 28, 1941). The deportations was conducted during the first two weeks of September 1941. Most of them were transported to a variety of locations in Siberia Most of the exiled Volga-Germans were at first put to work on kolkhozes (collective farms). Because of the military emergency most by early 1942 weee foeced into the "Trud-Army" (Labor Army). Many were used in forestry. Women except those who had many children and juveniles were transported north to various settlements to work in the fishing industry (Summer 1942). Soviet authorities next began assgning juveniles to the "Trud-Army" (1943). They worked at the oil and natural gas hauling plants in the South-Ural. The Volga-Germans who had survived the ardous cinditions in the "Trud-Army" were relaeased 1946. The "release" actually meant internal exile mostly in Siberia. They were not allowed to return to their former homeland. The KGB issue "personal exile files" on all adult Volga-German deportees (1946-47). Many were put under "special registration" wjoch meant having to appear for registration and periodic checks. Soviet officials released the Volga-Germans (as well as other German exiles)from exile (February-March 1956). They were not, however given any right to return" home. Many were not allowed to leave their internal exile until the dissolution of the Soviet Union (1991).


Allied Occupation Zones

An estimated 12 million Germns got back to Germny alive. Historians debate the numers who died along the way. Estimates range from about 0.7 million to 2.5 million. Most arrived in eastern Germy before the end id of the War and subsequently the Soviet occupation zone. They arrived with little more than the clothes on their back. All were hungary and many sick. Most went to Western occupation zones and the Soviets for the most part permitted this and even began expelling the evacuees to the Western zones. The Soviets were hard poressed to care fir their own people and understandably had noi sympthy for the Germans after what they had done in the siviet Union. The integration of these Germans into West German society actually is a success story. When they arrived the country was in ruins and occupied by the Western Allies. Many people had no home, bu the ones who had a roof over their head were forced to share it with refugees from the East. Not until 1949 things were becoming 'normal' and settled. Suddenly Stalin had a change of mind. He had been obsessed with punishing the Germans. Then he began to see a value in having a Communist German lly. Ironically the Soviets who had begun by expelling German refugees to the Western zone would eventually support East German efforts to build the most hardened border in history to hold the Germans in their zone. This would become a major Cold War issue.

Soviet Occupation Zone/East Germany

We do not yet have a full picture as to just what occured in the Soviet occupation zone in reference to the expullsion of the Germans. And at the end of the War there were already large numbers of evacues from the east in the Soviet occupation zone. And it is a complicated issue because of Soviet policy and the subsequent policies of East Germany which developed from the Soviet occupation zone. The Soviet zone was of course what was left of eastern Germany. Thus it was the part of Germany clost to Poland, the Baltic republics (annexed by the Soviets), and the former German territories annexed by Poland and the Soviet Union. Thus it was the area where many of the evacuees/deportees first arrived. A tragedy of the war was the large number of evacuees from the East in Dresden at the time the city was bombed. And some deportes from Czecholslovakia also enteed the Soviet occuption zone. Many evacuees/deportes were in a terrible strait. And while the NAZI Government made some effort to help, Soviet authorities after the War did not. It was in fact the Soviets who had promted and in part actually carried out the expulsions. And they offered little support for the humanitarian effort to assist seeing the highest priority dealing with the massive humanitarian nightmare that the NAZIs leff in their wake in western Russia and the Ukraine. The Soviet attitude was it was up to the Western Allies who had suffered less to absorb the Germans expelled from the East in their zones of occupation. The Soviets were more focused on punishing than aiding the Germans. The Soviets failed to comply with their Potsdam commitments, especially supplying food (eastern Germany was a lagely agricultural area) and thus the United States soon stopped complying with its commiments on reparations. And even in the Western zones there was not total agreement. The French who were not at Potsdam and thisnot a sinatory refused to comply with the decesions on evacuees. And they refused to accept and aid them. In fact, Soviet authorities deported most of them on to the american and Britih occuption zones. Thus the responsibility fell primarily on the Americans and British. Most of the deportees and even some of the residents in the Soviet zone wanted to reach the Western zones. As the deportees had no local roots, depite their condition, they were the most mobile. Only later as Stalin began to see the value of a Communist German state in the developing Cold War did Soviet policy toward holding Germans in their zone began to materialize--a sharp change in policy. And here Berlin began to play an important role. It was the easiet way of reaching the west. Once in the wetern zone of Berlin, lthough surrouned by the Soviet zone, thy could reach the Western occupation zone in safety. This would emerge as a major Cold War issue.

Western Occupation Zones: Resettlement

An estimated 12 million Germans got back to Germany alive. Most arrived with little more than the clothes on their back. Most went to Western occupation zones and the Soviets for the most part permitted this. The integration of these Germans into West German society actually is a huge and generally unhealded success story. When they arrived the country was in ruins and occupied by the Western Allies. Many people had no home, bu the ones who had a roof over their head were forced to share it with refugees from the East. Not until 1949 things were becoming 'normal' and settled. Never in history had such a large group of peniless, starving people been so sucessfuly settled and integrated into a state which t the time had virtully no resources. This was mostly done in the American and British. The French who had not been invited to Potsdam where the issue was discussed in detail, refused to coopetrate. which

Soviet Expullsions of Poles

It was not just the Germans that experienced ethnic clensing after the War. The Soviets forcibly expelled large number of Poles from Lithiania, Belarus, and the Ukraine to the new Polish state, much of whivh had been carved out of former German areas (Silesia and East Prussia). The expulsion of the Poles from the East of Poland by the Soviets was O Kd by the Western Allies as was the forced repatriation of displaced persons of Ukrianian and Russian origin back to the Soviet Union. The old Western traditions of asylum and human rights were being ignored. Only when the Cold War began was there any resistance from the part of the United States and Britain to Stalin's actions, but for most of the DPs it all came too late. Millions of people had been expelled, imprisoned or killed.

Soviet DPs in the West

Substantial numbers of men from the Baltics and the Ukraine as well as other areas of the Soviet Union and fought with the Germans on the Eastern Front. Having experienced Stalin's barbarity, these men saw the Germns as liberators. Just before the NAZI invasion, the NKVD in the Baltics had begun massive arrests and deportations of whole families. Some fought in virtually every German unidorned service, including the Wafen SS. Among those whose goal was liberation of their countrty from Stalin were some who served in SS units, including concentration camps guards. As the Red Army pushed the Wehrmacht back on the Eastern Front, many of those whichbhad fought with the Germans fleed along woth their family back to Germny. Stalin at Yalta demanded their forcible repatriation. The Allies after the War complied. Those who fought with the Germans were mostly shot. I'm less sure what happened to their families. Even Soviet POWs and slave laborers in Germany were often arrested and committed to the Gulag when they returned to the SovietvUnion. There were, however, massive deportations in the Baltic.

Expelled Germans: Political Activity

Reader Comments

A Dutch reader writes, "12 million indeed. That's a staggering amount of people. Not only did they find the cities in ruins, most of the cows and horses were killed. Farmers whose fields were their property for generations were expelled. The rest of the world stood idly by (they had their own problems after WW2), a general attitude was "Oh, Germans ?, they deserve it". It is absolutely incredible that German society bounced back and that nearly all refugees were settled, Perhaps Angela Merkel was thinking of that when she invited desperate people to come to Germany, in their eyes a paradise. The only thing that was different was the fact that nearly all refugees spoke the language and were Christians. Compare that with the thousands of illiterate Muslims, who demand to be taken care of."


De Zayas, Alfred-Maurice and Charles M. Barber. A Terrible Revenge: The Ethnic Cleansing of the East European Germans, 1944-1950.

Dulles, Allen W. "That was then: Allen W. Dulles on the occupation of Germany" Foreign Affairs (November/December 2003).

Stueck, Rudi. E-mail message, April 14, 2004.


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Created: April 14, 2004
Last updated: 10:26 PM 2/13/2016