Flight and expulsion of Germans from Poland during and after World War II


Flight and expulsion of Germans from Poland during and after World War II

The flight and expulsion of Germans from Poland after World War II was part of a series of flights and expulsions of Germans from Europe during and after World War II. Germans fled and were expelled from all regions which are currently within the territorial boundaries of Poland, including the former eastern territories of Germany and parts of pre-war Poland.

The first mass movement of German civilians followed the Red Army's advance and was composed of both spontaneous "flight" and organized "evacuation" starting in the summer of 1944 and continuing through spring of 1945. Several million people were involved in this movement, many driven by fear of the advancing Soviet army. Of these, several hundred thousand died of cold or hunger or in Allied bombardment, though hundreds of thousands of others soon made their way back to the area.

The term "wild expulsion" ( _de. wilde Vertreibung) applies to poorly organized expulsions conducted by the Polish Communist military and civilian authorities in summer 1945, before the population transfers were officially sanctioned by the Allies at the Potsdam conference. These actions were superseded in spring 1946 by a series of larger, better organized, and less lethal "forced resettlements" which continued through 1947. A final major wave of resettlement resumed in 1948 and 1949.

Background

Historical pretext

German settlement in the former eastern territories of Germany and pre-war Poland dates back to the medieaval Ostsiedlung. After the Middle Ages, the influx of German migrants continued until Ostflucht led to a decrease in the German population. With the rise of nationalism, the Kingdom of Prussia installed a Settlement Commission started to settle Germans in her provinces of Posen and West Prussia for ethnic reasons. When the Second Polish Republic was established following World War I, many Germans particularly of the Polish Corridor left, while a portion of citizens of German descent remained. In the late 1930s, parts of the 2.5% German minority in Poland openly sympathised with the German Nazi regime. Germany used their presence and the alleged persecution of Volksdeutsche as propaganda tools in preparation for the invasion of Poland in 1939. With the invasion, Poland was partitioned between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union according to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. This was followed by population exchanges, mostly Baltic Germans were resettled to occupied Poland.

Nazi Germany's Generalplan Ost strategy for Central and Eastern Europe envisioned the creation of a Greater Germany, which was to be built by means of removing a variety of non-Germans from Poland and other areas in Eastern Europe, mainly Slavs and Jews believed by Nazis to be subhuman. These non-Germans were targeted for slave labor and eventual extermination. While Generalplan Ost's settlement ambitions did not come into full effect due to the war's turn, some Germans mostly from Eastern Europe were settled by the Nazis to replace Poles removed or killed during the occupation. Nazi Germany deported millions of Poles either to other territories, to concentration camps or as slave workers. Many others were deported by the Soviet Union.

Allied Tehran, Yalta and Potsdam conferences

Following the Tehran Conference (November-December 1943) Stalin and Churchill made it clear that the Soviets would keep the Polish territories east of the Curzon line and offered Poland territorial compensation westwards.

The final decision to move Poland's boundary westward was made by Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States at the Yalta Conference, shortly before the end of the war. The Poles were again not present at the conference and felt betrayed by their western Allies who decided about their borders behind their backs. The precise location of the Polish western border was left open and, though basically the Allies had agreed on population transfers, the extent remained questioned [Alfred M. De Zayas, "Nemesis at Potsdam", p.85] . The exact borders were to be determined in the peace treaty following the war, which never happened. Upon gaining control of these lands, the Soviet and Polish-Communist authorities started to expel the German population of the lands newly under their control.

In July 1945, at the Potsdam Conference, the Allies placed most former eastern territories of Germany east of the Oder Neisse line under Polish administration. Article XIII concerning the transfer of Germans was adopted at the Potsdam Conference in July, 1945. It was an emergency measure, drafted and adopted in great haste, a response to the wild expulsions of Germans from Czechoslovakia and Poland, which had created a chaotic situation in the American and British zones of occupation.The Soviet Union transferred territories to the east of the Oder-Neisse Line to Poland in July 1945. These territories included the today's city of Szczecin (former German "Stettin") with the exception of the harbor which the Soviet authorities dismantled and removed to Soviet Union until October 1948. After July 1945, most Germans were expelled to the territories west of the Oder-Neisse Line. Stettin was crowded with German expellees already before the transfer, who were then forced to leave to other parts of Germany. Truman complained that there were now five occupation zones because the Soviets had turned over the area extending along the Oder and western Neisse to the Poles and was concerned about Germany's economic control and war reparations. [Gormly, p. 49] Churchill spoke strongly against giving the Poles control over an area in which some eight million Germans lived. Stalin insisted that the Germans had all fled and that the Poles were needed to fill the vacuum.Gormly, p. 50] On July 24, the Polish delegation arrived in Berlin, insisting on the Oder and western Neisse rivers as the frontier, and they vehemently argued their case before the foreign ministers, Churchill, and Truman, in turn. The next day Churchill warned Stalin: "The Poles are driving the Germans out of the Russian zone. That should not be done without considering its effect on the food supply and reparations. We are getting into a position where the Poles have food and coal, and we have the mass of (the) population thrown at us." [Gormly, p.51] To the Soviets, reparations were more important than boundaries, and Stalin might have sold out the Poles if they had not so vociferously protested when, in spite of his 'illness', he consulted with them during the evening of July 29. [Gormly: p.55f)]

Polish interests

As early as in 1941, Władysław Sikorski of the Polish government in exile insisted on driving "the German horde (...) back far [westward] " [Norman M. Naimark, "Fires of Hatred", p.123] , while in 1942 memoranda he expressed concern about Poland acquiring Lower Silesia, populated with "fanatically anti-Polish Germans". [Viktoria Vierheller, "Polen und die Deutschland Frage 1939-1945", Köln 1970, p. 65] [Norman M. Naimark, "Fires of Hatred", p.123] Yet as the war went on, Lower Silesia also became a Polish war aim, as well as the Baltic coast west of Stettin as far as Rostock and occupation of the Kiel Canal. [Norman M. Naimark, "Fires of Hatred", p.123] Expulsions of Germans from East Prussia and pre-war Poland had become a war aim as early as in February 1940, expressed by Polish Foreign Minister Zaleski [Norman M. Naimark, "Fires of Hatred", p.123] .After Sikorski's death, the next Polish Prime Minister Stanisław Mikołajczyk in a letter to Roosevelt expressed his concerns about the idea of compensating Poland in the west. [Stanisław Mikołajczyk, "The pattern of Soviet Domination", London 1948, p. 301] However, pressed by Churchill, he was forced to accept the Tehran decision, which was the direct cause of his resignation from his post.Thomas Urban, "Der Verlust ...", p. 114] The next Polish Prime Minister, Tomasz Arciszewski made a stated that Poland did not "want neither Breslau nor Stettin". [Sunday Times, December 17, 1944]

Although the Polish government was recognised by the Allies at that time, the Soviet Union broke off all diplomatic relations with it already in April 1943. On April 20th, 1944, in Moscow, the Soviet sponsored Polish Communist cell founded the Polish Committee of National Liberation (PKWN) on Stalin’s initiative. Just one week later the representatives of the PKWN and the Soviet Union signed a treaty regulating the new Polish-Soviet border. A year later, before the Potsdam Conference, the western Allies followed Stalin, recognized the Soviet-sponsored government, which accepted the shift of the borders westwards, and withdrew their recognition for the Polish government in Exile.

Though initially hesitant to support widespread post-war population transfers, the British government began signalling approval already in late 1940, after German bombing attacks on British cities had radicalised British public opinion. But, British officials were sharply divided on the extent and speed of the transfers. In 1943, the War Office opposed the Foreign Office’s intentions to move Polish borders as far as the Oder-Neisse line and deport the millions of Germans who would be left inside the new borders of Poland. "Such a move", the Director of Military Intelligence wrote, "would yield an overpopulated and revisionist Germany bordering an underpopulated and weak Poland, and would "sow the seeds of another war". [Detlef Brandes. "Der Weg zur Vertreibung 1938-1945. Pläne und Entscheidungen zum Transfer", p.233] The Foreign Office countered with the argument that German salients in the East were even more dangerous and rendered Poland strategically vulnerable. Just as important, argued the Foreign Office, Britain had a moral obligation to Poland, which would have to be compensated for its losses to the Soviet Union.

When Stanisław Mikołajczyk joined the "Government of National Unity" as a deputy prime minister in 1945, he justified the expulsions of Germans by national terms following Gomulka, but also as a revolutionary act, freeing the Poles of exploitation by a German middle and upper class [Norman M. Naimark, "Fires of Hatred", p.124] .

Flight and evacuation following the Red Army's advance

The plans to evacuate some German populations westwards from Eastern Europe and from some cities in the Eastern Gaue of Greater Germany were prepared by various Nazi authorities towards the end of the war. In most cases, however, their implementation was either delayed until Soviet and allied forces had already advanced into the areas to be evacuated, or it was prohibited entirely by the Nazi apparatus. The responsibility for leaving millions of Germans in these areas until combat conditions overwhelmed them can be attributed directly to both the draconian measures taken by the Nazis towards the end of the war against anyone even suspected of 'defeatist' attitudes [such as evacuation was considered] and the fanaticism of many Nazi functionaries in their witless support of useless 'no retreat' orders.

The first mass movement of German civilians in the eastern territories was composed of both spontaneous flight and organized evacuation starting in the summer of 1944 and continuing through spring of 1945. Most of the evacuation efforts commenced in January 1945, when Soviet forces were already at the Eastern border of Greater Germany. About six million Germans were evacuated from the areas east of the Oder-Neisse line before Red Army and Polish Army took control of the region [Ulf Brunnbauer, Michael G. Esch, Holm Sundhaussen, "Definitionsmacht, Utopie, Vergeltung", p.84] . During the flight to escape the approaching battlefront, 450,000 Germans fled East Prussia over the perilous ice of the Frisches Haff; hundreds of thousands more were evacuated by ship from Danzig, Kolberg and other port cities. Many of those who fled tried to return when the fighting in their homelands ended. Before June 1, 1945, some 400,000 crossed the Oder and Neisse rivers eastward before Polish authorities closed the river crossings, another 800,000 entered Silesia from Czechoslovakia [Ulf Brunnbauer, Michael G. Esch, Holm Sundhaussen, "Definitionsmacht, Utopie, Vergeltung", p.85] . Soviet troops, as well as native populations and local militias exacted revenge on ethnic Germans and German nationals. While many Germans had already fled ahead of the advancing Soviet Army, millions of Reichs- and Volksdeutsche remained in East and West Prussia, Silesia, Pomerania, the Sudetenland, and in pockets throughout Central and Eastern Europe.

Forced labor

Deportation to the Soviet Union

On February 6, 1945, Soviet NKVD ordered mobilisation of all German men (17 to 50 years old) in the Soviet-controlled territories. Many of them were then transported to the Soviet Union for forced labour. In the former German territories the Soviet authorities did not always distinguish between the Poles and Germans and often treated them alike. [Jankowiak, p. 35] Some 165,000 Germans were rounded up randomly and deported in 1945, they were not allowed to "return" (that is, not to their former homes but to either East or West Germany) until 1955; most of them perished [Tomasz Kamusella in Prauser and Reeds (eds), "The Expulsion of the German communities from Eastern Europe", p.29, EUI HEC 2004/1 [http://cadmus.iue.it/dspace/bitstream/1814/2599/1/HEC04-01.pdf] ] .

Internment and forced labor in pre-war Poland

In pre-war poland, Germans were treated even more harshly than in the former German territories [Norman M. Naimark, "Fires of Hatred", p.131] . Deprived of any citizen rights, many were prior to their expulsion used as forced labor, somtimes for years, in labor battaillons or in Polish camps [Norman M. Naimark, "Fires of Hatred", p.130, p.131] such as Glaz, Milecin, Gronowo, Sikawa, Central Labour Camp Jaworzno, Central Labour Camp Potulice, Łambinowice (run by Czesław Gęborski), Zgoda labour camp and others. The death toll was between twenty and fifty percent [Norman M. Naimark, "Fires of Hatred", p.130] , and as the guards were not paid regular salary they forcefully extracted their wage from the inmates [Norman M. Naimark, "Fires of Hatred", p.130] . When Geborski was tried by the Polish authorities in 1959 for his wanton brutality, he stated his only goal was to exact revenge for his own treatment during the war [Norman M. Naimark, "Fires of Hatred", p.130] .

Zayas states that "in many internment camps no relief from outside was permitted. In some camps relatives would bring packages and deliver them to the Polish guards, who regularly plundered the contents and delivered only the rest, if that much. Frequently these relatives were so illtreated that they never returned. Internees who came to claim their packages were also mistreated by the guards, who insisted the internees should speak Polish, even if they were Germans born in German-speaking Silesia or Pomerania." [Alfred M. de Zayas, Nemesis at Potsdam, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1977 ISBN 0710084684 pp. 124ff.]

Among the interned were also German POWs. Up to 10% of the 700,000 to 800,000 POWs of the respective battlegrounds were handed over to the Poles by the Soviet military for the use of their work force [Manfred Gebhardt, Joachim Küttner, Dieter Bingen, "Deutsche in Polen nach 1945: Gefangene und Fremde", 1997, p.23, ISBN 3486562363, 9783486562361] . Their number in 1946 was 40,000 according to the Polish administration, of whom 30,000 were used as miners in the Upper Silesian coal industries [Manfred Gebhardt, Joachim Küttner, Dieter Bingen, "Deutsche in Polen nach 1945: Gefangene und Fremde", 1997, p.24, ISBN 3486562363, 9783486562361] . Also, a number of Germans alleged of crimes was imprisoned in Polish jails, at least 8,000 remained in jail in 1949, many of them also being POWs [Manfred Gebhardt, Joachim Küttner, Dieter Bingen, "Deutsche in Polen nach 1945: Gefangene und Fremde", 1997, p.24, ISBN 3486562363, 9783486562361] . 7,500 Germans alledged of crimes against Poles were handed over to Poland by the Western Allies in 1946 and 1947 [Manfred Gebhardt, Joachim Küttner, Dieter Bingen, "Deutsche in Polen nach 1945: Gefangene und Fremde", 1997, p.24, ISBN 3486562363, 9783486562361] .

Pre-Potsdam "wild" expulsions (May - July 1945)

In 1945, the former eastern territories of Germany (Silesia, most of Pomerania, East Brandenburg and East-Prussia) were occupied by Soviet and Communist-led Polish military forces. Polish militia and military started expulsions [Philipp Ther, "Deutsche Und Polnische Vertriebene: Gesellschaft und Vertriebenenpolitik in SBZ/ddr und in Polen 1945-1956", 1998, p.56, ISBN 3525357907, 9783525357903: From June until mid July, Polish military and militia expelled nearly all people from the districts immediately east of the rivers [Oder-Neisse line] ] already before the Potsdam Conference, referred to as "wild expulsions" ( _de. Wilde Vertreibungen). The Polish communists ordered the expulsion of Germans: "We must expel all the Germans because countries are built on national lines and not on multi-national ones" was demanded by partititants of a Plenum of the Central Committee of the Polish Workers Party in May 20-21, 1945. [Naimark, "The Russians ...", p. 75 reference 31] On the same Plenum, the head of the Central Committee, Wladyslaw Gomulka, ordered: "There has to be a border patrol at the border [Oder-Neisse line] and the Germans have to be driven out. The main objective has to be the cleansing of the terrain of Germans, the building of a nation state". [Philipp Ther, "Deutsche Und Polnische Vertriebene: Gesellschaft und Vertriebenenpolitik in SBZ/ddr und in Polen 1945-1956", 1998, p. 56, ISBN 3525357907, 9783525357903] To ensure the Oder Neisse line would be accepted as the new Polish border at a future Allied Conference (Potsdam Conference), up to 300,000 Germans living close to the rivers' eastern bank were expelled subsequently [Philipp Ther, "Deutsche Und Polnische Vertriebene: Gesellschaft und Vertriebenenpolitik in SBZ/ddr und in Polen 1945-1956", 1998, p. 57, ISBN 3525357907, 9783525357903] . On May 26, 1945, the Central Committee ordered all Germans to be expelled within one year and the area settled with some 3.5 million ethnic Poles, 2.5 million of them by summer already [Ulf Brunnbauer, Michael G. Esch, Holm Sundhaussen, "Definitionsmacht, Utopie, Vergeltung: "ethnische Säuberungen" im östlichen Europa des 20. Jahrhunderts", 2006, p.85, ISBN 3825880338, 9783825880330] .

Germans were defined as either Reichsdeutsche or Volksdeutsche resembling the 1st or 2nd category in the Nazis' Volksliste, people who had signed a lower category were allowed to apply for "verification", that was to determine whether they would be granted Polish citizenship as "autochtones" [Norman M. Naimark, "Fires of Hatred", p.130] . Polish military drove 400,000 Germans across Poland's new western border in June and July [Ulf Brunnbauer, Michael G. Esch, Holm Sundhaussen, "Definitionsmacht, Utopie, Vergeltung: "ethnische Säuberungen" im östlichen Europa des 20. Jahrhunderts", 2006, p.86, ISBN 3825880338, 9783825880330] .

The early phase of expulsion was often particularly brutal. Polish soldiers, stated one report, "relate to German women as to free booty". [Naimark, "The Russians ...", p. 76 reference 34]

Many Germans evacuated during the war weren't allowed to return to their homes. Before June 1, 1945, some 400,000 managed to cross the Oder and Neisse rivers eastward before Polish authorities closed the river crossings, another 800,000 entered Silesia from Czechoslovakia, bringing up Silesia's population to 50% of the pre-war level again. [Ulf Brunnbauer, Michael G. Esch, Holm Sundhaussen, "Definitionsmacht, Utopie, Vergeltung", p.85, 2006, ISBN 3825880338, 9783825880330] . This led to the odd situation of treks of Germans moving about in all directions, to the east as well as to the west, each warning the others of what would await them at their destination [Norman M. Naimark, "Fires of Hatred", p.124]

Post-Potsdam expulsions

After the Potsdam Conference, Poland was officially in charge of the territories east of the Oder Neisse line. Despite the fact that article 8 of Potsdam agreement from August 2, 1945 stated that "population transfer" should be performed in ordered an humane manner, and should not commence until after the creation of an expulsion plan approved by the Allied Control Council, the expulsions continued without rules and were associated with many criminal acts. [ Meyers Lexicon Online. [http://lexikon.meyers.de/meyers/Vertreibung Vertreibung] .] While the Polish administration had set up a Bureau for Repatriations ("Panstwowy Urzad Repatriacyjny, PUR"), the bureau and its administrative subunits proved ineffective due to quarrels between Communists and opposition and a far too low equipment for the giant task of expelling Germans as well as resettling Poles in an area devastated by war [Philipp Ther, "Deutsche Und Polnische Vertriebene", p.60] . Furthermore, rivalry occured between the Soviet occupation forces and the new installed Polish administration, a phenomenon dubbed "dwuwladza" (double administration) [Philipp Ther, "Deutsche Und Polnische Vertriebene", p.59] . The Soviets kept trains and German workmen regardless of the Polish ambitions and plans [Philipp Ther, "Deutsche Und Polnische Vertriebene", p.60] .

The waves of expulsions after the Potsdam conference must also be seen in the context of the contemporary, likewise unorganized settling of Poles. Polish settlers who themselves had been expelled from areas east of the Curzon line arrived with about nothing, putting an even higher pressure on the remaining Germans to leave [Norman M. Naimark, "Fires of Hatred", p.128] . For the Germans, the Potsdam Agreement eased conditions only in one way - because now the Poles were more confident in keeping the former eastern territories of Germany, the expulsions were performed with less haste, which meant the Germans were informed about their expulsions earlier and were allowed to carry some luggage [Philipp Ther, "Deutsche Und Polnische Vertriebene", p.58] .

Another problem the Germans and, to a lesser extend, even the newly arrived Poles were facing was an enormous crime, most notably theft and rape, committed by gangs not only consisting of regular criminals, but also Polish officials, deserted Soviet soldiers and displaced Ostarbeiter coming from the west [Philipp Ther, "Deutsche Und Polnische Vertriebene", p.61] . In Upper Silesia a party official complained about Polish security forces and militia raping and pillaging the population and a general loss of sense for right and wrong [Norman M. Naimark, "Fires of Hatred", p.128] , other reports state that women ran for cover when seeing a Polish policeman [Norman M. Naimark, "Fires of Hatred", p.128] . A high number of crimes committed by regular Soviet soldiers had been reported until 1947, furthermore a high death toll of Polish officials who dared to investigate these cases [Philipp Ther, "Deutsche Und Polnische Vertriebene", p.59/60] . Yet, Soviet troops played a disambiguous role, as there are also cases where Soviets freed Germans imprisoned by Poles, or delayed expulsions to keep German workforce for example on farms providing Soviet troops [Ulf Brunnbauer, Michael G. Esch, Holm Sundhaussen, "Definitionsmacht, Utopie, Vergeltung", p.85]

The damaged infrastructure and quarrels between the Allies and the Polish administration caused long delays in the transport of expellees, who were first ordered to gather at one of the various PUR transportation centers and then often forced to wait in ill equipped barracks, exposed both to criminals and the cold and not supplied sufficiently with food due to the overall shortages [Philipp Ther, "Deutsche Und Polnische Vertriebene", p.60] .

The "organized transfer" as agreed on at the Potsdam Conference only began in early 1946 and subsequently evolved in a process coordinated with British and Soviet authorities in occupied Germany in 1946 and 1947. Yet due to the lack of heating facilities, the cold winters of both 1945/46 and 1946/47 continued to claim many lives [Norman M. Naimark, "Fires of Hatred", p.128] .

"Autochtones"

Another problem that Polish authorities were faced with was the disposition of the so-called "Germanized Poles" or "autochthons". Of close to three million residents of Masuria (Masurs), Pomerania (Kashubians) and Upper Silesia (Szlonzoks) of Slavic descent, many did not identify with Polish nationality, were either bilingual or spoke German or Germanized dialects only [Tomasz Kamusella in Prauser and Reeds (eds), "The Expulsion of the German communities from Eastern Europe", p.28, EUI HEC 2004/1 [http://cadmus.iue.it/dspace/bitstream/1814/2599/1/HEC04-01.pdf] ] . Large numbers of these had registered with the German Deutsche Volksliste during the war. While those who had signed "Volksliste" category "I" were expelled, the Polish government aimed to retain as "autochtones" as possible, as they were needed both for economical reasons and also for propaganda purposes, as their presence on former German soil was used to indicate an intrinsic "Polishness" character of the area and justify its incorporation into the Polish state as "recovered territories" [Tomasz Kamusella in Prauser and Reeds (eds), "The Expulsion of the German communities from Eastern Europe", p.28, EUI HEC 2004/1 [http://cadmus.iue.it/dspace/bitstream/1814/2599/1/HEC04-01.pdf] ] . "Verification" and "national rehabilitation" processes were set up to reveal a "dormant Polishness" and to determine which were redeemable as Polish citizens, few were actually expelled [Tomasz Kamusella in Prauser and Reeds (eds), "The Expulsion of the German communities from Eastern Europe", p.28, EUI HEC 2004/1 [http://cadmus.iue.it/dspace/bitstream/1814/2599/1/HEC04-01.pdf] ] . "Autochthons" not only disliked the subjective and often arbitrary verification process, but they also faced discrimination even once verified. Polish settlers coveted autochthon property, and they resented and distrusted the verified autochthons. Many autochthons fled to occupied Germany in despair at their treatment, although the situation in Germany was little better. As one Silesian wrote, "In Poland, I'm a German. In Germany, a Pole. Perhaps they should create a state for us on the moon. There we might finally feel at home". [Nitschke, "Vertreibung und Aussiedlung ..", p. 165]

"Indispensable Germans"

Some Germans were exempted from expulsion and retained because of their professional skills, if no Pole was at hand to replace them. These Germans were treated second class regarding salary and food supply. So-called "abandoned wives", whose husbands found themselves in post-war Germany and were not able to return, were compelled to "seek divorce" and were not allowed to leave for Germany before 1950-1952 [Tomasz Kamusella in Prauser and Reeds (eds), "The Expulsion of the German communities from Eastern Europe", p.29, EUI HEC 2004/1 [http://cadmus.iue.it/dspace/bitstream/1814/2599/1/HEC04-01.pdf] ] . The other ones retained were not allowed to leave before 1956, these measures also included the families of the retainees or the parts thereof remaining with them [Tomasz Kamusella in Prauser and Reeds (eds), "The Expulsion of the German communities from Eastern Europe", p.29, EUI HEC 2004/1 [http://cadmus.iue.it/dspace/bitstream/1814/2599/1/HEC04-01.pdf] ] .

Repopulation

People from all over Poland quickly moved in to replace the former German population in a process parallel to the expulsions. While the Germans were interned and expelled, up to 5 million [Karl Cordell, Andrzej Antoszewski, "Poland and the European Union", 2000, p.168, ISBN 0415238854, 9780415238854: gives 4,55 million within the first years] settlers were either attracted or forced to settle the area. The settlers can be grouped according to their background:
*settlers from Central Poland moving in on a voluntary basis (majority) [Karl Cordell, Andrzej Antoszewski, "Poland and the European Union", 2000, p.168, ISBN 0415238854, 9780415238854: 2,8 million of 4,55 million within the first years]
*Poles that had been freed from forced labor in Nazi Germany (up to two millions) [Dierk Hoffmann, Michael Schwartz, "Geglückte Integration?", p142 [http://books.google.de/books?id=Js8XWnqR6HMC&pg=PA140&dq=vertreibung+polen&lr=&sig=ACfU3U3NdOJdTE4UOsjN6kQyponjdFIP8A#PPA142,M1] ] [Karl Cordell, Andrzej Antoszewski, "Poland and the European Union", 2000, p.168, ISBN 0415238854, 9780415238854: 1,5 million of 4,55 million within the first years]
*so-called from the areas east of the Curzon line, who made up for less then 10% of the overall Polish population, were preferrebly settled in the new western territories where they made up for 26% of the population (up to two millions) [Dierk Hoffmann, Michael Schwartz, "Geglückte Integration?", p142 [http://books.google.de/books?id=Js8XWnqR6HMC&pg=PA140&dq=vertreibung+polen&lr=&sig=ACfU3U3NdOJdTE4UOsjN6kQyponjdFIP8A#PPA142,M1] ] [Karl Cordell, Andrzej Antoszewski, "Poland and the European Union", 2000, p.168, ISBN 0415238854, 9780415238854: 1,55 million of 4,55 million within the first years]
*non-Poles forcefully resettled during Operation Wisla in 1947. Large numbers of Ukrainians were forced to move from south eastern Poland under a 1947 Polish government operation, termed Operation Wisla, which aimed at dispersing, and therefore assimilating, the Ukrainian population, which had not been expelled eastward already, throughout the newly acquired territories. Belarusians living around the area around Białystok were also pressured into relocating to the areas vacated by fleeing German population for the same reasons. This scattering of members of non-Polish ethnic groups throughout the country was an attempt by the Polish authorities [Thum, p.129] to dissolve the unique ethnic identity of groups like the Ukrainians, Belarusians and Lemkos, and broke the proximity and communication necessary for strong communities to form.
*Tens of thousands of Jewish Holocaust-survivors, most of them being "repatriates" from the East, settled mostly in Lower Silesia creating Jewish cooperatives and institutions - the largest communities were founded in Wroclaw (Breslau, Lower Silesia), Szczecin (Stettin, Pomerania) and Walbrzych (Waldenburg, Lower Silesia) [Selwyn Ilan Troen, Benjamin Pinkus, Merkaz le-moreshet Ben-Guryon, "Organizing Rescue: National Jewish Solidarity in the Modern Period", pp.283-284, 1992, ISBN 0714634131, 9780714634135] . However most of them left Poland until 1968 due to Polish antisemitism and anti-Semitic governmental campaigns [Thum, p.127 + p.128] , with the first mass flight of Jews from Poland taking place as a consequence of postwar ant-Jewish violence in Poland cumulating in the Kielce pogrom in 1946 [Selwyn Ilan Troen, Benjamin Pinkus, Merkaz le-moreshet Ben-Guryon, "Organizing Rescue: National Jewish Solidarity in the Modern Period", pp.284ff, 1992, ISBN 0714634131, 9780714634135] .

Polish and Soviet newspapers and officials encouraged Poles to relocate to the west - "the land of opportunity" [Karl Cordell, Andrzej Antoszewski, "Poland and the European Union", 2000, p.168, ISBN 0415238854, 9780415238854: created the image in public mind that the area was Poland's promised land] . These new territories were described as a place where opulent villas abandoned by fleeing Germans waited for the brave; fully furnished houses and businesses were available for the taking. These were the just rewards for the hardships and bitter losses of the war. The papers urged, "Go! Tomorrow might be too late". According to some Polish sources Lithuanian authorities expelled educated Poles and hoped to Lithuanize uneducated ones.

Some Poles gave up settlement and headed for Central Poland due to high criminality.

End of the expulsions

In 1948 the policy regarding Volksdeutsche had changed. They were subjected to investigation of any transgressions committed during WW2 and in many cases pardoned. In 1950, a general amnesty was declared for Germans still residing in Poland. From now on, only people who were charged with the commission of specific crimes were denied Polish citizenship. All others were not only allowed, but even forced, to stay in Poland.

Casualties

Though estimates of the dead range widely, from 40 thousand to as many as a million Germans perished during flight and expulsion from Poland in 1944-45. Of around 12.4 million Germans residing within the lands of post-war Poland in 1944, 3.6 million were expelled, one million were certified as Poles, 300,000 remained in Poland as a German minority, and up to 1.1 million are unaccounted for and presumed to be dead. [Nitschke, "Vertreibung und Aussiedlung ..", p. 280]

Legacy

In the first years after the war, a very small minority opinion criticized the expulsion of Germans as inhumane. One such voice was Stanisław Adamski, the bishop of Katowice.

From the late 1950s onwards, the blatant exploitation of the "German Question" by the Communist regime and the position that it took with respect to the expulsions was increasingly criticized by the opposition movement, which strove for better relations with their German neighbours.

In 1965, a group of Polish bishops made a particularly important overture by sending a letter to their German counterparts in which they asked forgiveness for the wrongs perpetrated during the expulsion and at the same time offered forgiveness for German war crimes. With this letter, the bishops set an example in a truly pathbreaking way, to which the Polish population, however, at the time largely reacted with a lack of understanding.

This was understandable since the negative image of Germany was rooted deeply in the Polish psyche due to centuries of oppression aimed at destroying Polish nation, going as far as describing Poles as animals for extermination. Thus, the attempts made by Znak, a group of Catholic members of parliament, and the opposition Clubs of Catholic Intelligentsia (Kluby Inteligencji Katolickiej, KIK) to attain a somewhat less ideologized picture of the Germans were all the more remarkable. This new perspective also meant dealing critically with the question of how the expulsion of Germans was to be incorporated into the self-image of Polish society.Kraft, Claudia, [http://library.fes.de/library/netzquelle/zwangsmigration/en-46pl.html Debates on the Expulsion of Germans in Poland since 1945] ]

The Debate in the Public and in Politics since 1989

Since the beginning of the 1990s, there has been a lively debate in Poland regarding the role of the expulsion of the Germans. For the first time, Polish responsibility for the expulsions in general and their implementation in particular has also been made an issue. After the signing of the German-Polish treaty on borders and neighbourly relations as well as the visible congruence of Germany's and Poland's interests in a Europe which was reuniting in the first half of the 1990s, it was not only Poland's political and intellectual elites who dealt with the issue of Polish responsibility, but also larger parts of the general public. In regions from which the Germans had been expelled, Polish citizens began looking for traces of German cultural heritage and German traditions (as, for instance, a German-Polish network set up in the border regions). [Krzysztof Ruchniewicz, Jürgen Zinnecker, "Zwischen Zwangsarbeit, Holocaust und Vertreibung: Polnische, jüdische und deutsche Kindheiten im besetzten Polen", 2007, pp.27ff ISBN 3779917335, 9783779917335 [http://books.google.de/books?id=j5iNbJ38WGQC&printsec=frontcover&dq=vertreibung&lr=&sig=ACfU3U1yfQuYxIhopEn0SZjJGE2ba0BS2w#PPA27,M1] ]

Only when shifts in German remembrance culture became evident at the turn of the millennium, which gave rise to Polish fears that the importance attached to World War II and the related Polish suffering might decrease, did the pendulum of public opinion swing in the opposite direction, at least in parts of the Polish public and the Polish elites. In Germany, the Polish reactions were severely criticized.

Changes in the Polish legal environment

Niels Redecker argues that Poland's legal environment has changed since 1990 and describes opportunities that expellees and their descendants may pursue. He notes, for example, that despite a widespread belief that land ownership by foreigners is still effectively banned in Poland, there are in fact no longer major obstacles to the acquisition of real estate by non-citizens. So expellees and their descendants can already return to their former homeland in Poland if they so wished and have the necessary amount of money.

Redecker also expresses optimism about pursuing property restitution claims in Polish courts. Although the Polish courts continue to uphold the validity of the laws governing expropriation, they have shown a willingness to overturn individual expropriations that did not fully conform to the intent and the provisions of those laws. One group of cases that would certainly seem to fall into this category involves German Jewish claimants whose property had been confiscated by the Nazi regime in the 1930s and then nationalized by Poland after the war. While judgments on these cases have so far been mixed, Redecker argues that such claims are likely to make headway, especially in the context of Poland's entry into the European Union. This could, he suggests, serve as a wedge opening up the way for broader challenges to the expulsion laws and successful restitution claims by non-Jews. Redecker is careful to note that because German expellees, aware that full restitution or compensation from the Polish state is unrealistic, would "be satisfied with symbolic compensation". [von Redecker, Niels. Die polnischen Vertreibungsdekrete und die offenen Vermögensfragen zwischen Deutschland und Polen. Studien des Instituts für Ostrecht München. Frankfurt a. M.: Peter Lang, 2003. 129 pp. ISBN 9783631506240. (p. 55).]

ee also

*Expulsion of Poles by Germany
*World War II evacuation and expulsion
*Deutsche Volksliste
*Federation of Expellees
*History of Poland

Notes

ources

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*
*
*
*
* Norman M. Naimark. "The Russians in Germany: A History of the Soviet Zone of Occupation, 1945-1949." Harvard University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-674-78405-7
* James L. Gormly: From Potsdam to the COLD WAR. Big Three Diplomacy 1945-1947. Scholarly Resources Inc. Delaware, 1990 (ISBN 0-8420-2334-8)
*
*cite book |title= Die fremde Stadt. Breslau 1945 |last= Thum |first= Gregor |authorlink= Gregor Thum |coauthors= |year= 2003 |publisher= Siedler |location= Berlin |isbn= 3-88680-795-9


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