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THE SEIZURE OF EASTERN GERMAN TERRITORIES

THE EXPULSION AND MASS MURDER OF MILLIONS OF ETHNIC GERMANS
BY POLAND AND CZECHOSLOVAKIA IN 1945

Germans had lived in places like Silesia and the so-called Sudetenland in Bohemia for well over 1,000 years.  They had survived the Black Death, the Thirty Years War and other horrors.  What millions of them did not survive was the decision by England and America to endorse their forcible deportation at the end of World War II.

15 million were expelled.  At least 2 million died.

As in the case of the bombing of civilians, western approval of this plan was accompanied by truly amazing levels of hypocrisy.  England and American claimed that they thought it could done in a "humane" way.  A "humane" way to make this kind of giant forced exodus after the largest and most bitter war in history, into a nation whose cities had been devastated by the most massive bombing campaign in history?  Stalin comes off as a more sympathetic figure here.  He didn't pretend that this was going to be "humane".  He was right.


NOTE: SEE ALSO OUR PAGE ON GERMAN HISTORY DEBATES TO SEE HOW THIS ISSUE RELATES TO MODERN GERMANY


NOTE:  A BRIEF STATEMENT OF PUBLICATIONS PRINCIPLES

The World Future Fund serves as a source of documentary material, reading lists, and internet links from different points of view that we believe have historical significance.  The publication of this material is in no way whatsoever an endorsement of these viewpoints by the World Future Fund, unless explicitly stated by us.  As our web site makes very clear, we are totally opposed to ideas such as racism, religious intolerance, and communism.  However, in order to combat such evils, it is necessary to understand them by means of the study of key documentary material.  For a more detailed statement of our publications standards click here.


THE ATLANTIC CHARTER TEHERAN CONFERENCE

EXPULSIONS FROM EASTERN GERMAN TERRITORIES BY POLAND

 EXPULSIONS FROM SUDETENLAND BY CZECHOSLOVAKIA NOTES


THE ATLANTIC CHARTER: A FALSE PROMISE

Despite the fact that the U.S. was not technically at war in summer 1941, the statement below was issued jointly by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt to express their hopes for the democratic shape of the post-WW II world.  The Atlantic Charter is considered by some to be a logical successor document to Woodrow Wilson's 14 Points.  In a way it was.   Just as Wilson's 14 Points were turned into a bitter fraud by the Versailles Treaty so too would the following promises of England and America be turned into a grim charade for millions of Germans being forced out of the eastern parts of Germany.

"The President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, representing His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, being met together, deem it right to make known certain common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they base their hopes for a better future for the world.

First, their countries seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other;

Second, they desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned;

Third, they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them."

Source: The Atlantic Charter


ORIGINS OF THE SITUATION

How did all this start?  It began with the fact that Stalin hated the Poles and wanted to keep the Polish territory gained from his deal with Hitler in 1939.  In order to appease the Poles, Churchill and Roosevelt agreed to the mass deportations of Germans from eastern Germany to give land in the west to the Poles.  Why did they do this?  They did this because they were in a very weak negotiating position when they arrived at Teheran to meet Stalin.  They had repeatedly failed to keep their very specific promises to Stalin  to open a second front.  Russia was doing 90% of the fighting and dying.  Meanwhile, England and America had based all their hopes on a terror bombing campaign to massacre vast numbers of German civilians on the assumption this would end the war by 1943.  It killed vast numbers of German civilians.  That part "worked".  But it totally failed to end the war.  Thus, they were in a very poor position to disagree with Stalin's demands on Poland.

THE TEHERAN CONFERENCE, NOVEMBER 28-DECEMBER 2, 1943

"Marshal Stalin particularly mentioned that Poland should extend to the Oder and stated definitely that the Russians would help the Poles to obtain a frontier on the Oder." -- Dinner on November 28, 1943, The Teheran Conference in Foreign Relations of the United States.  The Conferences at Cairo and Teheran (1943), p. 510.

Conversation following dinner, Roosevelt absent.

"Mr. Churchill then inquired whether it would be possible this evening to discuss the question of Poland.  He said that Great Britain had gone to war with Germany because of the latter's invasion of Poland in 1939 and that the British Government was committed to the re-establishment of a strong and independent Poland but not to any specific Polish frontiers.  He added that if Marshal Stalin felt any desire to discuss the question of Poland, that he was prepared to do so and he was sure that the President was similarly disposed.

Marshal Stalin said that he had not yet felt the necessity nor the desirability of discussing the Polish question.

Mr. Churchill said that he personally had no attachment to any specific frontier between Poland and the Soviet Union; that he felt that the consideration of Soviet security on their western frontiers was a governing factor.

Mr. Eden then inquired if he had understood the Marshal correctly at dinner when the latter said that the Soviet Union favored the Polish western frontier on the Oder.

Marshal Stalin replied emphatically that he did favor such a frontier for Poland and repeated that the Russians were prepared to help the Poles achieve it.

Mr. Churchill then remarked that it would be very valuable if here in Teheran the representatives of the three governments could work out some agreed understanding on the question of the Polish frontiers which could then be taken up with the Polish Government in London.  He said that as far as he was concerned, he would like to see Poland moved westward.

Marshal Stalin agreed that it would be a good idea to reach an understanding on this question but said it was necessary to look into the matter further." -- Foreign Relations of the United States.  The Conferences at Cairo and Teheran (1943), pp. 510-512.

THE YALTA CONFERENCE, FEBRUARY 4-11, 1945

Territorial Revisions

"The three heads of Government consider that the eastern frontier of Poland should follow the Curzon Line with digressions from it in some regions of five to eight kilometers in favor of Poland.  They recognize that Poland must receive substantial accessions in territory in the north and west.  They feel that the opinion of the new Polish Provisional Government of National Unity should be sought in due course of the extent of these accessions and that the final delimitation of the western frontier of Poland should thereafter await the peace conference." -- "Protocol of the Proceedings of the Crimea Conference," February 11, 1945

Allowing Slave Labor

Note - During discussions that led to the announcement of the Yalta Protocol, the Soviet Union pushed for the ability to use German workers, both POWs and civilians) as payment for reparations owed the Soviet Union due to damage caused by the war.  This request was agreed to by Churchill and Roosevelt.  One day before the opening of the Yalta Conference Stalin had issued Order 7467, which "called for the mobilization of able-bodied male Germans aged 17-50 from German territory.  Those who served in the regular army or in Volkssturm were considered POWs and deported into NKVD (i.e. Soviet Secret Police) POW camps.  The rest had to form labour battalions to be interned into the Soviet Union for reconstruction works, primarily in the Ukrainian SSR and Byelorussian SSR.  Implementation was under the control of the commanders of the corresponding Soviet Army Fronts, with further processing by the NKVD."

As a result of these deportations the total number of German "internees by 1945 was about 267,000.  They were assigned different status based on their geographical origin: those from Eastern Europe were classified as 'mobilized internees,' while those from Germany itself were 'arrested internees'. ... The reported death rate was 19% among 'mobilized internees' and 39% among 'arrested internees'."[1]

Conference Protocol

On the Talks Between the Heads of Three Governments at the Crimean Conference on the Question of the German Reparations in Kind

1. Germany must pay in kind for the losses caused by her to the Allied nations in the course of the war. Reparations are to be received in the first instance by those countries which have borne the main burden of the war, have suffered the heaviest losses and have organized victory over the enemy.

2. Reparation in kind is to be exacted from Germany in three following forms:

(a) Removals within two years from the surrender of Germany or the cessation of organized resistance from the national wealth of Germany located on the territory of Germany herself as well as outside her territory (equipment, machine tools, ships, rolling stock, German investments abroad, shares of industrial, transport and other enterprises in Germany, etc.), these removals to be carried out chiefly for the purpose of destroying the war potential of Germany.

(b) Annual deliveries of goods from current production for a period to be fixed.

(c) Use of German labor.

Source: Protocol from the Proceedings of the Crimea Conference

THE POTSDAM CONFERENCE, JULY 17-AUGUST 2, 1945

"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." -- Foreign Relations of the United States, Section XIII of the "Report on the Tripartite Conference of Berlin," The Potsdam Conference, Volume II, pp. 1511f.


EXPULSION OF GERMANS FROM EASTERN GERMAN TERRITORIES BY POLAND

Between late 1944 and 1946 practically the entire ethnic German population of eastern Germany was expelled over the Oder and Neisse rivers into the new Russian puppet state state of "East"  Germany.  The total number of people driven out is not known precisely, but it is believed to be between 9.5 and 11 million altogether, with as many as 2 million others killed.[2]  These expellees joined as many as 1 million other eastern Germans who fled into central Germany from the advancing Red Army in 1944.  An unknown number of civilians died as well during the expulsions.  As such, these population "transfers", as they were referred to at the time, represented the most significant episodes of ethnic cleansing undertaken by any European nation during or after the Second World War.  The expulsions continue to be a source of friction between Germany and Poland today.

Without the support of Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union, none of the changes desired by Polish officials could have been implemented.    In Moscow, Josef Stalin had his own reason for wanting to push the frontiers of Germany westward to the Oder River.  Accomplishing this would provide him with the opportunity to incorporate former eastern Poland into the Soviet Union, thereby strengthening Soviet defenses.  Increasing the proximity of the Soviet Union to east-central Europe would enable the spread of Soviet influence, and, by acquiring the East Prussian city of Königsberg (today Kaliningrad), the USSR would get a warm water seaport.  Finally, it can be argued that Stalin disliked and distrusted Poles.  Stalin too appeared to want Poles removed from Soviet territory, a point illustrated by the expulsion of some 2 million Poles from former eastern Poland into the new Polish state in 1945-46.[3]

As for the western Allies, Winston Churchill in particular desired to see a postwar Germany that was geographically smaller and more ethnically concentrated than it had been at the outbreak of war in 1939.  To accomplish this goal, it would be necessary to move Poland to the west by giving it German territory.  On this point he found himself in agreement with Stalin.  For his part, President Roosevelt supported territorial revisions and population transfers already by spring 1943, although he argued that the exact nature of the changes to be made should wait until the end of the war.  In Teheran, however, Roosevelt made an about-face and basically approved of territorial changes that Stalin sought to make in eastern Germany and Poland. 

In short, all of the Allied leaders supported a policy of population transfer and removal, a policy that amounted to no less than ethnic cleansing on a massive scale.

QUOTATIONS

In December 1942, the Polish Prime Minister General Wladyslaw Sikorski submitted a series of requests concerning post-war Poland to the President of the United States. These included:

  • The Partition of East Prussia, the northeastern part around Insterburg to be allotted to Lithuania and the main part of the province, including Königsberg, to be attached to Poland.

  • Frontier corrections which would favor Poland by moving Pomerania's northeastern boundary to the region of Stolpmünde.

  • Detachment of the Upper Silesian coal basin from Germany, either to be attached to Poland, to remain under international control, or to be partitioned between Czechoslovakia and Poland.

Quoted in Elizabeth Wiskemann, Germany's Eastern Neighbours: Problems Relating to the Oder-Neisse Line and the Czech Frontier Regions (London: Oxford University Press, 1956), p. 71.

"[Some way should be found to] move the Prussians out of East Prussia the same way the Greeks were moved out of Turkey after the last war." -- President Franklin Roosevelt to British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden, March 14, 1943. Quoted in Elizabeth Wiskemann, Germany's Eastern Neighbours: Problems Relating to the Oder-Neisse Line and the Czech Frontier Regions (London: Oxford University Press, 1956), p. 74.

"Poland wants East Prussia and both the President (i.e. Roosevelt) and [Anthony] Eden agree that Poland should have it." -- Record of Conversation between President Roosevelt and British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden in Washington, DC, March 14, 1943. Quoted in Andrzej Leśniewski, Western Frontier of Poland: Documents, Statements, Opinions (Warsaw, 1965), Document 7, p. 59.

"I think we should do everything in our power to persuade the Poles to agree with the Russians about their eastern frontier (i.e. accepting the Curzon Line), in return for gains in East Prussia and Silesia." -- Winston Churchill to Foreign Minister Anthony Eden, October 6, 1943. Quoted in Elizabeth Wiskemann, Germany's Eastern Neighbours: Problems Relating to the Oder-Neisse Line and the Czech Frontier Regions (London: Oxford University Press, 1956), p. 74.

"I thought Poland might move westwards, like soldiers taking two steps 'left close'.  If Poland trod on some German toes that could not be helped, but there must be a strong Poland." -- Winston Churchill referring to discussions of Poland's national boundaries that took place at Teheran in November 1943. Quoted in Elizabeth Wiskemann, Germany's Eastern Neighbours: Problems Relating to the Oder-Neisse Line and the Czech Frontier Regions (London: Oxford University Press, 1956), p. 75.

"Marshal Stalin particularly mentioned that Poland should extend to the Oder and stated definitely that the Russians would help the Poles to obtain a frontier on the Oder." -- Dinner on November 28, 1943, The Teheran Conference in Foreign Relations of the United States.  The Conferences at Cairo and Teheran (1943), p. 510.

"It is thought in principle that the home of the Polish State and nation should be between the so-called Curzon Line and the line of the Oder, including for Poland East Prussia (as defined) and Oppeln; but the actual tracing of the frontier line requires careful study, and possibly disentanglement of population at some points." -- Winston Churchill, December 1, 1943. Quoted in Elizabeth Wiskemann, Germany's Eastern Neighbours: Problems Relating to the Oder-Neisse Line and the Czech Frontier Regions (London: Oxford University Press, 1956), p. 75.

"We should strive so that our right to incorporate East Prussia, Danzig, and Opole Silesia should be accepted in advance  in the armistice agreement or the accompanying political act, imposed upon Germany after her unconditional surrender.  If the British  and the U.S. Governments maintain that ... this is not possible, we should strive towards gaining their accord already now in favour of Poland's right to introduce in the above mentioned areas the full occupation, amounting actually to incorporation both in the military sense (with British-American assistance) as well as in the administrative sense." -- "Proposals on the Incorporation and Occupation of the Eastern Regions of Germany".  Adopted by the Polish Councils of Ministers in Exile, December 7, 1943. Quoted in Andrzej Leśniewski, Western Frontier of Poland: Documents, Statements, Opinions (Warsaw, 1965), Document 12, p. 61.

"By unconditional surrender I mean that the Germans have no rights to any particular form of treatment.  For instance, the Atlantic Charter would not apply to them as a matter of right. ... The British, United States, and Russian Governments are, I understand, agreed that Germany is to be decisively broken up into a number of separate states.  East Prussia and Germany east of the Oder River are to be alienated for ever and the population shifted." -- Winston Churchill, Statement to the Members of the Government, January 14, 1944. Quoted in Andrzej Leśniewski, Western Frontier of Poland: Documents, Statements, Opinions (Warsaw, 1965), Document 16, p. 63.

"The British government takes the view that Poland must be strong, independent, and free ... from the Curzon Line to the Oder.  Poles east of the Curzon Line will have the right to be repatriated from Russian-held land into Poland proper, and Ukrainians and White Russians in Poland proper will have a similar right to return to the east of the Curzon Line.  In the west the Germans, about seven million of them living in that area between the old German-Polish border and the Oder, will be transported into Germany proper. ... Great Britain and the United States will not go to war to defend the eastern frontiers of Poland.  If an agreement is reached now about these frontiers, this agreement could be guaranteed by Great Britain as well as the Soviet Union.  It is not possible under the American Constitution for President Roosevelt to guarantee the borders of any foreign country.  Therefore I urge you to agree to the Curzon Line and the eastern frontier of Poland." -- Winston Churchill to Polish Prime Minister Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, January 20, 1944. Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, The Rape of Poland: Pattern of Soviet Aggression (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1948), p. 51.

"Prime Minister Churchill has suggested a five-point solution ... Second, Poland, to received East Prussia, Danzig and Upper Silesia as far as the Oder River. ... Fourth, all Germans to be removed from the new Poland." -- "Proposals Concerning the New German-Polish Frontier" put forward by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Winston Churchill, during discussions on Polish-Soviet Relations, January 1944. Quoted in Andrzej Leśniewski, Western Frontier of Poland: Documents, Statements, Opinions (Warsaw, 1965), Document 13, p. 62.

OPEN REPUDIATION OF ATLANTIC CHARTER

"The liberation of Poland may presently be achieved by the Russian armies, after these armies have suffered millions of casualties in breaking the German military machine.  I cannot feel that the Russian demand for reassurance about her western frontiers goes beyond the limits of what is reasonable or just.  Marshal Stalin and I also agreed upon the need of Poland to obtain compensation at the expense of Germany both in the north and in the west. ... [There will be] no question of the Atlantic Charter applying to Germany as a matter of right and barring territorial transferences or adjustments in enemy countries. " -- Winston Churchill, Speech to the House of Commons, February 22, 1944. Quoted in John Lukacs, The Great Powers and Eastern Europe (NY: American Book Co., 1953), p. 573 and Wiskemann, Germany's Eastern Neighbours, p. 78. Also see Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, The Rape of Poland: Pattern of Soviet Aggression (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1948), p. 54.

"... The Atlantic Charter in no way binds us about the future of Germany, nor is it a bargain or contract with our enemies." -- Winston Churchill, Speech to the House of Commons, May 24, 1944. Quoted in Andrzej Leśniewski, Western Frontier of Poland: Documents, Statements, Opinions (Warsaw, 1965), Document 19, p. 64.

FALSE PROMISES OF ROOSEVELT TO POLES

"In all our dealings with Stalin we must keep out fingers crossed.  And you Poles must find an understanding with Russia. ... Let me tell you now, the British and Americans have no intention of fighting Russia.  But don't worry, Stalin doesn't intend to take freedom from Poland.  He wouldn't dare do that because he knows that the United States government stands solidly behind you.  I will see to it that Poland does not come out of this war injured.  I'm sure I'll be able to manage an agreement in which Poland will get Silesia, East Prussia, Königsberg, Lwów, the region of Tarnopol and the oil and potash area of Drohobycz.  But I don't believe I can secure the city of Vilna for you." -- Franklin Roosevelt to Polish Prime Minister Stanislaw Mikolajczyk in Washington, DC, June 6, 1944. Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, The Rape of Poland: Pattern of Soviet Aggression (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1948), p. 60.

POLES ARE INFORMED OF WESTERN DECEPTION

In October 1944, Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden, Tadeusz Romer, Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, Josef Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov, and W. Averell Harriman met in Moscow to discuss the issue of postwar Poland.  What follows is the central part of that discussion.

Molotov: "If your memories fail you, let me recall the facts to you.  We all agreed at Teheran that the Curzon Line must divide Poland.  You will recall that President Roosevelt agreed to this solution and strongly endorsed the line.  And then we agreed that it would be best not to issue any public declaration about our agreement."

Mikolajczyk: "Shocked and remembering the earnest assurances I had personally had from Roosevelt at the White House, I looked at Churchill and Harriman, silently begging them to call this damnable deal a lie.  Harriman looked down at the rug.  Churchill looked straight back at me.  'I will confirm this,' he said quietly.  The admission made him angry, and he demanded that I agree then and there to the Russian demands.  He reminded me of Britain's aid to Poland and of my duty now to accede to demands that Britain had come to support.

Churchill: "Unless you accept the frontier, you're out of business forever!  The Russians will sweep through your country, and your people will be liquidated.  You're on the verge of annihilation.  We'll become sick and tired of you if you continue arguing. ... You are bound to accept the decision of the Great Powers." -- Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, The Rape of Poland: Pattern of Soviet Aggression (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1948), pp. 96-98.

"Dear Monsieur [Tadeusz] Romer (i.e. The Polish Foreign Minister), I duly reported to the Prime Minister (i.e. Churchill) the conversation which I had with your Excellency and the Polish Ambassador on October 31st, in the course of which you put to me three questions for the consideration of His Majesty's Government.  The Prime Minister, after consultation with the Cabinet, has now directed me to give you the following replies.  You asked in the first place whether, even in the event of the United States Government finding themselves unable to agree to the changes in the western frontier of Poland foreshadowed in the recent conversations in Moscow, His Majesty's Government would still advocate these changes at the Peace Settlement.  The answer of His Majesty's Government to this question is in the affirmative.  Secondly you enquired whether His Majesty's Government were definitely in favour of advancing the Polish frontier up to the line of the Oder, to include the port of Stettin.  The answer is that His Majesty's Government do consider that Poland should have the right to extend her territory to this extent." -- Sir Alexander Cadogan, Under-Secretary of State in the British Foreign Office, November 2, 1944. Quoted in Elizabeth Wiskemann, Germany's Eastern Neighbours: Problems Relating to the Oder-Neisse Line and the Czech Frontier Regions (London: Oxford University Press, 1956), p. 80.

"In regard to the future frontiers of Poland, if mutual agreement on this subject, including the proposed compensation for Poland from Germany is reached between the Polish, Soviet, and British Governments, this Government will offer no objection. ... If the Polish Government and people desire in connection with the new frontiers of the Polish State to bring about the transfer to and from the territory of Poland of national minorities, the United States Government will raise no objection and as far as practicable will facilitate such transfer." -- Letter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Polish Premier Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, November 17, 1944. Quoted in Elizabeth Wiskemann, Germany's Eastern Neighbours: Problems Relating to the Oder-Neisse Line and the Czech Frontier Regions (London: Oxford University Press, 1956), p. 81. Also see Andrzej Leśniewski, Western Frontier of Poland: Documents, Statements, Opinions (Warsaw, 1965), Document 25, pp. 66-67.

FALSE ASSURANCES BY CHURCHILL ABOUT HORRORS OF MASS DEPORTATIONS

For expulsion is the method which, so far as we have been able to see, will be the most satisfactory and lasting ... I am not alarmed by the prospect of the disentanglement of populations, nor even by these large transferences, which are more possible in modern conditions than they ever were before." -- Winston Churchill, Speech to the House of Commons, December 15, 1944. Quoted in Elizabeth Wiskemann, Germany's Eastern Neighbours: Problems Relating to the Oder-Neisse Line and the Czech Frontier Regions (London: Oxford University Press, 1956), p. 82.

"If ... the Government and people of Poland decide that it would be in the interest of the Polish state to transfer national groups, the United States Government, in cooperation with other governments will assist Poland, in so far as practicable, in such transfers." -- U.S. Secretary of States E.R. Stettinius, December 18, 1944. Quoted in  Z. Jordan, Oder-Neisse Line. A Study of the Political, Economic and European Significance of Poland's Western Frontier, London, 1952, p. 129.

"The cessions upon which we and the Americans are agreed would involve the transfer of some 2 1/2 million Germans.  The Oder frontier, without Breslau and Stettin, would involve a further 2 1/4 millions.  The western Neisse frontier with Breslau and Stettin would involve an additional 3 1/4 millions making 8 millions in all." -- Letter of Anthony Eden to Winston Churchill, re. Malta Conference of U.S. and British Foreign Ministers, February 1, 1945. Quoted in Andrzej Leśniewski, Western Frontier of Poland: Documents, Statements, Opinions (Warsaw, 1965), Document 30, p. 70.

LINKS

R.J. Rummel, Statistics of Poland's Democide

Alfred DeZayas Site

Treaty Between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of Poland Confirming the Frontier Between Them (1990) PDF

The Curzon Line


EXPULSION OF GERMANS FROM THE SUDETENLAND BY CZECHOSLOVAKIA

BACKGROUND

In 1918 Germany surrendered on the basis of Woodrow Wilson's 14 Points which promised self-determination for all peoples.  This soon turned out to be a total and complete lie.

With the defeat of the Central Powers in 1918, the Allies broke up the Austro-Hungarian Empire into a series of so-called "successor states", including Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Poland (along the southern and eastern frontier areas). 

1918 AUSTRIA SEEKS UNION WITH GERMANY

Austria was reduced in size to its German-speaking heartland around Vienna and to the west.  Austria formally became a republic on November 12, 1918.  Shortly thereafter, the new Austrian parliament requested that the Austrian republic be allowed to become part of Germany.  Even the new Austrian constitution reflected this desire, with Article 2 stating "German Austria is a part of the German Republic".  Over the next two years, from 1919-1921, plebiscites held in the Tyrol and Salzburg provinces confirmed the widespread popular desire for Austria to join Germany, with majorities of 98% in the Tyrol and 99% in Salzburg voting for unification with Germany.  The demand for unification also appeared in the Weimar Constitution of Germany, Article 61 of which stated "Following its unification with the German Reich, German-Austria has the right to participate in the Reich Council (Reichsrat) according to the corresponding number of its population.  Until that time the representatives of German-Austria have an advisory role."

France and Italy, however, refused to allow the Austrian unification with Germany, including in the Treaty of Saint Germain a clause that "prohibited political or economic union with Germany and forced the country to change its name from the 'Republic of German Austria' to the 'Republic of Austria'.[4] 

1919 SUDETEN GERMANS SEEK UNION WITH AUSTRIA

Meanwhile, in the same Treaty of Saint Germain the German-speaking border areas of Bohemia, Moravia, and Austrian Silesia were given over to newly-formed Czechoslovakia.  The German-speaking population in these territories, now referred to as "Sudeten Germans", refused to join the new Czech state and proclaimed that they instead wished to join the new Austrian Republic.  After establishing administrative districts of their own and proclaiming themselves part of Austria, the Sudeten German effort to determine their own national destiny was stamped out by Czech troops, which occupied the German-populated border regions.[5]  To many Germans and Austrians all of this, the treaties and harsh treatment by the Czechs, was nothing less than blatant hypocrisy that violated the "right of self-determination" that President Woodrow Wilson had called for in his Fourteen Points.

MUNICH 1938: SUDETEN GERMANS ACHIEVE THEIR DESIRE FOR SELF-DETERMINATION

As of the signing of the Munich Agreement on September 29, 1938, as many as 3.2 million ethnic Germans lived in the border regions of Czechoslovakia that faced Germany to the north and west and Austria to the south.  These Germans were referred to as the Sudetendeutsche or Sudeten Germans, after the region - the Sudetenland (see map) - that a majority of them lived in.  Incorporating these ethnic Germans into the "Greater Germanic Reich" was an explicit goal of Adolf Hitler in the years running up to the outbreak of the war and Hitler had used the argument of ethnic unification as a method by which to achieve his expansionist aims.  Following the annexation of the Sudetenland, and then the Czech rump state, into Germany in 1938 and the spring of 1939, Sudeten Germans were given full German citizenship.

As the war turned against Germany, the position of Sudeten Germans within occupied Czechoslovakia became increasingly precarious.  Finally, the spring 1945 entry of the Red Army into Bohemia and Moravia, the core territories of today's Czech Republic, caused a complete collapse of the Sudeten German community.  Widespread fear of rampaging Soviet troops caused tens of thousands of Sudeten Germans to flee from their homes into the disintegrating Third Reich.  Into the vacuum marched Soviet troops and Czechoslovak units formed in the Soviet Union during the war.  These were accompanied by new political formations (National Committees) and leaders made up of a coalition of communist and republican exiles, who took over administration of the liberated territory.  Reports of atrocities committed against Sudeten Germans by Soviet troops and the Czechs during this period are extensive (see The White Book)*.  In some cases, such as the forced march from Brno, Czech Republic to Pohrlitz, Austria, as many as 30,000 ethnic Germans were forced from their homes at gunpoint and marched out of the country while being beaten, threatened, and shot by their Czech guards.

The number of ethnic Germans killed by Czechs during these marches and internments in camps ranges into the tens of thousands.  In the end as many as 2.9 million Sudeten Germans were forcibly expelled from the Czech Republic between the years of 1945 and 1948.  The vast majority of these persons took up residence in West Germany and continue to reside there today.

The concept of creating ethnically homogenous states after the defeat of Nazi Germany started forming as early as December 1938 when Hubert Ripka and exiled Czech president, Edvard Beneš, discussed the removal of the German and Magyar (i.e. Hungarian) populations following the war.[6]  These discussions continued in 1941 and in 1942, Beneš openly adopted Ripka's proposals after the destruction of the towns of Lidice and Lezaky by the SS in summer of that year as reprisals for the killing of Reinhard Heydrich by the Czech resistance.

As was the case with the Polish desire to remove the Germans from their midst, Beneš too realized that he needed the support of the Allied powers in order to have his policy implemented.  Beneš discovered as soon as 1942 that he had the support he required in London.  By mid-1943, it was clear that Roosevelt also accepted Beneš' proposal to expel the German population from post-war Czechoslovakia.

Finally, Beneš cultivated the support of Josef Stalin.  After witnessing the acrimony that faced Polish-Soviet relations during the war, the Czech president was determined to develop a more constructive relationship with the Soviets.  It appears that at this time, Beneš also realized the Soviet Union would be the premier power in Eastern Europe and not Great Britain or the U.S.  Therefore, toward the end of 1943, Beneš visited Moscow to sign a "Treaty of Friendship, Mutual Help and Cooperation after the War" with Stalin.  During his visit to Moscow for the negotiations Beneš requested Soviet support for his plans to transfer the Sudeten Germans to Germany.  In response he received assurances from both Molotov and Stalin that they would support the expulsion of at least two million Sudeten Germans from a newly-constituted Czechoslovakia, with Molotov saying of the request "That's a trifle, that's easy!'"[7]

QUOTATIONS

"It will be necessary to prevent Germany by all adequate means, which may include the organised application of the principle of transfer of populations, from misusing her national minorities for pan-Germanistic aims. One should attempt, in any case, to reconstruct the smaller Central European States in such a way as to make them as far as possible nationally homogeneous and to reduce the minority element within these States to a minimum." -- Hubert Ripka, 1941. Quoted in De Sausmarez, G.H. & Theodor Schieder, The Expulsion of the German Population from Czechoslovakia: A Selection and Translation from Dokumentation der Vertreibung der Deutschen Aus Ost-Mitteleuropa, Band IV, 1 and IV, 2 (Federal Ministry for Expellees Refugees, 1960), p. 37.

"I accept the principle of the transfer of populations. ... If the problem is carefully considered ... the transfer can be made amicably under decent human conditions, under international control and with international support." -- Edvard Beneš, September 1941. Quoted in Elizabeth Wiskemann, Germany's Eastern Neighbours: Problems Relating to the Oder-Neisse Line and the Czech Frontier Regions (London: Oxford University Press, 1956), p. 65.

"Minister Nichols (i.e. London's liaison to the Czechs in exile) informed us that the British government had given careful consideration to our attitude in the matter of the transfer from our Republic of minority populations which had conspired against us and had reached the conclusion, in view of what had happened in 1938 and during the war, that at the time of the final solution of our minority problems after the victorious end of the war the British government did not intend to oppose the principle of transfer of the minority population from Czechoslovakia in an endeavour to make Czechoslovakia as homogeneous a country as possible from the standpoint of nationality." -- Conversation in early August 1942, recorded in Edvard Beneš, Memoirs of Dr. Edvard Beneš, from Munich to New War and New Victory, Trans. Godfrey Lias (London: Allen & Unwin, 1954), p. 206.

 "[Roosevelt] agrees to the transfer of the minority populations from Eastern Prussia, Transylvania and Czechoslovakia.  I asked again expressly whether the United States would agree to the transfer of our Germans.  He declared plainly that they would.  I repeated that Great Britain and the Soviets had already given us their views to the same effect." -- Conversation on June 7, 1942, recorded in Edvard Beneš, Memoirs of Dr. Edvard Beneš, from Munich to New War and New Victory, Trans. Godfrey Lias (London: Allen & Unwin, 1954), p. 195.

"There was one issue ... on which Beneš was quite outspoken: the transfer of the Sudeten Germans to the Reich.  In fact, he began discussing it while we were still sitting in the White House dining room.  He raised the question again in both conferences with Roosevelt on May 12-13 [1943] and June 7 [1943].  Securing U.S. support for transferring a substantial number of Sudeten Germans to the Reich figured high on Beneš American shopping list.  As he told me after returning from a luncheon with Churchill on April 3, 1943, the British prime minister approved 'in principle the transfer of population as the only possible solution of minority problems in Central Europe after the war.'

... During their first conversation Roosevelt told Beneš that he ought to expel as many Sudeten Germans as possible. ... Beneš raised the transfer issue again in his final talk with Roosevelt.  The American president reaffirmed, in no uncertain terms, his unconditional support for the transfer of Germans to the Reich, both from Czechoslovakia and Poland.  He even expressed the belief that population transfers should be used to resolve the minority problem in Transylvania." -- Edward Taborsky, President Edvard Beneš: Between East and West, 1938-1948 (Stanford, CA :Hoover Institution, 1981), pp. 125-126.

"The American Government fully appreciates the injuries suffered by Czechoslovakia at the hands of Germany and of the German minority during the past decade or so and is prepared to examine the problem in an effort to seek a satisfactory solution for the future. ... There will also undoubtedly arise related questions with regard to the transfer of Germans from other territories.  Since this problem may therefore involve and aggregate of some millions of people, it would therefore be a matter of major concern to the occupying powers in the maintenance of order in Germany during the absorption of such people from abroad simultaneously with the repatriation or resettlement of millions of displaced persons now within Germany. The American Government therefore feels that transfers of the kind contemplated in your Excellency's note should only be carried out pursuant to appropriate international arrangement ... and under international auspices." -- U.S. response to Czech inquiry (issued July 3, 1945) in anticipation to the upcoming Potsdam Conference. Foreign Relations of the United States, Document No. 440, The Potsdam Conference, 1945, Volume I, pp. 647-649.

THE BENEŠ DECREES

This series of decrees established the government machinery and legal basis for the the expulsion of "enemy minorities" from the Czech State.  The decrees were based on standards of international law at the time, which recognized the continuity of the sovereignty of the Czech government-in-exile, despite the fact that it was perilous in the extreme for the inhabitants of occupied Czechoslovakia to act loyally to the Czech state while under Nazi administration.  To all intents and purposes, these decrees re-established the post-war Czechoslovak state on the basis of conditions prior to the implementation of the Munich Agreement in October 1938.  The decrees also established the principle of collective guilt and they permitted the state to implement legally and economically discriminatory measures against minorities that were associated with the Axis powers, most prominently, Germans and Hungarians (Magyars).

1) Edict of the President of the Republic, May 19, 1945.

Concerning the invalidity of Transactions Involving Property Rights from the Time of the Oppression and Concerning the National Administration of Property Assets of Germans, Magyars, Traitors and Collaborationists and of Certain Organizations and Associations.

Upon proposition of the Government I decree:

Article I

1. All transfers and transactions involving property rights regardless of whether they involve movable or immovable, public or private property are invalid provided that they have been made under the pressure of the occupation or under the national, racial, or political persecution after October 29, 1938.

2. The manner in which claims arising by virtue of the provision of Subsection 1 shall be raised will be prescribed in a particular edict of the President of the Republic provided that It has not been prescribed in this edict.

Article 2

1. The property of persons upon whom the country cannot place reliance, being within the territory of the Czech Republic, will be placed under national administration in accordance with the further provisions of this edict.

2. Property transferred by such persons  after October 29, 1938, shall also be deemed to be property of persons upon whom the country cannot rely unless the person acquiring such property had no knowledge of the fact that property of such nature was involved.

Article 3

All enterprises and all property assets shall be taken under national administration wherever this is required in the interest of continuous production and economic life.  This applies especially to production plants and other enterprises which have been deserted and to property assets relinquished or to such facilities or such property assets which are in the possession of, or administrated by, or leased to persons upon whom the country cannot rely.

Article 4

As persons the country cannot rely on shall be considered:

a. Persons of German or Magyar nationality.

b. Persons, whose activities have been directed against the governmental authority, independence, integrity, democratic-republican system, security and strength of the Czechoslovak Republic, who Instigated such activities or tended to induce other persons to take such actions, and intentionally supported the German and Magyar occupiers in any manner whatsoever. As such supporters shall be considered for example; The members of Vlajka Rodobrana, the Advance Batalllons of the Hlinka-Guard, the leading officers of the Association for Cooperation with the Germans, of the Czech League against Bolshevism, of the Curatory for Education of the Czech Youth, of the Slovak-Catholic Hlinka party, of the Hlinka-Guard, of the Hlinka Youth, of the national Central Association of Employees, of the Association for Agriculture and Forestry, of the German-Slovak Association, and of other fascist organizations of similar nature.

Article 5

Those juristic persons shall be deemed as persons upon the country cannot rely, whose administration has served intentionally and knowingly aided the Germans or Magyars in carrying on the war or has served fascist or Nazi purposes.

Article 6

As persons of German and Magyar nationality shall be considered those who on the occasion of any census since 1929 acknowledged their German or Magyar nationality or who became members of national groups or organizations or political parties in which persons of German or Magyar nationality were united.

2) Edict of the President of the Republic, June 19, 1945
Decree Concerning the Punishment of Nazi Criminals, Traitors, and their Accomplices, and Concerning the Special People's Courts.

3) Edict of the President of the Republic, June 21, 1945.

Concerning the Confiscation and early Re-allotment of agricultural Property of Germans, Magyars, as well as of Traitors and Enemies of the Czech and Slovak People.

Compilation of Statutes and Enactment's No. 12

Following the demand of the Czech and Slovak people without land for an effective implementing of the land reform and led by the desire once for all to take Czech and Slovak soil out of the hands of the foreign German and Magyar landowners as well as out of the hands of the traitors to the Republic and to give it into the hands of the Czech and Slovak farmers and persons without land I decree upon proposition of the government as follows:

Article I

1. With immediate effect and without compensation and for the purpose of the land reform such rural property shall be confiscated as is owned by

a) All persons of German or Magyar nationality, without regard to their citizenship,

b) Traitors and enemies of the Republic without regard to their nationality and citizenship especially those who demonstrated their hostility during the crisis and during the war in the years 1938 to 1945,

c) Corporations, partnerships and other associations the management of which knowingly and intentionally supported the Germans in carrying on the war or which served fascist or Nazi aims.

2. The agricultural property of persons of German or Magyar nationality who participated in combat for the protection of the integrity and for the liberation of the Czech Slovak Republic shall not be confiscated under the provisions of Subsection 1.

3. The District National Committee is competent to decide upon application of the competent farmers committees whether an exception according to Subsection 3 shall be made. Doubtful cases shall be submitted by the District National committee to the Provincial National Committee which shall forward them with an opinion to the Ministry for Agriculture for final decision. The latter shall decide by agreement with the Ministry of the Interior.

Article 2

1. Those persons shall be considered of German and Magyar nationality who on the occasion of any census since 1929 acknowledged their German or Magyar nationality or who became members of national groups, organizations or political parties in which persons of German or Magyar nationality were united.

2. Exemptions from the provisions of Subsection I will be laid down in a special edict.

Article 3

1. Those persons shall be considered as traitors and enemies of the Czech Slovak Republic:

a) Whose activities were jointly or separately directed against the sovereignty, the independence, the integrity, the democratic-republican system, the security and the defensive power of the Czech Slovak Republic, who instigated such activities or seduced other persons thereto, and, in any manner, intentionally and actively supported the German and Magyar occupiers.

b) Such juristic persons whose activities intentionally and actively served the Germans carrying on the war or served fascist or Nazi purposes.

2. The authorities competent to decide whether or not a natural or juristic person is subject to the provisions of Subsection I a) b) are: the Provincial National Committee in the area which the rural estate concerned is located, upon application of the competent District National Committee. Doubtful cases shall be submitted by the Land National Committee to the Ministry for Agriculture for final decision. The latter shall decide by agreement with the Ministry of the Interior.

4) Edict of the President of the Republic, August 2, 1945.

Concerning the right to Czechoslovak citizenship of persons of German and Magyar nationality.
 
With regard to the proposal of the Government and in accordance with the Agreement with the Slovak National Council, I decree:

Article I

1. Czechoslovak citizens of German or Magyar nationality who acquired German or Magyar Citizenship under the regulations of the foreign occupational forces shall have lost their Czechoslovak Citizenship by so doing.

2. The other Czechoslovak citizens of German or Magyar nationality shall lose their Czechoslovak citizenship on the day this edict comes into force.

3. This edict does not apply to Germans or Magyars who, during the period of increased threat to the Republic (Article 18 of the Edict of the President of the Republic, dated June 19, 1952 concerning the punishment of National Socialist Criminals, Traitors and their Accomplices and concerning the Special People's Courts) registered as Czechs or Slovaks during the official census.
 
4. Czechs, Slovaks and persons of other Slav nationalities who during that time professed themselves Germans or Magyars under pressure or under
extenuating circumstances shall not be adjudged Germans or Magyars insofar as the Ministry of the Interior, after a thorough examination of the particulars quoted approves the attestation of national reliability as issued by the appropriate District National Committee.

Article 2

1. Persons to whom  the provisions of Article I are applicable, and who prove that they remained loyal to the Czechoslovak Republic, that they never committed any offence against the Czech and Slovak people, and that they either participated actively in the fight for liberation or suffered under the National Socialist or fascist terror, shall retain Czechoslovak citizenship.

2. The application for a certificate stating that Czech citizenship may be retained can be submitted to the appropriate District National Committee within 6 months of the day this Edict comes into force and, if the applicant resides abroad, can be submitted to the appropriate consular authorities. The result of the application shall be decided by the Ministry of the Interior after considering the recommendation of the Provincial National Committee and, in Slovakia, the proposal of the National Council. The persons in question shall be considered as Czechoslovak citizens until a final decision is made, provided that the District National Committee or the authorities representing it Issue a certificate stating the circumstances mentioned above.
 
3. The retention of Czechoslovak citizenship in the case of Czechoslovak military persons of German or Magyar nationality shall be decided on ex officio in the shortest possible time by the Ministry of the Interior after considering the recommendation of the Ministry of National Defence. Until the official decision is made they shall be considered as Czechoslovak Citizens.

Article 3

Persons, who have lost their Czechoslovak citizenship under Article I may apply to the appropriate District National Committee or the authorities representing it for restitution within 6 months of the date which will be appointed in the promulgation of the Ministry of the Interior and published in the Compilation of Statutes and Enactments. The Ministry of the Interior after considering the recommendation of the  Provincial National Committee in Slovakia, after considering the recommendation of the Slovak National Council shall decide the result of such an application after an objective consideration of the case, it shall not approve an application, however, if the applicant has violated his duties as a Czecho-Slovak citizen.  Provided that no Government Decrees stipulate otherwise,  the general regulations concerning the acquisition of Czechoslovak citizenship shall apply also to these cases.

5) Edict of the President of the Republic, October 25, 1945.

Concerning the Confiscation of Enemy Property and the Funds of National Regeneration

With regard to the proposal of the Government and in accordance with the Agreement with the Slovak National Council, I decree:

Part I: Confiscation of Enemy Property

Article I: Extent of the Property Confiscated

1. Any immovable and movable property shall be confiscated without any compensation to the benefit of the Czechoslovak Republic, and to the extent that this has not been effectuated until now, in particular properly rights (as claims, securities. immaterial rights) which on the day of the factual termination of the German and Hungarian occupation was owned or which is still owned:

(1) by the German Reich, the Kingdom of Hungary, by juristic persons incorporated under the public laws of Germany or Hungary, by the German National Socialist Party, by the Magyar political parties and other groups, organizations, enterprises, institutions, associations, funds and property of these regimes or connected  therewith as well as of other German or Magyar juristic persons, or

(2) by natural persons of German or Magyar nationality with the exception of persons who prove that they adhered faithfully to the Czecho-Slovak Republic, that they never committed any offense against the Czech and Slovak people and that they either participated actively in the combat for their liberation, or suffered under the National Socialist or fascist terror, or

(3) by natural persons, who have displayed activities directed against the sovereignty, the independence, the integrity, the democratic-republican system, the security and defense of  the Czechoslovak Republic, who have instigated such activities or have solicited other persons to carry on such activities, who, by any manner, have intentionally supported the German or Magyar occupants or during the period of the Increased threat to the Republic have favored the Germanization or Magyarization within the territory of the Czecho-Slovak Republic or who have taken a hostile position against the Czech Slovak Republic or against the Czech or Slovak people, as well as by persons who have tolerated such activities by persons who have administered their property or enterprises.

2. The provisions of Subsection  I,  No.  3 apply also to juristic persons to the extent that natural persons who are members thereof or share in the property or in the enterprise (shareholders) are responsible for the steps taken by the board representing the juristic person or that these persons have failed to use the appropriate diligence in the selection and supervision of the board.

3. Likewise subject to confiscation is any property which  during the period  subsequent to September 29, 1938, has been owned by persons mentioned in subsections I and 2 and which during the time set forth in Subsection I, sentence 1, has been owned or is still owned by persons in the possession of which it would not be subject to confiscation unless the inclusion of such property in the confiscation would not comply with the principles of equity.

4. The competent District National Committee shall determine whether or not the prerequisite sites of be confiscation under this edict exist. The decision can be served by publication, even if the prerequisites of Article 33 of the Governmental Ordinance, dated January 13, 1928. Comp. No 8, Concerning the Procedure in Matters Which Do Not Fall Within the Competence of Political Authorities (administrative procedure) are not complied with. An appeal can be filed from the decision of the District National Committee with the  Provincial Committee, in Slovakia, with the competent authority of the Slovak National Council. The Provincial National committee (in Slovakia the competent authority of the Slovak National Council) may even in the course of the proceedings  assume the carrying out of the procedure and decide the matter as the first instance. If the Provincial National Committee (in Slovakia the competent authority of the Slovak National Council) decides in this manner as first instance an appeal may be filed with the Ministry of the Interior.

LINKS

Alfred DeZayas Site

Die Benesch Dekrete German

Carpathian Germans and the Beneš Decrees

Documents on the Expulsion of the Sudeten Germans English and German

A Spectre Over Central Europe
An article in The Economist from 2002 showing how the post-war expulsion of Germans is continuing to reverberate through European Politics.

Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft German


THE ATLANTIC CHARTER ALLIED DISCUSSION OF NATIONAL BORDERS

EXPULSIONS FROM EASTERN GERMAN TERRITORIES BY POLAND

 EXPULSIONS FROM SUDETENLAND BY CZECHOSLOVAKIA NOTES


NOTES

* This source is useful for the eyewitness accounts of atrocities committed against Sudeten Germans by the Red Army and Czechs.  However, it is also posted by a German nationalist website seeking to use the expulsion of Germans as an issue to raise nationalist-revisionist feeling against the Czechs in contemporary Germany.

1. Forced Labor of Germans in the Soviet Union

2. Alfred M. de Zayas, Nemesis at Potsdam: The Anglo-Americans and The Expulsion of The Germans (Boston: Routledge & K. Paul, 1977, pp. XXV and 54.

3. Journal of Cold War Studies Forum. Redrawing Nations: Ethnic Cleansing in East-Central Europe, 1944-1948

4. German Austria and The First Republic

5. The Sudetenland

6. Elizabeth Wiskemann, Germany's Eastern Neighbours: Problems Relating to the Oder-Neisse Line and the Czech Frontier Regions (London: Oxford University Press, 1956), p. 62.

7. De Sausmarez, G.H. & Theodor Schieder, The Expulsion of the German Population from Czechoslovakia: A Selection and Translation from Dokumentation der Vertreibung der Deutschen Aus Ost-Mitteleuropa, Band IV, 1 and IV, 2 (Federal Ministry for Expellees Refugees, 1960), p. 42.

MAP ON EXPULSIONS

SHOWS HUGE SCOPE OF EXPULSIONS