Did Poland drive the Jews out in 1944?

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Status: 07/21/2008 2:19 pm

1945 Nazi Germany is defeated. As early as autumn 1944, fear of retaliation by the Red Army began the mass exodus of Germans from East Prussia and Silesia, and later also from Pomerania.

by Jürgen Brühns

As a result of the Second World War, which Germany started, millions of people were displaced, forcibly resettled or had to flee. In 1941 the National Socialists drove around 900,000 Poles from the former western West Prussia, which had been occupied since 1939, to the so-called General Government. German "resettlers" were to take their place in the province known as "Warthegau". These came from areas that had come under Soviet rule after the German-Soviet non-aggression pact and the defeat of Poland, in particular from the Baltic States. A purely German settlement area should arise. Only after the liberation in early 1945 could the Poles return to their homeland.

Late mass exodus from the eastern areas

When the Red Army stood at the border of the Reich in autumn 1944, the Germans began to flee from East Prussia and Silesia, and later also from Pomerania, for fear of retaliation. Three and a half years had passed since the Wehrmacht attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941, and many millions of people had been killed there in those years. The Wehrmacht had destroyed thousands of towns and villages. Behind the front, Nazi Einsatzgruppen murdered hundreds of thousands of civilians, mostly Jews.

Refugees get caught between the front lines and into fights

Thousands of people did not survive the exertion of fleeing west.

For a long time, the Nazi rulers had issued slogans to hold out and ruthlessly forbade any escape. The Gauleiter hoped for better morale and tougher resistance from the Wehrmacht when it came to defending German soil and German civilians. Hundreds of thousands of Germans streamed west in the last weeks of the war.

The refugees often got caught between the fronts and in the fighting. The rapidly advancing Red Army rolled over the treks many times. Millions of refugees died of cold and hunger or were mistreated, raped or murdered by Soviet troops. When the land routes to the west were blocked, at least 1.5 million civilians and 500,000 members of the Wehrmacht managed to escape by ship across the Baltic Sea to the west. Thousands of refugees died when their ships were torpedoed by the Soviet Navy - for example on the ships "Wilhelm Gustloff", "Steuben" or "Goya".

Systematic expulsion after the end of the war

On their flight, many people were only able to take the bare minimum with them.

After the war, the systematic expulsion of Germans from the former German eastern territories began. From April 1945 the new Polish authorities expelled the resident German population, even before the Potsdam Conference in August sanctioned the "wild expulsions" as an "orderly transfer of German parts of the population" from Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Nevertheless, there were still numerous crimes against the German civilian population afterwards. Northern East Prussia around Königsberg was now under Soviet administration. Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians came here. Some former Soviet forced laborers also settled here.

Expulsion according to the principle of the "ethnically pure nation state"

Southern East Prussia, Pomerania, Neumark-Brandenburg and Silesia came under Polish administration. The Poles justified their expulsion with the behavior of the Germans during the occupation and with the principle of the "ethnically pure nation state". In addition to the Polish communists, the bourgeois Polish government-in-exile in London demanded that the areas be preserved without the German population. In addition, Poland should be compensated for the loss of territory on the Ukrainian and Belarusian borders at the expense of German territory in order to be able to accommodate the Poles who were forcibly relocated from there.

At the war conference in Tehran in autumn 1943, the Allies decided to shift the Polish state to the west. It was the result of Stalin's refusal to reverse the shifting of the Polish borders established in the 1939 Hitler-Stalin Pact and to allow the state of Poland to resurrect within the borders of 1939.

Sudeten Germans have to leave Czechoslovakia

After the end of the war, many people of German origin had to leave Bohemia.

The Germans were also expelled from Czechoslovakia, mainly from the Sudetenland, i.e. the northern, southern and western outskirts of the Bohemian countries. Mostly Czechs as well as Sinti and Roma were settled in the Sudetenland. In addition, there were Czechs known as "repatriates" who came from families who had emigrated to France, the USA or other countries before the German invasion.

Integration and Compensation in Post-War Germany

Before the war, over 17 million Germans lived in the eastern provinces as well as in Poland, the Baltic States, Gdansk, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Romania. Over 14 million Germans were affected by flight and displacement between 1944/45 and 1950; about two million people died in the process. Around two and a half million Germans stayed in their homeland and were sometimes subjected to severe repression. Hundreds of thousands were detained in camps or forced to do labor. The private property of the East and Sudeten Germans was confiscated without compensation, as was German public and church property. One of the major post-war tasks was the integration and compensation of the displaced persons, or people referred to as "resettlers" in the GDR, in the divided post-war Germany.

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10/31/2001 | 10:55 pm