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|Flight and expulsion of Germans during|
|Wartime flight and evacuation|
|Post-war flight and expulsion|
The flight and expulsion of Germans from Poland was the largest of a series of flights and expulsions of Germans in Europe during and after World War II. The German population fled or was 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.
During World War II, expulsions were initiated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland. The Germans deported 2.478 million Polish citizens from the Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany,murdered another 5.38-5.58 million Poles and Polish Jews and resettled 1.3 million ethnic Germans in their place. Around 500,000 Germans were stationed in Poland as part of its occupation force; these consisted of people such as clerks, technicians and support staff.
The German population east of Oder-Neisse was estimated at over 11 million in early 1945. The first mass flight of Germans followed the Red Army's advance and was composed of both spontaneous flight driven by rumours of Soviet atrocities, and organised evacuation starting in the summer of 1944 and continuing through to the spring of 1945. Overall about 1% (100,000) of the German civilian population east of the Oder-Neisse line perished in the fighting prior to the surrender in May 1945. In 1945, the eastern territories of Germany as well as Polish areas annexed by Germany were occupied by the Soviet Red Army and Polish Communist military forces. German civilians were also sent as "reparations labor" to the USSR. The Soviet Union transferred former German territories in the east of the Oder-Neisse line to Poland in July 1945. In mid-1945, 4.5 to 4.6 million Germans remained on the territories under Polish control. Early expulsions in Poland were undertaken by the Polish Communist military authorities even before the Potsdam Conference ("wild expulsions"), to ensure the later integration into an ethnically homogeneous Poland as envisioned by the Polish Communists. Between seven hundred and eight hundred thousand Germans were affected. Contrary to the official declaration that the former German inhabitants of the so-called Recovered Territories had to be removed quickly to house Poles displaced by the Soviet annexation, the lands initially faced a severe population shortage.
By early 1946, 932,000 people had been "verified" as having Polish nationality. In the February 1946 census, 2,288,000 persons were listed as Germans and 417,400 became subject to verification aiming at the establishment of nationality. From the spring of 1946 the expulsions gradually became better organised, affecting the remaining German population. By 1950, 3,155,000 German civilians had been expelled and 1,043,550 were naturalised as Polish citizens. Germans considered "indispensable" for the Polish economy were retained; virtually all had left by 1960. Some 500,000 Germans in Poland, East Prussia, and Silesia were employed as forced labor in communist-administered camps prior to being expelled from Poland. Besides large camps, some of which were re-used German concentration camps, numerous other forced labour, punitive and internment camps, urban ghettos, and detention centres sometimes consisting only of a small cellar were set up.
The attitude of Polish civilians, many of whom had experienced brutalities during the preceding German occupation, was varied. There were incidents when Poles, even freed slave labourers, protected Germans, for example by disguising them as Poles. The attitude of the Soviet soldiers was ambivalent. Many committed numerous atrocities, most prominently rapes and murders, and did not always distinguish between Poles and Germans, often mistreating them alike. Other Soviets were taken aback by the brutal treatment of the Germans and engaged in their protection. According to the West German Schieder commission of 1953, the civilian death toll was 2 million. However, in 1974 the German Federal Archives estimated a death toll of about 400,000..
West German government figures of those evacuated, migrated, or expelled by 1950 totaled 8,030,000. (6,981,000 former German territories; 290,800 from Danzig, 688,000 pre-war Poland and 170,000 Baltic Germans resettled in Poland during the war). Gerhard Reichling, a researcher employed by West German government, put the figure of Germans emigrating from Poland from 1951 to 1982 at 894,000; they are also considered expellees under German Federal Expellee Law.
German settlement in the former eastern territories of Germany and pre-war Poland dates back to the medieval Ostsiedlung. Germany used the 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 Germany and the Soviet Union according to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. This was followed by population exchanges, and included Baltic Germans who were settled to occupied Poland.
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 Central and 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, millions of Germans mostly from Central and Eastern Europe were settled by the Nazis to replace Poles removed or killed during the occupation. Germany deported millions of Poles either to other territories, to concentration camps or as slave workers. Many others were deported by the Soviet Union during the years 1939-1941, when Germany and Soviet Union cooperated against Poles.
German communities living within the pre-war borders of Poland participated in wartime German activities, starting with the invasion of Poland. Created on order of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, a Nazi ethnic German organisation called Selbstschutz carried out mass murder during Intelligenzaktion alongside operational groups of German military and police. In addition, the German minority engaged in such activities as identifying Poles for execution and illegally detaining them. To Poles, moving Germans out of Poland was seen as an attempt to avoid such events in the future and, as a result, the Polish government in exile proposed a population transfer of Germans as early as 1941.
Following the Tehran Conference (November-December 1943) Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill made it clear that the Soviets would keep the Polish territories east of the Curzon Line and offered Poland territorial compensation in the West. The final decision to move Poland's boundary westward, preconditioning the expulsion of Germans, was made by Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States at the Yalta Conference in February 1945, when the Curzon line was irrevocably fixed as the future Polish-Soviet border. 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. Concerning the post-war western frontier of Poland, the agreement simply read: "If a specific problem such as the frontiers of liberated Poland and the complexion of its government allowed no easy solution, hopes were held out for the future discussion of all outstanding problems in an amicable manner." Upon gaining control of these lands, the Soviet and Polish-Communist authorities started to expel the German population.
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. Subsequently, most of the remaining Germans were expelled to the territories west of the line.
President Harry S. 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 Poland and was concerned about Germany's economic control and war reparations. Churchill spoke against giving Poland 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. On July 24, the Polish communist 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." To the Soviets, reparations were more important than boundaries, and Stalin might have given up on 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.
With German communities living within the pre-war borders of Poland, there was an expressed fear of disloyalty of Germans in Eastern Upper Silesia and Pomerelia, based on wartime German activities. As Germany invaded Poland, the German minority engaged in mass murder, rapes and plunder of Polish citizens, in addition to making lists of people that were to be sent to German concentration camps. Poles wanted to avoid such events in the future and as a result, Polish exile authorities proposed a population transfer of Germans as early as 1941.
In 1941, W?adys?aw Sikorski of the Polish government-in-exile insisted on driving "the German horde (...) back far [westward]", while in 1942 memoranda he expressed concern about Poland acquiring Lower Silesia, populated with "fanatically anti-Polish Germans". Yet as the war went on, Lower Silesia also became a Polish war aim, as well as occupation of the Baltic coast west of Szczecin as far as Rostock and occupation of the Kiel Canal. 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 August Zaleski.
After Sikorski's death, the next Polish Prime Minister Stanis?aw Miko?ajczyk in a letter to Roosevelt expressed his concerns about the idea of compensating Poland in the west. However, pressed by Churchill, he was forced to accept the Tehran decision, which was the direct cause of his resignation from his post. The next Polish Prime Minister, Tomasz Arciszewski claimed that Poland did not "want neither Breslau nor Stettin".
Although the Polish government-in-exile was recognised by the Allies at that time, the Soviet Union broke off all diplomatic relations with it in April 1943 after Polish government demanded the investigation of the Katyn massacre. On April 20, 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. Poles were classified as sub-humans (untermenschen) by the Nazis, with their ultimate fate being slavery and extermination, while Germans occupied position of privileged "ubermenschen" that were to rule over Poles and other nations; when Stanis?aw Miko?ajczyk joined the "Government of National Unity" as a deputy prime minister in 1945, he justified the expulsions of Germans by national terms following communist W?adys?aw Gomu?ka, but also as a revolutionary act, freeing the Poles of exploitation by a German middle and upper class.
In general the Polish historiography views the expulsion of Germans as justified and correct, even when describing it as a "lesser evil".
After the Red Army had advanced into the eastern parts of post-war Poland in the Lublin-Brest Offensive, launched on 18 July 1944, Soviet spearheads first reached eastern German territory on 4 August 1944 at northeastern East Prussia and Memelland, causing a first wave of refugees.
With the Soviet Vistula-Oder Offensive, launched on 12 January 1945, and the parallel East Prussian Offensive launched on 13 January 1945, Soviet gains of pre-war German and annexed Polish territory became permanent. With the subsequent East Pomeranian, Lower Silesian and Upper Silesian Offensives in February and March, the Red Army seized control of virtually all territories east of the Oder river. Wehrmacht counter-offensives like Operation Solstice and Operation Gemse were repelled, and only shrinking pockets like Breslau, Danzig,Heiligenbeil, Hela, Kolberg, Königsberg, and Pillau remained German controlled. Soviet soldiers committed reprisal rapes and other crimes In most cases, implementation of the evacuation plans was delayed until Soviet and Allied forces had defeated the German forces and advanced into the areas to be evacuated. The responsibility for leaving millions of Germans in these vulnerable areas until combat conditions overwhelmed them can be attributed directly to the draconian measures taken by the German authorities against anyone even suspected of 'defeatist' attitudes [as evacuation was considered] and the fanaticism of many Nazi functionaries in their execution of Hitler's 'no retreat' orders. Hitler and his staff refused to accept Soviet military superiority. Hitler called the Red Army "gleaned punks" and "booty divisions", who were not able to win decisive battles.Himmler called the preparation of the early 1945 Soviet offensive "the biggest bluff since Dshingis Khan".
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 the early spring of 1945. Conditions turned chaotic in the winter, when miles-long queues of refugees pushed their carts through the snow trying to stay ahead of the Red Army. From the Baltic coast, thousands were evacuated by ship in Operation Hannibal. Since February 11, refugees were shipped not only to German ports, but also to German occupied Denmark, based on an order issued by Hitler on 4 February. Of 1,180 ships participating in the evacuation, 135 were lost due to bombs, mines, and torpedoes, an estimated 20,000 died. Between 23 January 1945 and the end of the war, 2,204,477 people, 1,335,585 of them civilians, were transported via the Baltic Sea, up to 250,000 of them to occupied Denmark.
Most of the evacuation efforts commenced in January 1945, when Soviet forces were already at the eastern border of Germany. About six million Germans had fled or were evacuated from the areas east of the Oder-Neisse line before Soviet and the attached Polish Army took control of the region. Refugee treks and ships which came into reach of the advancing Soviets suffered high casualties when targeted by low-flying aircraft, torpedoes, or were rolled over by tanks. The most infamous incidents during the flight and expulsion from the territory of later Poland include the sinking of the military transport ship Wilhelm Gustloff by a Soviet submarine with a death toll of some 9,000 people; the USAF bombing of refugee-crowdedSwinemünde on 12 March 1945 killing an estimated 23,000 to 25,000; the desperate conditions under which refugees crossed the frozen Vistula Lagoon, where thousands broke in, froze to death, or were killed by Soviet aircraft; and the poorly organized evacuation and ultimate sacrifice of refugee-crowded Breslau by the local German Nazi authorities headed by gaulaiter Karl Hanke. The Polish historians Witold Sienkiewicz and Grzegorz Hryciuk maintain that civilian deaths in the flight and evacuation were between 600,000 and 1.2 million. The main causes of death were cold, stress, and bombing.
The Nazi German Ministry for Inner Affairs passed a decree on 14 March 1945 allowing abortion to women raped by Soviet soldiers.
Many refugees tried to return home when the fighting in their homelands ended. Before June 1, 1945, some 400,000 crossed back over the Oder and Neisse rivers eastward, before Soviet and Polish communist authorities closed the river crossings; another 800,000 entered Silesia from Czechoslovakia.
The Polish courier Jan Karski warned US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt of the possibility of Polish reprisals, describing them as "unavoidable" and "an encouragement for all the Germans in Poland to go west, to Germany proper, where they belong".
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. German civilians were also held as "reparations labor" by the USSR. Data from the Russian archives published in 2001, based on an actual enumeration, put the number of German civilians deported from Poland to the USSR in early 1945 for reparations labor at 155,262 where 37% (57,586) died. However, the West German Red Cross estimated in 1964 that 233,000 German civilians were deported to the USSR from Poland as forced laborers where 45% (105,000) were dead or missing. The West German Red Cross also estimated 110,000 German civilians were held as forced labor in Kaliningrad Oblast where 50,000 were dead or missing. The Soviets also deported from Poland 7,448 Poles of the Armia Krajowa, Soviet records indicated 506 of the Poles died in captivity.Tomasz Kamusella maintains that in early 1945, some 165,000 Germans were transported to the Soviet Union, where most perished. According to Gerhardt Reichling, 520,000 German civilians from the Oder-Neisse region were conscripted for forced labor by both the USSR and Poland, he maintains that 206,000 perished.
Ethnic German citizens from pre-war Poland, who collaborated with the German occupiers, were considered "traitors of the nation" and sentenced to forced labor. In territories that belonged to Poland before the war, Germans were treated even more harshly than in the former German territories. Deprived of any citizen rights, many were used as forced labor prior to their expulsion, sometimes for years, in labor battalions or in labour camps. The major camps were at Glatz, Miel?cin, Gronów, Sikawa, Central Labour Camp Jaworzno, Central Labour Camp Potulice, ?ambinowice (run by Czes?aw G?borski), Zgoda labour camp and others. When G?borski 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. The German Federal Archives estimated in 1974 that more than 200,000 German civilians were interned in Polish camps, they put the death rate at 20-50% and estimated that more than likely over 60,000 persons perished. The Polish historians Witold Sienkiewicz and Grzegorz Hryciuk maintain that the internment "resulted in numerous deaths, which cannot be accurately determined because of lack of statistics or falsification . Periodically, they could be 10% of inmates. Those interned are estimated at 200-250,000 Germans and the local population, and deaths might range from 15,000 to 60,000 persons." Norman Naimark cited Zygmunt Wo?niczka as maintaining that the death toll in all camps was between twenty and fifty percent of the inmates.
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 remains, if any. Frequently, these relatives were so ill-treated 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."
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. POW labor was employed on the reconstruction of Warsaw and revival of industrial, agricultural and other productive enterprises 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. 7,500 Germans alleged of crimes against Poles were handed over to Poland by the Western Allies in 1946 and 1947. A number of German war criminals were imprisoned in Polish jails, at least 8,000 remained in jail in 1949, many of them also being POWs. (see also Supreme National Tribunal) Some Nazi criminals were executed (Category:Nazis executed in Poland), some died in prisons (Erich Koch in 1986), Johann Kremer was released in 1958 and returned to Germany.
In 1945, the territories east of the Oder-Neisse line (Silesia, most of Pomerania, East Brandenburg and East Prussia) were occupied by Soviet and Soviet-controlled Polish military forces. Polish militia and military started expulsions before the Potsdam Conference, referred to as "wild expulsions" (German: Wilde Vertreibungen), affecting between 700,000 and 800,000 Germans. 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 participants of a Plenum of the Central Committee of the Polish Workers Party on May 20-21, 1945. On the same Plenum, the head of the Central Committee, W?adys?aw Gomu?ka, 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". 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. 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 were already re-settled by summer.
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 "autochthons".
Before June 1, 1945, some 400,000 Germans 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. 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
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 and 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.
While the Polish administration had set up a State Repatriation Office (Pa?stwowy Urz?d Repatriacyjny, PUR), the bureau and its administrative subunits proved ineffective due to quarrels between Communists and opposition and a lack of equipment for the giant task of expelling Germans and resettling Poles in an area devastated by war. Furthermore, rivalry occurred between the Soviet occupation forces and the newly installed Polish administration, a phenomenon dubbed dwuwladza (double administration). The Soviets kept trains and German workmen regardless of the Polish ambitions and plans.
The waves of expulsions after the Potsdam conference must also be seen in the context of the contemporary, likewise unorganized, resettling of displaced or homeless 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. 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 duly informed about their expulsions earlier and were allowed to carry some luggage.
Another problem the Germans and, to a lesser extent, even the newly arrived Poles were facing was an enormous crime wave, most notably theft and rape, committed by gangs not only consisting of regular criminals but also Soviet soldiers, deserters or former forced laborers (Ost-Arbeiter), coming back from the west. In Upper Silesia, a party official,[who?] complained about some Polish security forces and militia raping and pillaging the German population and a general loss of sense for right and wrong. Much abuse also came from large Soviet contingents stationed in Poland after the war. A high number of crimes committed by regular Soviet soldiers - on both Germans and Poles - had been reported (see Rape during the liberation of Poland). A high death toll among the few Polish officials who dared to investigate these cases followed. Yet, Soviet troops played an ambiguous role, as there are also cases where Soviets freed local Germans imprisoned by Poles, or delayed expulsions to keep German workforce, for example on farms providing Soviet troops (for instance in S?upsk).
The damaged infrastructure and quarrels between the Allied authorities in the occupation zones of Germany 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 or internment camps and then often forced to wait in ill-equipped barracks, exposed both to criminals, aggressive guards and the cold and not supplied sufficiently with food due to the overall shortages. The "organized transfer" as agreed at the Potsdam Conference began in early 1946. Conditions for expellees improved, yet due to the lack of heating facilities, the cold winters of both 1945/46 and 1946/47 continued to claim many lives. On September 13, 1946 President Bierut signed a decree on "the exclusion of persons of German nationality from the Polish National Community" The major evictions were completed in 1946, although another 500,000 Germans arrived in the Soviet Zone from Poland in 1947. An unknown number remained; a small German minority continues to reside in Upper Silesia and Masuria.
Close to three million residents of Masuria (Masurs), Pomerania (Kashubians) and Upper Silesia (Silesians) were considered of Slavic descent but many of them did not identify with Polish nationality, were either bilingual or spoke German only. The Polish government declared these so-called "Autochthons" to be Germanized Poles, who would be re-Slavicized and serve as a proof of a continual Polish settlement. The Polish government aimed to retain as many "autochthons" as possible, as they were needed both for economic 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". "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.
The verification procedure varied in different territories and was changed several times. Initially, the applicants had to prove their past membership in a Polish minority organization of the German Reich, and in addition needed a warrant where three Polish locals testified their Polishness. In April 1945, the Upper Silesian voivode declared the fulfillment of only one of these requirements to be sufficient. In the areas like Lower Silesia and province of Pomerania, where the Polish authorities suspected only Germans, verification was handled much more strictly than in the former German-Polish borderlands In Masuria a Polish last name or a Polish-speaking ancestor was sufficient. Of the 1,104,134 "verified autochtons" in the census of 1950, close to 900,000 were natives of Upper Silesia and Masuria.
The word "autochton", introduced by the Polish government in 1945 for propaganda purposes, is today sometimes considered an offensive remark and direct naming as Kashubians, Silesians and Masurians is preferred to avoid offending the people described.
During the Polish post-war census of December 1950, data about the pre-war places of residence of the inhabitants as of August 1939 was collected. In case of children born between September 1939 and December 1950, their place of residence was reported based on the pre-war places of residence of their mothers. Thanks to this data it is possible to reconstruct the pre-war geographical origin of the post-war population. Many areas located near the pre-war German border were resettled by people from neighbouring borderland areas of pre-war Poland. For example, Kashubians from pre-war Polish Corridor settled in nearby areas of German Pomerania adjacent to Polish Pomerania. People from Pozna? region of pre-war Poland settled in East Brandenburg. People from East Upper Silesia moved into the rest of Silesia. And people from Masovia and from Sudovia moved into adjacent Masuria. Poles expelled from former Polish territories in the east (today mainly parts of Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania) settled in large numbers everywhere in the Recovered Territories (but many of them also settled in central Poland).
|Region (within 1939 borders):||West Upper Silesia||Lower Silesia||East Brandenburg||West Pomerania||Free City Danzig||South East Prussia||Total|
|Autochthons (1939 DE/FCD citizens)||789,716||120,885||14,809||70,209||35,311||134,702||1,165,632|
|Polish expellees from Kresy (USSR)||232,785||696,739||187,298||250,091||55,599||172,480||1,594,992|
|Poles from abroad except the USSR||24,772||91,395||10,943||18,607||2,213||5,734||153,664|
|Resettlers from the City of Warsaw||11,333||61,862||8,600||37,285||19,322||22,418||160,820|
|From Warsaw region (Masovia)||7,019||69,120||16,926||73,936||22,574||158,953||348,528|
|From Bia?ystok region and Sudovia||2,229||23,515||3,772||16,081||7,638||102,634||155,869|
|From pre-war Polish Pomerania||5,444||54,564||19,191||145,854||72,847||83,921||381,821|
|Resettlers from Pozna? region||8,936||172,163||88,427||81,215||10,371||7,371||368,483|
|Katowice region (East Upper Silesia)||91,011||66,362||4,725||11,869||2,982||2,536||179,485|
|Resettlers from the City of ?ód?||1,250||16,483||2,377||8,344||2,850||1,666||32,970|
|Resettlers from ?ód? region||13,046||96,185||22,954||76,128||7,465||6,919||222,697|
|Resettlers from Kielce region||16,707||141,748||14,203||78,340||16,252||20,878||288,128|
|Resettlers from Lublin region||7,600||70,622||19,250||81,167||19,002||60,313||257,954|
|Resettlers from Kraków region||60,987||156,920||12,587||18,237||5,278||5,515||259,524|
|Resettlers from Rzeszów region||23,577||110,188||13,147||57,965||6,200||47,626||258,703|
|place of residence in 1939 unknown||36,834||26,586||5,720||17,891||6,559||13,629||107,219|
|Total pop. in December 1950||1,333,246||1,975,337||444,929||1,043,219||292,463||847,295||5,936,489|
During the war the population of the annexed areas of Poland was classified by the Nazis in different categories according to their "Germanness" in the Deutsche Volksliste. While most of the Volksdeutsche population of pre-war Poland fled or was expelled, some were rehabilitated and offered their pre-war Polish citizenship back. While those who had signed Volksliste category "I" were expelled, rehabilitation was offered to people who had been subject to forced labour before, spoke Polish and were rated as not constituting a threat. Once granted Polish citizenship, they were encouraged to Polonize their names, or to restore their original Polish names if they had been Germanized during the war. Numbers of how many were offered to stay in Poland as Poles and eventually did are not available, but it is assumed that the vast majority had rather opted and left for Germany by 1960. Those of mixed descent from within or without the borders of pre-war Poland were also allowed to stay on the premise of Polonization, yet likewise no comprehensive data exists.
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 as second class citizens, especially 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 1950-52. 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. About 250,000 had been issued East German passports in the 1950s, ending their former statelessness. Many were concentrated in the areas of Wroc?aw (former Breslau)Wa?brzych (former Waldenburg), and Legnica (former Liegnitz), all in Lower Silesia, and in Koszalin (former Köslin) in Pomerania. How many actually left is uncertain, though it is generally assumed that the majority emigrated. The German society of Wa?brzych has maintained a continuous existence since 1957.
People from all over Poland 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 settlers were either attracted or forced to settle the area. The settlers can be grouped according to their background:
After 1 January 1948, Germans were primarily shipped to the Soviet occupation zone (after 3 October 1949, the German Democratic Republic), based on a Polish-Soviet agreement. Most Germans had been expelled by the end of 1947. In entire 1948, a relatively small number of 42,700 were expelled, and another 34,100 in 1949. In 1950, 59,433 Germans were expelled following a bi-lateral agreement between the People's Republic of Poland and the German Democratic Republic (GDR), 26,196 of whom however headed for West Germany. Between October 1948 and December 1950 all 35,000 German prisoners of war detained in Poland were shipped to Germany.
On 10 March 1951, the Polish "Bureau for Repatriation" (PUR) was disbanded; all further resettlement from Poland to Germany was carried out in a non-forcible and peaceful manner by the Polish state travel agency Orbis.
According to the Polish census of 1946, there were still 2,036,400 Germans in the "Recovered Territories", 251,900 in the pre-war Polish territories (primarily eastern Upper Silesia, Pomerelia and Greater Poland) and the former Free City of Danzig, and 417,000 in the process of "verification" as "new" Poles. The census data did not include former German citizens already "verified" as ethnic Poles, Germans in forced labor or detention camps and otherwise detained Germans, and Germans employed by the Soviet administration.
According to S. Banasiak, 3,109,900 Germans were expelled to the Soviet and British occupation zones in Germany and thereby registered by Polish officials between 1945 and 1950. Registration by Polish officials was not exhaustive, especially in 1945. An unknown number left without formal registration or was expelled by Soviet military authorities without notifying by Polish officials responsible for statistics. Also, especially in 1945, many Germans returned to their former homes and some were expelled more than once.
Tomasz Kamusella cites estimates of 7 million expelled during both "wild" and "legal" expulsions from the Recovered Territories (Deutsche Ostgebiete) until 1948. The number is based on the 1946 census in which citizens were asked specifically if they were Polish or German. The expelled included German autochthons stripped of Polish citizenship and an additional 700,000 members of the German minority from areas of pre-war Poland. Kamusella states that in 1944-1945, about 5 million had fled from the former eastern territories of Germany, and 500,000 from the territories of pre-war Poland, whereas in 1946-1948, 3.325 million were expelled from the former German territories, (as well as 3 million from Czechoslovakia, and 250,000 from Hungary), emphasizing these numbers are not exhaustive.
Overy cites approximate totals of those evacuated, migrated, or expelled between 1944-1950 from East Prussia: 1.4 million to Western Germany, 609,000 to Eastern Germany; from West Prussia: 230,000 to Western Germany, 61,000 to Eastern Germany; from the former German area East of the Oder-Neisse: 3.2 million to Western Germany, 2 million to Eastern Germany.
According to Kacowicz, about 3.5 million people had fled before the organized expulsions began, mainly driven by fear of the advancing Soviet Army, between seven hundred and eight hundred thousand Germans were affected by the "wild" expulsions, and another three millions were expelled in 1946 and 1947.
In Communist Poland, the expulsions were not to be questioned, and ideologically defended by propaganda. The expulsions were perceived by many Poles as just with respect to the former Nazi policies, injustices were balanced off with the injustices during the contemporary "repatriation" of Poles. Except for the use in official anti-German propaganda, the expulsions became a taboo in Polish politics, public, and education for decades. German expellee organizations who did not accept the post-war territorial and population changes fueled Communist propaganda dismissing them as far-right revanchists.
According to Philipp Ther, pre-1989 Polish historiography has in general either underestimated or concealed the role of force during the expulsions. Ther says that this was caused on the one hand by censorship, and on the other hand by the interpretation of the registration forms the expellees had signed as acquiescence to "voluntary emigration".
In the Polish-German border and neighborhood treaties of 1990 and 1991, the term "expulsion" for the first time replaced the old and euphemistic Communist term "resettlement" or the Potsdam term "population transfer", which were used by Polish officials before. Though "Wyp?dzenie", the Polish term for "expulsion", is since widely used officially, in regular linguistic practice it is still an emotionally loaded term, not as it were, something that is being acknowledged, and closely attached to the question of "right" or "wrong". Polish and joint German-Polish scholarly research and public debates in Poland were now concerned with issues like moral examination of the expulsions, responsibility for the inflicted suffering, terminology, numbers, and whether the expellee's status was that of a political subject or object.
In 1995, Polish foreign minister W?adys?aw Bartoszewski expressed regret for innocent German suffering before the German parliament and federative council. In 1996, the Polish public opinion research institute CBOS polled public opinion about a phrase in the letter of reconciliation the Polish bishops had written in 1965: "We forgive and ask for forgiveness": 28% agreed; 45% agreed with the offering of forgiveness, but rejected the part that asked for forgiveness; 22% disagreed altogether.
In addition, anxiety is growing in Poland about the legal and moral claim to Poland's post-war territorial gains. The legal aspects have been investigated by various international law experts coming to different conclusions, prompting both Germany and Poland to employ a joint expert team that gave an overall negative answer to chances for such legal challenges. The Polish government made some efforts to sue Germany for damages inflicted on Poland during World War II in return. The advancing German project of erecting a Centre Against Expulsions depicting the fate of 20th-century European expellees (mostly, but not only, German) is controversial in Poland, and was described by former Polish Prime Minister Jaros?aw Kaczy?ski as "equating the victims with the persecutors". The Polish reaction was severely criticized in Germany.
a citation from the Plenum of the Central Committee of the Polish Workers Party, May 20-21, 1945."
"Historia Polski 1914-1997" Warsaw 1998 PWNW page 171
I would rather be frank with you, Mr. President. Nothing on earth will stop the Poles from taking some kind of revenge on the Germans after the Nazi collapse. There will be some terrorism, probably short-lived, but it will be unavoidable. And I think this will be a sort of encouragement for all the Germans in Poland to go west, to Germany proper, where they belong.