German tragedy of destiny

East-European ethnic Germans





Flight and expulsion from Eastern Europe


Until 1945 a large German minority lived in Eastern Europe which after the war was methodically murdered, deported, expelled or relocated. As a result, a valuable part of the German culture and history were lost.


Added together, half a million Germans died in Eastern Europe and nearly 2,5 millions were forced to leave their homeland for ever.


560,000 dead



Significant German population expelled and relocated from Eastern Europe



Ethnic Germans in Poland


Towards the end of World War I emerged the second Polish Republic. Large areas with a German majority population were assigned to the new Polish state. The politics of Berlin and Warsaw was determined by mutual territorial claims. Violent attacks between the German and the Polish people became everyday occurence.


Due to the politics of displacement, from 1919 on many Germans emigrated from the annexed territories to Germany. 100,000 Germans left the eastern part of Upper Silesia and Posen, a further 800,000 West Prussia.


In 1939, the northern and western parts of Poland, that is, certain parts of Silesia and East Prussia as well as new districts of Danzig-West Prussia and Wartheland were annexed by the Greater German Reich; the eastern part of Poland fell to the Soviet Union. In the acquired territories German families were settled from eastern Poland, the Baltic States, Bessarabia, Bukovina and Dobrudja.


On 30 January 1945 the Red Army crossed the Polish-German border and 6 million Germans had to flee the territories east of the Oder-Neisse border. Hundreds of thousands were forced to work in the Soviet Union.


German civilians slain by Polish residents



Ethnic Germans in Hungary


Already in the middle of the 12th century, the Hungarian king Geza II invited German settlers into the country.


During the 18th century Danube Swabians were settled in today's Hungary after withdrawal of the Turks.


They settled mainly in the fields of "Swabian Turkey" in the Buda hills and in the Backa.

Population: 8,700,000 (1937),

of these 500,000 Germans.


On 31 October 1918 Hungary became an independent state and had to cede around a third of its former territory to Romania and Czechoslovakia.


Of the 500,000 Germans only 60,000 fled in the last days of the war, 35,000 were deported to the Soviet Union where they had to do forced labour.


From 1946 170,000 ethnic Germans were forcibly evicted, under inhumane conditions, in the American zone to Württemberg and 50,000 German nationals in the Russian zone to Saxony.

About 270,000 Germans could remain in their homeland - however, under the repression of a communist system.


Expulsion of the Hungarian Swabians



Ethnic Germans in Yugoslavia


Already from 1330 on, Germans settled in the Gottschee area near the Adriatic Sea.


The settlement in the area of today's Slovenia by Germans was prompted mainly by the Counts of Carniola.


They brought dammers and deforestation specialists to the Gottschee area. In the cities there were large German minorities.


In the 15th century closed German communities came into existence in the Backa and Banat.


Then in the 18th century the Danube Swabians colonized the part of Serbian Backa north of Belgrade.


After 1945, the ethnic Germans in the Yugoslav territories endured much suffering. Of the 500,000 Germans 135,000 perished under brutal conditions; that is about a quarter of all residents. The people were herded into camps and died by the thousands due to violence, hunger and disease.


About 30,000 ethnic German men and women were transported into the Soviet Union for forced labor. 290,000 displaced persons were deported across the border into Austria or Hungary. Only 82,000 German people were allowed to remain in their homeland or were forcibly detained there.


Fleeing Germans of Backa



Ethnic Germans in Romania


In the area of today's Romania the first German wave of immigration was made up of Transylvanian Saxons who were invited by the king of Hungary already in the 12th century to settle and protect against eastern peoples.


In the 18th century the Danube Swabians were brought by the Habsburgs into the region of Banat and Bukovina.


Then in the 19th century the Russian Tsars lured German settlers into Bessarabia.


After the First World War Transylvania, the Bukovina, the Banat, Satu Mare and Bessarabia fell to the Kingdom of Romania.


Unlike many southeast European countries Romania expelled only relatively few of the 238,000 Transylvanian Saxons, 220,000 Banat Swabians and the other German-speaking ethnic groups.


80,000 Romanian Germans were deported to Russia for forced labor. Only later fled many Germans the unbearable living conditions of the communist regime through Hungary and Austria and resettled in Germany.


A tragic fate befell the approximately 215,000 migrants from Bessarabia, Bukovina and Dobrudja. First they were thrown out of their homeland in the Warthegau and moved to Danzig or West Prussia. Then they had, like all Germans, to escape also from these areas or were forcibly expelled.


German family deported to a steppe-like countryside



Ethnic Germans in Slovakia and Ukraine


The German immigrants came in the area of today's Slovakia in the 12th century.

That did not happen in the context of military conquests, but at the invitation of the respective sovereigns.


So wanted the Hungarian king to build and develop the deserted and desertified areas in the north and east of his country by farmers, artisans, miners and merchants.


By the promise of special rights he could win the Zipser Saxons who settled in northern Slovakia.