In 1914, 2.416.290 German civilians were living in Russia. When World War I began, a wave of hostility began, especially after the Laws of Liquidation passed in 1915.
After the Bolshevik Revolution of October 25, 1917, the ethnic Germans of the former czarist empire were subjected to an organized campaign of terror: rape, drownings, torture, burning, mutilations, mass shootings and extermination.
Between 1930 and 1937, Russian Germans lost another one-fourth of their population through murder, starvation or deportation. In 1941, Moscow announced the mass "evacuation" of approximately 440 000 Volga German farmers to remote regions of Siberia. The Volga German Republic was dissolved and the entire German population was deported to Siberia into Trud Army camps, yet Stalin's genocidal plans were all but cheered in the New York Times.
Prior to World War Two, approximately 1,5 million "Danube Swabians" lived in Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia. The result of war deaths, expulsions, murder, deaths in labor camps and emigration meant a two thirds reduction of that number. Of over one million refugees who went to Germany and Austria, about 250 000 later emigrated to other lands, including the USA, Canada, Australia, France and South American countries.
After World War Two, the large ethnic German population was murdered and expelled when, once restored to leadership by the Allies, Benes "re-slovakization" programs began in 1945. Benes had begun to issue murderous decrees from his exile about postwar Czechoslovakia as early as 1940. On March 28, 1946, the provisional Czech parliament gave its post-facto blessing to these decrees where all German civilians were presumed collectively guilty and stripped of their citizenship, with their property stolen. They included the most inhuman and barbarous persecution and oppression of the minorities humanly imaginable: deportations, expulsions, internments, kangaroo court verdicts, confiscation of property and the use forced labor camps. Over three and a half million Sudeten Germans were brutally expelled from their homes. Benes and his cohorts, in their merciless persecution of the innocent, reserved much the same fate for the Hungarians.
Virtually all of the half million Germans in Yugoslavia fled, were murdered or expelled in 1945, and thousands were sent to slave camps. Violence against Germans here was probably more ruthless than in any other country. Whole villages were burned down, and the Germans butchered. There were 8 separate death camps set up where genocide against German civilians took place.
The Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War One had already set the stage for violence which gravely impacted minority German communities in Eastern Europe. Even before the World War One was over, nationalities within Austria-Hungary were eager for independence and France, Britain and the USA began investing and instigating. With Allied victory, Eastern Europe was carved up with the primary goal of destroying any possible future German prosperity and growth, and to prevent Germany/Austria from ever becoming too powerful again.
This "resettlement" of over 1,5 million people during and after World War II amounted to murder of the ethnic Germans. Moreover, the 1945 Potsdam Agreement allowed each occupation power to repatriate "its own citizens" into its country. This led to enslavement and massive slaughter by the Red Army against the forcibly returned ethnic Germans from Russia who had previously fled to German areas for protection. By 1949, over one million ethnic Germans had perished in Russia.
Khrushchev himself later admitted that the famine of 1933 was 'an act of murder' on the part of the government, and even in 1990, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine confessed that the famine had been deliberately created.
The religious Volga-Germans were severely persecuted. By 1918, there were barely 1 621 000 Germans alive in Russia and by 1919, their pastors were sent to slave camps. The requisitions of 1917-1921 threatened the existence of the Ukrainian-German villages. In Kandel, Großliebental, Franzfeld, Josephtal and Landua, hundreds died from starvation caused by the man-made famine crafted by the Bolsheviks to exterminate them. Between 1921 and 1923, orchestrated famine created large emigration and the population of Germans decreased by another fourth. During this mass starvation, approximately 10 000 Volga-German children were forcibly taken from their parents with promises of food when in reality they were removed and sent to their deaths. 350 000 Germans in Russia and Ukraine perished in the next arranged famine of 1932-1933.
Between 1945 and 1950, 11 730 000 to 15 000 000 Germans fled and were expelled from these eastern territories of Germany, Czechoslovakia and other Eastern European countries; specifically, over 6,9 million from the eastern territories of Germany, more than 2,9 million Germans from Czechoslovakia, and more than 1,8 to 4 million from other parts of Eastern Europe. And besides the forced expulsion of these 11,7 million people, another 3,1 million died or "disappeared" during the expulsion/liquidation process. There are mass grave sites in various areas which even today receive no publicity. In the summer of 1945, 20 000 weak, confused, hungry and homeless people died in Germany every day, and a year later at the peak of the expulsions in July of 1946, 14 400 people a day were still being dumped over the devastated and famished frontier into a Germany which had been reduced to a smaller size than it was in the 11th century. In the USSR, over 75% of German civilian slaves worked within the Ukraine mining and 11% worked in the Urals. By 1946, out of German "arrested internees", 39% died, and of an additional 875 000 German civilians abducted and transported to the camps, almost 50% perished.
In Slovakia, main German settlements were the region of Zips and the city of Preßburg. In 1910, Slovaks made up only 14. 8% of its population and Preßburg had an ancient Germanic and Magyar history and was built up and made prosperous over the centuries largely by Austrian. Hungarian and German traders and scholars. Overnight it became "Bratislava", a name suggested by a meddling Woodrow Wilson himself in March 1919 after Germany and Austria lost the First World War. As "Slovakia" became semi-independent in 1919, the 180 000 Carpathian Germans became second class citizens overnight, but they at least had some minority rights. Even German schools were allowed to re-open. In 1930, even after attempts to artificially "restock" the area with Slovaks, there was still a German population of 31 000 in Pressburg itself and 19 000 in the environs. The Czechoslovak census of 1930 cited 154 821 ethnic Germans in Slovakia. Most were by then Czechoslovak citizens.
A few stayed, despite all obstacles, and others returned after being released from Siberia. The relation between the minority of surviving Germans and Slovaks has since improved slightly. Some Carpathian-Germans even received 20% of their confiscated property back. The majority, however, resettled in Germany after the fall of the Soviet Union.
The expelled German civilians were interned in concentration camps where many were murdered by intentional starvation and ignored, unchecked disease. The still valid Benes decree #115 of May 8, 1946 declared all deeds against Germans, down to the rape and murder of children, were "justified acts of retribution" that could not be prosecuted.
Local Carpathian Germans either fled or were killed in death camps such as Svaljava. 700 from the residential were taken for slave labor in Siberia, the last ones not being freed until 1969. At the end of 1946, after "evacuation", about 24 000 ethnic Germans still remained in Slovakia. Although most violence against German civilians ended in the late 1940s, the discrimination resulted in assimilation.
In the parts of Germany taken for Poland in 1945, the entire ethnic German population was either murdered, expelled, or faced severe reprisals at war's end. As in East Prussia, throughout Pomerania, from Danzig to Stettin to Elbing and all of the old Baltic German cities, catastrophic Allied bombing was followed by Red Terror. The few surviving Germans in these areas were placed before violent Communist led "verification" committees who decided their fate. Their language and civil rights were immediately suspended and many innocents endured horrible retribution. Thousands died fleeing. Aside from Polish camps, in early 1945 it was estimated that about 165 000 Germans were deported to the Soviet Union from the German territories that were de-facto annexed by Poland.
Silesian Germans, some of whom had roots in those areas going back centuries, and who before World War II amounted to about 4 million, were collectively labeled German partisans and either fled or were murdered, put in camps, sent to the Gulags or expelled. Germans were forced to make public apologies for their "collective guilt" at social and governmental gatherings. Others were sent to camps with unbearable conditions. Of 8 064 Germans in Camp Lamsdorf in Upper Silesia, 6 488, including hundreds of children, died from starvation, disease, hard labor, and physical maltreatment including torture. This repeated itself by the thousands. 90 000 civilians are believed to have died in their flight from Breslau as the Red Army was invading the city. Those that were caught were murdered, sent to the Gulag or put in concentration camps.
Both the first and second 'Yugoslavia' were the creation of the victorious French, British and American leaders in 1919 at Versailles. In the first Yugoslav state of 1919-1941, approximately half a million ethnic Germans lived among 14 million people. Following Yugoslavia's break-up in April 1941, approximately 200 000 ethnic Germans became citizens of the newly established state of Croatia while most of the remaining approximately 300 000 ethnic Germans in other areas came under the jurisdiction of Hungary.
By the end of the war in May 1945, German authorities had evacuated 220 000 ethnic Yugoslav Germans to Germany and Austria. Those 200 000 or so ethnic Germans left behind in their ancestral homeland became captives of the Communists. After Christmas of 1944, between 27 000 to 30 000 ethnic Germans (aged 18-40) were sent to the USSR from Yugoslavia, with men making up 90% of the group. Most were sent to labor camps in the Donbass where 16% of them died. Some 63 635 Yugoslav ethnic German civilians perished under the brutal Yugoslav reign of terror between 1945 and 1950, most as a result of slave laborer, in ethnic purges, or from disease and severe malnutrition.
The Yugoslav Communists confiscated what would today translate into twelve billion US dollars of German property (97 490 farms, stores, factories) and one million acres of German land.
Of Danubian ethnic Germans who served in the German military (many had no choice), over half perished after the end of the war in Yugoslav camps, including about 150 000 of the troops who had surrendered to British military authorities in the armistice of May 8, 1945 and were turned over to Communist Yugoslav partisans! More than 7 000 captured German troops died in Communist-ordered 800 mile "atonement marches" from Austria's southern border to the northern border of Greece and many German soldiers in captivity in late summer of 1945 were thrown alive into large pits and executed. Lastly, in the ten years following 1945, an additional 50 000 perished from malnutrition and exhaustion, worked to death as Yugoslavia's slaves.
When the Great War ended, Austria-Hungary was dissolved, the final revised boundaries for Hungary were formed in June, 1920. Czechoslovakia became a new country carved out of former Hungarian territory and historic German areas in the Sudetenland, where German settlement had begun before the 13th century. The new Yugoslavia gained land in Southern Hungary, including a strip of the western Banat. Romania declared unity with part of the Banat and Transylvania. The dismemberment of the 1 000 year old Hungarian Kingdom resulted in Hungary losing 71,5% of its territory and 63,6% of its population at the "Peace Treaty" of Trianon in 1920. Under the treaty, three and a half million Hungarians were forced, without a right of self-determination, to live with Serbs, Croats, Slovenians and Romanians in some areas, and in the new Czechoslovakia.
All inherited a large number of ethnic Germans. Millions of Germans who were able to left. The Swabian villagers whose families had lived in Hungary for 200 years suddenly found themselves in three different countries. Between the wars, the lifestyle of rural Germans stayed somewhat normal but this changed drastically after World War Two.
Hungary and Romania initially sided with Germany then both changed sides. Thousands of Germans escaped immediately in horse drawn convoys as the Soviets were taking control. In Hungary, German owned land was immediately seized by the government and "Non-Magyarized" Germans were executed or expelled as traitors. The expulsions took place in 1946 and 170 000 Germans were sent to the American Zoneof West Germany and thousands upon thousands are unaccounted for.
Czechoslovakia, despite promising to guarantee the rights of national minorities under the protection of the League of Nations in 1918, never did during its first twenty years. Instead, millions of ethnic Germans and Hungarians were victimized, harassed, outrageously taxed and deprived of their civil rights. German and Hungarian land was confiscated by the Czech government without compensation and distributed among Czech and Slovak colonists and censuses were rigged to ensure a majority. Czech intolerance under this First Czechoslovak "Republic" had made life a hellish misery for its minorities and these craftily created conflicts led directly to World War Two, the groundwork having been conceived by its illegitimate president Edward Benes and his comrades who hatched the diabolic plan for the expulsion of the German and Hungarian population from their homes.
The artificially built Second Czechoslovak "Republic" was abetted by foreign assistance and endorsement which it received despite the megalomaniac and xenophobic Benes Decrees which substituted the once harmonious coexistence of the Czech, German, Slovak and Hungarian people with brutality, denial of basic human rights, theft and murder.
The first Transylvanian Germans, the "Sasi", had come to Romania in the 12th Century. In January, 1945, 100 000 ethnic Germans (women aged 18-30 and men aged 17-45) were sent into slavery in the Soviet Union from Romania. 10% died in the either the camps or in the transports. From 298 000 ethnic Germans in Siebenbuergen in 1941, 50 000 simply vanished. In 1945, 30 000 were sent to hard labor into the Ukraine and other areas. The remaining German civilians were robbed of all factories, machines, business, banks, farms, fields, forests, vineyards and properties. They were discriminated against, violently repressed, stripped of the right to vote and deprived of their property, churches and voting rights.
Secret Order 7161 (December 1944) issued by USSR State Defense Committee made possible the internment of all adult Germans from Romania, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria. Aside from the unprecedented expulsion and ethnic cleansing of millions of Prussians, 3 million of whom died in the process, between 1944 and 1947, all other ethnic Germans in Eastern Europe were expelled. With the start of the war between Germany and the Soviet Union, at least 900 000 ethnic Germans were deported from the autonomous Volga German Republic and other parts of the Soviet Union. Siberia, the Urals and Kazakhstan were the deportation areas. In addition, about 300 000 refugees were forcibly "repatriated" after the war. About 40 per cent of the people died as a result of massacres or as a result of catastrophic situations during or after transportation.
Over 500 000 German civilians from the Oder-Neiße areas (Silesia, Upper Silesia, East Pomerania, East Brandenburg, East and West Prussia) and Poland, some 10 000 from central Germany, 30 000 Sudeten Germans and 160 000 civilians from south-eastern Europe lost their homes and were deported for forced labor in the USSR as early as 1944. About ten per cent of the victims died in the course of transportation to Russia as a result of homicide, hunger and cold. Practically half of the so-called repatriated displaced persons died in the camps, one of the worst being the Kolyma Camp.
Labor camps for Germans existed not only in the Soviet Union, but in almost all the regions from which Germans were displaced. The last ones were not closed until 1950. In Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, there were death camps. 2 061 camps existed in Czechoslovakia. In the Mährisch-Ostrau camp around 350 people were tortured to death by early July 1945. In Poland and the areas under Polish administration, there were 1 255 camps. 6 048 out of about 8 000 people died in the Lamsdorf (Upper Silesia) camp alone. For the Yugoslavian area, the Red Cross found 1 562 camps and prisons. In May 1945, practically all the Yugoslav Germans there were living and dying in camps.
Most countries that once had a substantial ethnic German presence no longer do. Whether through wars, government upheavals, relocation or murder, entire ethnic German cities, regions vanished.
During the final months of World War II, especially after the founding of the second Yugoslavia, the lives of the ethnic Germans under Josip Broz Tito's Communist state became perilous and the majority of them were forced to flee. Tito, who ruled from 1945-1980, carried out "ethnic cleansing” and mass murder with the sanction of the British and American governments. One of his first acts was a decree transferring "enemy property" into the property of the state, therefore confiscating all property of the ethnic Germans without compensation, and declaring those of German origin as "enemies of the people” with no civil rights. Next, their Yugoslav citizenship was cancelled.
While the expulsions in Eastern Europe are more common knowledge, there were some other cases of ethnic cleansing, although on a much smaller scale. After war's end, for example, the Dutch decided to expel 25 000 Germans living in the Netherlands, labeling them 'hostile subjects'. Beginning September 10, 1946 in Amsterdam, Germans and their families were taken from their homes in the middle of the night and given one hour to collect 50 kg of luggage. They were allowed to take 100 Guilders with them, but their other possessions went to the Dutch state. They were taken to internment camps near the German border, the biggest of which was Mariënbosch near Nijmegen. In total, about 3 691 Germans were expelled. The operation ended in 1948. Germans were no longer regarded as state enemies after July of 1951, when the state of war between the Netherlands and Germany officially ended.
"Repatriation" from the gulags started as early as 1945-1946, but Romania refused to take back its former German citizens.