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After World War II, some 12 million ethnic Germans from Central and Eastern Europe (called Volksdeutsche) were forced to migrate to the remaining German and Austrian territory. (Wills, 2018)Countries where the German populations were uprooted include: Poland and Czechoslovakia (Yugoslavia, Hungary and Romania in smaller numbers)(Euroclio, 2018)Many of these ethnic Germans had never lived in the German/Austrian territories for generations and as a result were being expelled to a country that they had no experience in or knowledge of.Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt had discussed the relocation of German populations before the US declared war on Nazi Germany, and after the war, decided to carry out the relocation. As such, Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill, and Harry Truman went to the Potsdam Conference in August 1945 and negotiated to transfer these groups of ethnic Germans. (HuffPost, 2018)One key point of the conference was that the relocation was supposed to be carried out in an “orderly and humane manner”. The Czechoslovak representatives lobbied the Allies for the expulsions successfully.Stalin provided territorial adjustments that would shape Poland’s territories, and gave the country a large part of Eastern Germany.By this time, Eastern and Central Europe was already completely in Soviet control. As such, property and material belonging to the Germans in this area was confiscated, nationalised, and redistributed. Above is a map showing the revised borders after the war, and the route that the German expellees took to get to Germany. (, 2018)Spontaneous expulsions of German populations arose in Czechoslovakia almost immediately after the war ended, in May – June 1945These expulsions were carried out by the military and many were murdered.The orderly expulsions were not much better. Organised by the Allies, ethnic Germans only had 10 minutes to prepare before boarding their trains. The rations given to them were equivalent to the rations given to Jewish concentration camp inmates. Many were barefoot and the weather was extremely cold.One such example of this is a recorded instance from Poland to Westphalia: there were 1,507 expellees on the train, and 516 were children. Most of the children were barefoot as their parents had no time to pack and find their shoes. (The Nation, 2018)Interestingly enough, concentration camps that had been used by Nazi Germany to intern minorities were now being converted into concentration camps to hold ethnic Germans. This took place during the “wild” expulsion phase. (The Nation, 2018)Around 180,000 were interned in Czechoslovakia and 170,000 were interned in YugoslaviaInmates faced many of the same horrors that Nazi Germany enacted on Jewish people and other minorities.However, The Volksdeutsche as a community were not exactly victims during the war. They did not lose their citizenship, property or livelihoods after, either. Many Eastern/Central European Germans participated in and benefitted from the deportation of Jewish people. (The Nation, 2018)For example, Slovak troops helped invade Poland in 1939 and the 1941 Soviet Union invasion. When the expellees arrived in Germany, life was hard at first.Many had to live in small, shared, settlement spaces. These spaces were also shared with Germans from the area, which caused some tension. These Germans looked down on the ethnic Germans and would call them names such as “Polagen”.Eventually, some ethnic Germans would receive loans to build houses.  (, 2018)The post-war economic boom meant that more workers were needed, which in turn meant that more ethnic Germans had the opportunity to earn money.An example is with Werner Krokowski, an expellee from East Prussia. Before he lived in settlement camps. Then he trained to become a machinist, and acquired his certificate in 1953. He was able to buy a car soon, and in 1962, he moved into his first apartment with his wife and daughters. (, 2018)

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