Monday, 14 March 2016

Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans After the Second World War

"They agree that any transfers that take place should be effected in an orderly and humane manner."  
(Potsdam Agreement, Number XII)

The Big Three at the signing of the Potsdam Agreement courtesy

In July of 1945, Prime Minister Attlee, Premier Stalin and President Truman gathered at Potsdam to sign an agreement which would outline the plan for Germany's demilitarization, reparations and punishment of war criminals.  However, a lesser known section of the agreement, number XII, would carve up Germany,more benignly referred to as the "Orderly Transfer of German Populations".  Ethnic Germans living in Eastern Europe including East Prussia, the Sudetenland, Pomerania, Silesia, East Brandenburg, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania, Hungary and Yugoslavia, were to be transferred to Germany proper, west of the Polish Corridor.  The Potsdam Agreement clause that stood out for me was:  

"They agree that any transfers that take place should be effected in an orderly and humane manner."

Rob's Oma, part of this population transfer in the five years after the Second World War, was rounded up like cattle.  She was barked at by the Red Army, announcing that she had ten minutes to gather together a few belongings to take with her.  Her daughter on one arm, her nieces and nephew following behind her, they were tossed into a cattle car at gunpoint.  With no toilet, disease spread like wildfire.  At one point, Oma's niece was so hungry she ate a bird's nest.  Their week long train ride across the Polish Corridor was painfully slow:  at night, the train came to a standstill since the conductor could not see the crooked sections of the tracks ahead, bombed by the Allies.  The journey saw the death of dozens of malnourished and diseased expellees in the adjoining cars, whose bodies were piled high at the side of the railroad tracks.  For those who made it to their destination, like Oma, they were now called "d.p.'s", displaced persons.  So much for "an orderly and humane manner'.

Note:  For more information, read Orderly and Humane:  The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War by R. M. Douglas.

The Expulsion of Germans from Eastern Europe circa 1945 courtesy

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