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After World War II, large numbers of ethnic-Germans who had lived in Eastern Europe were expelled - by the local (post-Nazi-occupation) government, by the USSR and even with some Western power involvement; some just fled due to local violence / threat of retribution. By 1950, it seems there were over 12 Million of them overall.

In those states from which the largest number of residents/citizens were expelled - were the expellees ever re-enfranchised? Allowed to return as residents, to regain their citizens, to regain property confiscated from them, or reparations for it? And what about the descendants of expellees who died while their parents had not regained any status?

Notes:

  • To be more specific about states: Czechoslovakia, Poland, USSR-constituent republics, Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia and its constituents... I think that covers most expellees.
  • In Eastern Europe there were expropriations/nationalizations unrelated to one's being ethnic Germans. Naturally I'm not asking about the ability to obtain property confiscated in that manner beyond what regular citizens/residents can obtain.
  • I realize that, with the formation of the EU, one can relatively easily reside in another EU member; but not all of Eastern Europe is in the EU, and some of it only asceded relatively recently, so the status of expellees up to the ascession is relevant to the answer here.
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  • (At least) in the case of Hungary the expelled Germans lost their Hungarian citizenship. I presume their descendants cannot get Hungarian citizenship based on their parents or grandparents citizenship because they lost that citizenship. Jun 6 at 21:41
  • Please add more focus on 1. not this re-enfranchisement? 2. which countries acted how & when (nazis also expropriated ethnic Germans, CSSR vs (V)R Poland is quite a different chain of events) 3. get citizenship 4. "right to return" 5. right to return & buy land 6. right to compensation (this time from nowadays countries of former origin) 7. right to restitution. Jun 7 at 8:26
  • 1
    @LаngLаngС: Done, but the Lastenausgleich should be in an answer, not the question.
    – einpoklum
    Jun 7 at 13:28
  • 1
    Romania was quite different from other Eastern European countries. And you are missing Yugoslavia.
    – Jan
    Jun 7 at 13:58
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    @LangLangC if that comment was directed at me, my point was that there were still quite significant numbers of ethnic Germans in Romania in the 1960s and later. I think that was reasonably unique in Eastern Europe. (Except maybe in some parts of Upper Silesia)
    – Jan
    Jun 7 at 16:24
9

I think your question is misleading because disenfranchisement is the wrong category. With most nations having become EU members, residence is settled, and what remains to ask is the question of historical expropriations. (Which affected everybody under Communism.)

  • When the German Reich took territory in Central Europe after 1938, they handed German citizenship or privileges to the Volksdeutsche population. There might have been some who refused, but by and large they accepted it.
  • At the end of the war, Germans were expelled from some countries and fled from others. A few groups did stay.
  • Also at the end of the war, countries in Central Europe became communist and nationalized property, especially but not exclusively from Germans.

So if the Germans in question had gotten a right to get their citizenship back -- and accepting a new citizenship is generally seen as a valid reason to strip the old one -- their property would still have been subject to Communist laws for several decades.

The right question would be if the heirs of former residents living outside the countries were disadvantaged during the winding-up of communist rule, and the answer to that is "yes."

13
  • 3
    About property - please interpret my question to mean "to the same kind of rights as citizens who had not been expelled after the war". So if the Stalinist governments expropriated from everybody and this hasn't been re-privatized for anybody, obviously the ethnic Germans can't expect special treatment.
    – einpoklum
    Jun 7 at 10:30
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    e.g. my German neighbour (obviously very old) left Lithuania on literally the last boat to get out, as a toddler, so he just about remembers it. After the fall of the Evil Empire he went back and found their (his) land lying empty with the ruins of the farm in it. He asked, not expecting a good answer, if he could have it back. "Yes, of course, please do. You only need to apply for a Lithuanian passport (because you were born here), and move your place of residence back here."
    – RedSonja
    Jun 7 at 11:36
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    Your first bullet point seems to be only relevant to a part of expellees (those from Czechoslovakia, pre-WWII Poland, and Yugoslavia). Germans living in Silesia, East Prussia, Eastern Pomerania and Danzig at that time never were able to give up their Polish or Soviet citizenship because they never were Polish or Soviet citizens in the first place.
    – Jan
    Jun 7 at 13:40
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    @mega_creamery Which Jews specifically? Confiscated by whom exactly, by the Nazis or by the Polish? In which wave exactly? Confiscated when exactly and by which law orinternational treaty exactly? These details are extremely important.
    – Vladimir F
    Jun 8 at 10:38
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    @mega_creamery Many Jews perished. Some of their relatives might not have opportunity to claim their inheritance, but the 1945-1948 Central Europe was a huge mess with many displaced people returning. Many Jews found their places occupied by other people. However, their property was not atually confiscated by some particular Czechoslovak law and there would have to be lawsuits. But then the communists came and a new wave of displaced people and the courts became controlled by the communists and simply put, the history is extremely complex and exact details have to be known.
    – Vladimir F
    Jun 8 at 12:52
8

Hungary was actually rather reluctant to expel its German population, starting only at the behest of the occupying Soviet forces and continuing only under pressure by the Allied Control Council. After expelling some 180,000 ethnic Germans (mostly to West Germany) the Hungarian government halted the process in 1948. In 1950 they went so far as to rescind the expulsion orders, opening the door for the expellees to return.*

According to this post by our own LаngLаngС, historian Agnes Tóth estimates that some 10,000 Germans eventually returned to Hungary. The topic of repatriation is also the subject of a 2017 monograph by Sebastian Sparwasser: Identität im Spannungsfeld von Zwangsmigration und Heimkehr: Ungarndeutsche Vertriebene und die Remigration ("Identity in the field of tension between forced migration and homecoming: Displaced Hungarian Germans and the remigration").


*Balázs Apor. The Expulsion of the German Speaking Population from Hungary. In: S. Prauser and A. Rees (eds.), The Expulsion of the 'German' Communities from Eastern Europe at the End of the Second World War. EUI Working Paper HEC No. 2004/1, European University Institute, Florence, Department of History and Civilization, 2004.

8
  • 1. Was there mass strife following the war which prompted the USSR or the allies to be so bent on throwing Germans out of Hungary? I mean, what's it to them? 2. Vertriebene = Displaced?
    – einpoklum
    Jun 8 at 10:00
  • @einpoklum 1. Prerequisites of displacement (=not Q in question): Hungary was partly 'coerced'/'entitled' to expell them all (split opinions within Hungary ('enemies of Magyars: Jews and Swabians'/'we need to be better than this'), US/UK at first against it, SU in favour) by en.wikisource.org/wiki/Potsdam_Agreement XII. (from Poland and Czechia already agreed at Jalta; Hungary applied for doing so later) They pushed out ~50%. Allied agreement in Potsdam was based on nationalist thinking and ethnic cleansing (UK/US worried about logistics). 2. yes: forced displacement Jun 8 at 11:44
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    @LаngLаngС: That's really sad to hear. I mean, in a sense, the expulsion was based on aspects of the Nazis' ideology being shared by the conquerors.
    – einpoklum
    Jun 8 at 13:05
  • I have found this link that may be useful: archivnet.hu/… According to this, in 1991 the Germans who were expelled from Hungary and were living outside of Hungary could apply for partial reparation together with the others, which they could receive in "compensation bonds". The value is a little fraction of what was taken (partly because of the large number of victims that could not be paid by an essentially bankrupt state , and partly because political will for full compensation may have never existed)
    – Greg
    Jun 10 at 17:03
  • @einpoklum Note that Germans were not the only minority that was expelled. At the same time, e.g large number of Hungarian was expelled from neighboring countries, and Germans (often just random people having German-sounding names) were taken by the Soviets,too, to labor camps
    – Greg
    Jun 10 at 17:15
7

In the case case of Czechoslovakia the citizenship of persons of the German or Hungarian nationality was lost based on the presidential decree no. 33/1945. The agricultural land was confiscated by decree no. 12/1945 and the rest property by no. 108/1945. The latter two decrees remain valid and there is no compensation in place nor foreseen.

The application of these decrees is still questioned at courts, mostly by the aristocracy, because there is less ambiguity about the actual nationality and potential anti-nazi activity for ordinary people. So, certain members of aristocracy still question that their parents and grandparents were marked as Germans or traitors. In the area where I live the Czernin heirs filled actions against all non-private holders of their former land (but are careful not to try to suit private persons). A well-known international case with a large property in question is the case of the house of Liechtenstein because it is indeed questionable whether they can be marked "German". They claim huge properties mainly in south Moravia.

The post 1948 communist nationalization and collectivization is unrelated and had been restitued.

The question of the post-war German reparations often comes in the discussion in the connection with the expulsion. The Czechoslovak governments were careful not to tie these officially and to NOT include this property into the foreign German property that was shared during the reparations. However, president Beneš was a bit careless in 1945 and did actually say that the confiscated property could be an advance or reserve for the reparations. It is not clear whether Czechoslovakia would not become a net payee and would not have to pay other western countries certain financial share if that became true. However this two questions still come to the discussion somewhat connected even in this age many years after the war, especially after Poland voiced their claims (the situation of Poland is very different because USSR claimed their reparations on behalf of Poland - and gave them nothing).

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  • Regardless of reparations - have there been demands over the years - from political movements, public figures, or even external organizations of expelled people and their descendants - to revoke the decrees?
    – einpoklum
    Jun 7 at 19:57
  • @einpoklum Absolutely. regularly by the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft.
    – Vladimir F
    Jun 7 at 20:07
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    The Czech political answers really vary a lot across the political spectrum, as you can imagine they are different among communists and nationalistic populists and among liberals. But I haven't ever registred any serious voice for any compensations. Only for moral concillitation cultivation of good relations for the future. Voices that the expulsion was bad are not rare but many point to the specifics of the era when it was done even if they agree about the unacceptability in today's point of view.
    – Vladimir F
    Jun 7 at 21:18
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    And somewhat unfairly - Czech Republic did use restitution to compensate owners for property taken away by the Communist regime, explicitly excluding property taken away from German residents. But I guess returning tens of billions of dollars in property to "foreigners" would not have been politically feasible. Jun 8 at 2:42
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    Trivia: Because of its royal family's complaints at having their property seized, Liechtenstein refused to recognize Czechoslovakia or its successor states until 2009.
    – dan04
    Jun 8 at 19:48

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