In the 20th century, fleeing and displacement began with the Balkan Wars and affected numerous ethnic and religious groups during the First World War and its immediate aftermath. The German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact signed on 23 August 1939 was the starting point of a new wave of fleeing and displacement. The pact was not only a prerequisite for the German invasion of Poland, but it also brought an end to national and international efforts to protect ethnic minorities and was the starting point of large-scale population displacements, particularly in eastern Europe. In a secret protocol to the pact, Germany and the USSR defined their respective spheres of interest. Finland, Estonia, Latvia, the Polish territories east of the Narew, Vistula and San rivers, and Bessarabia fell within the Soviet sphere. On 28 September 1939, the two powers concluded the German-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Demarcation, which modified the previously agreed line of demarcation. It ruled out the continued existence of a Polish rump state, which had previously been considered an option. It modified the Nonaggression Pact to give central Poland to Germany, while Lithuania went to the USSR. In the occupied territories on both sides of the demarcation line, the Soviet and German authorities carried out extensive forced resettlements.
Deportations in Soviet-held Territories in 1939–1943
After its victory in the Russian Civil War, the new Soviet regime made an effort to win the loyalty of the remaining peripheral ethnic groups and diaspora groups by establishing territories on linguistic and ethnic lines and by promoting the economic and cultural interests of these minorities. However, the so-called "western nationalities" (such as the Poles and Germans) and the so-called "eastern nationalities" (such as the Azerbaijanis, Kazakhs, Koreans and Chinese) both reacted to the collectivization of agriculture from 1929 onward by fleeing from the Soviet Union or rebelling against the authorities. It came as a shock to the Soviet leadership that the ethnic minorities were not keen advocates of the Soviet system. However, the fundamental shift in Soviet policy towards the nationalities was only brought about by domestic and international developments in 1933 and 1934, specifically the "Ukrainian crisis" with its Russification and famine,1 the German-Polish Nonaggression Pact, and the advance of the Japanese into Manchuria and China. The so-called "dekulakization", involving the deportation of prosperous farmers to inhospitable territories in the north and east of the Soviet Union, was followed by "ethnic operations" from 1935 onward. Nationalities that were settled in the border territories or had a "motherland" beyond the borders of the Soviet Union – particularly Poles, Germans and Koreans – were transported to Kazakhstan and Central Asia. The "Great Terror" of 1937 to 1938 was no longer solely directed against potential "class enemies", but also against entire nations.2
Prior to the beginning of the German invasion of the USSR on 22 June 1941, the Soviet authorities deported a total of 1.2 million people from the territories that fell to the Soviet Union in 1939 and 1940 under the German-Soviet Pact, including in particular the elites and farmers of Poland, the Baltic republics and Bessarabia.3 Most Karelians had been evacuated in time by the Finnish authorities.4 After 22 June 1941, the German-speaking population not only in the border regions but throughout European Russia – 1.2 million people in total5 – and the Finns of northwestern Russia were forcibly transported to the east.6 From 1942, about one third of the deported Germans were obliged to do forced labour in the so-called Labour Army. However, the rapid advance of the German and Romanian armies prevented the deportation of a quarter of a million Ukrainian Germans. These were subsequently evacuated to the "Greater German Empire" prior to the reconquest of Ukraine by the Soviet army, most being transferred to the "Warthegau". There some of them subsequently fell into the hands of the Soviet army in 1944. The rest were handed over to the Soviets by the western Allies. They were "repatriated", though in the Asian part of the Soviet Union.7
From Exodus to "Generalplan Ost"
After the Munich Agreement of 29 September 1938, the vast majority of Jews, parts of Sudeten German anti-fascists, and 200,000 Czechs moved to the interior of Czechoslovakia to escape the anticipated persecution in the Sudeten territories annexed by Germany.8 Adolf Hitler (1889–1945) and Benito Mussolini (1883–1945) agreed to more ethnic cleansing on 23 June 1939. The German-speaking population of South Tyrol was given the choice between settling "south of the Po River" without minority rights, or emigrating to Germany. After strong initial resistance, 86 percent opted for the latter.9 In an address on 6 October 1939, Hitler demanded
a new ordering of ethnographic conditions, that is, a resettlement of the nationalities so that at the conclusion of this development clearer dividing lines exist than has been the case until now. ... The whole of eastern and southeastern Europe is to an extent full of unsustainable splinters of German ethnicity. They in particular are a cause of ongoing tensions between the states.10
To the Germans of the Baltic states, eastern Poland, Bessarabia and northern Bukovina, the "dictated option"11 of settling in the "Greater German Empire" seemed the lesser evil, compared to falling under Soviet rule. Those who resettled were allowed to take their moveable property with them, to sell their immovable property, and to deposit the proceeds and other valuables with trustees in order to offset them against the price of new property. In the event, the National Socialist state kept the money and reimbursed the resettled Germans with property stolen from Poles and Jews. In late 1940, Germans were also brought "home to the empire" from southern Bukovina and Dobruja.12
It has been shown that "bringing home" these approximately 500,000 "ethnic Germans" (Volksdeutsche) from various parts of eastern Europe had the effect of radicalizing plans to expel Poles from the "incorporated" territories of western Poland and to exterminate the Jews. To make space for ethnic Germans from the Baltic cities (Baltic Germans), Lodz (Łódź) with its population of approximately 500,000 Poles and 200,000 Jews was transferred to the "Warthegau".13 Land was made available for German "colonists" by expelling two Polish farmers for every ethnic German arriving.14 Accommodation was made available for urban Germans by moving the Jews of Lodz from their accommodation to a part of the city that was envisaged as a ghetto.15 This ghetto was sealed off from the outside world in April 1940, as was the Warsaw ghetto in September of the same year. In total, 860,000 Poles were deported from the territories incorporated into Germany to the General Government of Poland. A further 300,000 were driven from their farms or evicted from their accommodation. It is estimated that 2.8 million Polish civilians and about 3.2 million Soviet civilians were obliged to do forced labour. After the Warsaw Uprising, half a million Poles were forced to leave the capital in October 1944.16 Ethnic cleansing occurred on a much smaller scale elsewhere. For example, about 150,000 people were expelled from Alsace and Lorraine, and 60,000 were forced to leave northern Slovenia after it was incorporated into the Greater German Empire.17
Plans for settlement – and thus also expulsions – in territories outside the "incorporated territories" were outlined in the "Generalplan Ost", which Heinrich Himmler (1900–1945) had ordered to be drawn up two days after the invasion of the Soviet Union was launched. Himmler viewed the settlement of ethnic Germans from eastern Europe (Volksdeutsche) in the area around Zamość in the "General Government" as a first step in the implementation of this plan. This settlement began in November 1941, and it involved the expulsion of 100,000 Poles and the resettlement of a large number of Ukrainians up to July 1943.18 According to the "Generalplan Ost", which was subsequently expanded into the "General Settlement Plan", in just 30 years the border of German settlement (Volkstumsgrenze) was to be pushed eastward by no less than 1000 km through "new German settlement", and the outer defensive border (Wehrgrenze) was even supposed to run along the Urals. The plan envisaged that the population of this region would be structured hierarchically based on racial criteria, and it included the expulsion of 31 million people to Siberia, while a further 14 million people categorised as "racially different" were to be exploited as slave labour.19
Fleeing and Displacement in the German-Italian Sphere of Influence
Ante Pavelić (1889–1959), the "leader" of the "Independent State of Croatia" (to which Bosnia-Herzegovina had been transferred), suggested to Hitler that his state could take in the Slovenes that were to be expelled from the territories annexed by Germany. In return, Hitler agreed to his plan to expel part of the Serbian population from Croatia. The approximately 200,000 displaced Serbs20 and refugees, for whom mass murder was a real danger, formed a reservoir of malcontents which both the resistance of the nationalist Četnici and the Communist partisans could draw on for support. Consequently, the Croatian authorities came under pressure from Germany to adopted a more moderate approach. The regime then viewed the forced Catholicization of the Orthodox population as the main instrument for creating a homogenous nation-state. Serbs were also expelled from Kosovo, most of which had been granted to Albania, a satellite state of Italy. A large portion of them were the so-called "colonists" who had been settled there after 1918.21 The division of Dobruja between Romania and Bulgaria in July 1940 involved the minorities on either side of the border being transferred to "their" respective nation-states.22 After the Second Vienna Award in 1940, which granted northern Transylvania to Hungary, 200,000 Romanians fled southward, and a similar number of Magyars fled northward across the new border.23 After its participation in the defeat of Yugoslavia, Hungary settled 300,000 Szekler in the Bačka region.24 During the Bulgarian occupation, approximately 100,000 Bulgarians were settled in eastern Macedonia and western Thrace, while an even larger number of Greeks fled or were expelled.25
Inclusion of the Western Powers in "Transfer" Planning
The National Socialist policy of "bringing home" ethnic German groups in eastern Europe was cited by Czechoslovak and Polish politicians in exile to justify their own resettlement plans. They argued that Hitler had created a legal precedent through the agreement on the resettlement of South Tyroleans of 23 June 1939.26 In a letter to his British counterpart, the Polish foreign minister August Zaleski (1883–1972) wrote that the return of Baltic Germans to Germany, which had been sanctioned by Hitler, must be completed in order to "liquidate German colonial landholding in the Baltic region".27 The Polish ambassador declared to the British foreign minister that the Germans in East Prussia would have to be resettled in Germany, stating that Hitler had demonstrated in the "incorporated" regions of western Poland how to solve such problems.28 Edvard Beneš (1884–1948), the Czechoslovak president in exile, wrote that during the war the German minorities, which in all states had served as a – partly active, partly passive – instrument of German imperialism, had become "an international threat" and "no central European state will again expose itself to the risk that we, Yugoslavia, Romania and Poland have been exposed to in recent years." As Hitler himself had resettled German minorities from the Baltic region and Bessarabia, he further argued, Germany could not view it as unjust in principle if other states applied the same methods to German minorities.29
As early as 6 July 1942, the British government declared publicly on behest of Beneš that the Munich Agreement was void, and it secretly gave its consent to the "general principle of the transfer of German minorities in central and southeastern Europe to Germany after the war, in cases where this seemed necessary and desirable". In May and June 1943, the American and Soviet governments also gave their consent to the transfer of the Germans from Czechoslovakia.30
The Polish government in exile pursued the traditional aims of the Polish National Democrats: after Upper Silesia, East Prussia and Danzig had been transferred to the Polish republic, the Polish residents of these would stay and the German population would be expelled. The Polish governments in exile adhered steadfastly to this concept. However, they rejected demands from the resistance movement and Polish groups in exile that went beyond this because these would have placed Poland in a permanent state of confrontation with Germany and would have made it more difficult to defend eastern Poland against Soviet demands.31 In his efforts to get the Polish government in exile to accede to Soviet demands for territory and thus enable that government to return to Poland, Winston Churchill (1874–1965) offered an ever increasing portion of Germany to the Polish premier Stanisław Mikołajczyk (1901–1966). In October 1944, he even offered him a border on the Oder River, with Stettin and Breslau falling to Poland, and the expulsion of all Germans from Polish territory. As Mikołajczyk declared himself open to the offer of a Poland between the Oder and the line that the then British foreign minister Lord George Nathaniel Curzon (1859–1925) had suggested as the provisional eastern border in December 1919, he was brought down.32
However, by then the "Lublin Committee", which Moscow had installed as an instrument of its policies, was already in office in Poland. After negotiations with the government in exile failed in early 1945, Moscow recognised this committee as the provisional government of Poland and permitted it to take possession of all the territory not only up to the Oder, but also up to the Lusatian Neisse. As it became clear that this government would win out over the government in exile with the help of the Red Army and the secret police, London no longer saw any reason to advocate for such a large westward expansion of Poland, as the puppet government in Warsaw had already accepted the Curzon line in the east.33 Consequently, at the conferences in Yalta (February 1945) and Potsdam (July/August 1945) the British and the Americans argued with the Soviets about whether Poland would be extended to the Oder and the Lusatian Neisse, or just to the Oder. Churchill now argued that the large area up to the Oder-Neisse Line was not needed to accommodate the 2-3 million Poles from east of the Curzon Line, and the Oder-Neisse Line would involve the expulsion of 8-9 million Germans. However, with the support of Joseph Stalin (1879–1953) the Polish government adhered to its insistence on the Oder-Neisse Line. The deadlock that the Potsdam Conference had entered mainly due to the argument over the Oder-Neisse border was ultimately broken by means of a trade-off, in which the British and the Americans agreed to this border and the "transfer" of Germans from Poland, Czechoslovakia and also Hungary, and the Soviets made concessions in the area of reparations and on Italy being admitted to the United Nations.34
Deportations within the Soviet Union from 1943 to 1950
After the reconquest of the territories in the west and south that had been lost in 1941, from 1943 onward Stalin had a large number of Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians deported to the far north and east, primarily to suppress resistance to these territories being reincorporated into the Soviet Union.35 While the war was still ongoing, the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD) deported approximately 450,000 German civilians from the former eastern territories of Germany and from Romania, Hungary and Yugoslavia. Like German prisoners of war, they were forced to live in camps and to do hard labour. In the period up to 1 February 1946 alone, 17 percent of these "mobilized internees" died.36 Additionally, more than 70,000 Romanian Germans were obliged to do forced labour for up to five years in the mines and heavy industry of the Ukraine.37
There were also other nationalities who, having been accused of collaboration with the "German fascists", were transported in their entirety to Siberia, Kazakhstan or Central Asia. The towns they lived in were surrounded by units of the NKVD, and the families were transported to their place of exile in cattle wagons. Members of these nationalities serving in the Red Army were discharged and also deported. Their autonomous republics and territories were dissolved and transferred to other ethnic groups. Among the peoples affected, the Chechens were the largest with 388,000 people, and the Crimean Tatars were the second largest with more than 192,000 people. Other Muslim nationalities in the North Caucasus were also deported. Many of the deportees died of hunger, thirst and infectious diseases on the journey or during the first months in exile. Numbering 93,000, the Buddhist Kalmyks were the third largest group, and suffered the highest death rate on the journey and in exile. In the summer of 1944, Christian minorities in the Crimea and Muslim ethnic groups in southern Georgia were also deported to the east.38 By the end of 1945, 2,343,000 people were living in so-called "special settlements", which they were only allowed to leave for work duty. A little under half of them were Germans,39 who had been deported from their homes in 1941 and who, with the exception of the Ukrainian Germans referred to above, had had no opportunity to collaborate with the German occupation. There were some collaborators among the other ethnic groups. The German military administration had won support by reopening churches and mosques, and by raising hopes that the collectivization of farms would be reversed. However, there is no evidence that the Chechens, for example, collaborated to a greater degree than Ukrainians or Russians.40
Displacement and Forced Resettlement in Eastern Central and Southeastern Europe
As Soviet troops advanced through Poland to eastern Germany, a large portion of the German population – about six million people – were evacuated by the German authorities or fled. But many did not manage to flee, and they experienced a period of terror. Red Army soldiers in particular robbed, raped and murdered the Germans that had remained, often under the influence of alcohol. In northern East Prussia, which was to become part of the Soviet Union, a very large number of people died of hunger and disease. In Königsberg, about one third of the 70,000 residents who had stayed died in this way. The survivors were only allowed to emigrate in the summer and autumn of 1947.41
From late January 1945, an increasing number of refugees started to return to their native places, which were by then under the control of the Soviet or the Polish army. After the German surrender on 8 May 1945, more Germans attempted to return home. Up to 1 June, approximately 400,000 people had crossed the Oder and the Neisse heading eastward, at which point the Polish army closed the crossings. The fact that more and more refugees were returning prompted the Polish authorities to accelerate the expulsions. As early as 26 May 1945, the central committee of the Polish Workers' Party decided to expel all Germans within a year, and to settle 2.5 million Poles in the so-called "recaptured territories" during the summer of 1945.42 A portion of the Polish settlers were refugees, and about 1.3 million of them were Poles from east of the new Polish-Soviet border who had opted43 for resettlement.44
With Soviet permission, the Polish and Czechoslovak governments began expelling Germans in order to create facts on the ground ahead of the upcoming conference of the Allies. In the former eastern German territories, the expulsions often began early in the morning. The people were often only given 15 minutes to leave their homes. In other places, Germans were given two weeks' notice before their resettlement and were informed what they were permitted to take with them. It has been calculated that the military and civilian authorities of Poland expelled about 400,000 Germans in June and July 1945, i.e., before the Potsdam Conference.45
The retribution decree passed by President Beneš on 19 May 1945 described Germans and Magyars as "untrustworthy from the point of view of the state". Based on this and other decrees, whole groups of people were arrested and interned. Germans and Magyars were subjected to forced labour, were driven out of the country and had their property confiscated. Germans had to identify themselves by sewing an "N" (for "Němec" meaning German) on their clothing or by wearing an armband. In Poland, this obligation for Germans to identify themselves was lifted after a short period. The freedom of movement of Germans was restricted by means of various curfews and exclusions. Most recent estimates suggest that between 700,000 and 850,000 Germans were expelled from Poland by the end of September 1945, most of them before the Potsdam Conference.46
Both in the new Polish territories and in the Bohemian lands, a large number of camps were established after the end of the war to concentrate the Germans and to isolate people deemed untrustworthy by the state. In the first weeks and months after liberation, thousands of people were also held in barracks, cinemas and guesthouses, in public buildings and schools that had been emptied, in warehouses and factory buildings, as well as in farmyards and barns in the countryside. In most of these facilities, the living conditions were not just hard, but catastrophic. In the camps, the new-arrivals had all their possessions confiscated. These possessions were supposed to be returned to them when they were leaving the camp, but in reality this did not happen. The deserted houses and farmsteads of people who had been interned in camps were often robbed. Abuses and the arbitrary exercise of power, fraud and corruption were not uncommon. It is estimated that 200,000 people were interned in Poland and 150,000 in the Bohemian lands, including many children. Hard labour combined with undernourishment, poor sanitary conditions, beatings, torture and rape made life in the camps torture and cost the lives of many older people and children. There were also arbitrary executions. The threat of being sent to a camp hung over every German. The confiscation of property, the lack of any protection under the law, and hunger drove many Germans to emigrate from the Polish and Czechoslovak territories as quickly as possible.47
The concluding protocol of the Potsdam Conference of 2 August 1945 called for the "orderly and humane" resettlement of the German population from Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary, and recommended that there be no further mass expulsions until the Allied Control Council for Germany had taken up the issue. On the same day, Czechoslovakia revoked the citizenship of all Germans and Magyars who had "acquired German or Hungarian citizenship under the regulations of a foreign occupation". The only exceptions were those who had actively participated in the fight to free Czechoslovakia, who had themselves suffered under National Socialist rule, or who were specialists and were considered irreplaceable.48 However, most of these "anti-fascists" preferred to emigrate to the zones of occupation of the Soviets or the western Allies in Germany.49 Compared with Czechoslovakia, the so-called "verification of national reliability" was handled less harshly in Poland, particularly in Masuria and Upper Silesia. But even there, many of those granted such verification nonetheless registered for resettlement in Germany after they realised that they still would not be treated as equal citizens.50
On 20 November 1945, the Allied Control Council reached agreement on the distribution of the refugees from Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary between the zones. The US zone would receive 1,750,000 and the Soviet zone would receive 750,000 Germans from Czechoslovakia. The British zone would receive 1.5 million and the Soviet zone would receive 2 million deportees from Poland. In its guidelines, the Czechoslovak government gave control of the resettlement to the Communist-led ministry of the interior, which was to conduct the expulsion and settlement through its regional settlement offices in cooperation with the national committees, the police and the army. The Americans insisted that only whole families be deported, and that they be allowed to bring 50 kg of luggage per person, including food for three days and 1000 Reichsmarks.
During these forced expulsions, which recommenced in late 1945 and early 1946, the governments of Poland and Czechoslovakia tried to prevent the refugees from being subjected to any further robbery or physical attacks. However, during the "regulated" forced resettlement of refugees from Poland to the Soviet occupation zone from late November 1945 onward, the authorities proved unable to provide those expelled with food, or to prevent arbitrary acts of violence against them and the robbery of the property they left behind. Resettlement in the British zone only began after an agreement was signed with the British Army of the Rhine on 14 February 1946, and the state administration was given greater control over the resettlement from this point. The Germans were to be informed 24 hours before their expulsion and were to have the right to take food, personal belongings, documents and money with them.51 In total, about ten million Germans fled, or were evacuated or expelled from the old and new territories of Poland, and three million from Czechoslovakia.
While the government of Hungary also received permission from the Potsdam Conference to expel the Germans within its borders, the Social Democrats and the Independent Smallholders' Party were hesitant to do so because they feared negative consequences for the Magyar minorities in neighbouring states. The reluctance of the Hungarian government and the capping of refugee quotas by the occupation authorities in Germany meant that less than half of Hungarian Germans were actually resettled. The farms and living accommodation of those who were resettled were allocated to Magyar refugees from Romania and Slovakia.52
On 21 November 1944, the "Anti-Fascist Council for the National Liberation of Yugoslavia" (AVNOJ) revoked the civil rights of Germans and confiscated their property. However, most Yugoslavian Germans had been evacuated before the arrival of the partisans and the Soviet army. Those who had not escaped in time or who decided to stay experienced a period of forced hard labour, rape, torture and arbitrary executions. In October 1945, Yugoslavia began expelling ethnic Germans. However, at that time the occupation authorities in Austria and Germany would only accept a small number of transports, and the remaining Germans were not deported until 1948.53
But it was not only Germans who experienced fleeing and displacement, but also other minorities. An eighth of the Magyars of Slovakia were exchanged for Slovaks from Hungary, and another portion of them were forcibly resettled in the Bohemian lands.54 Italians in Dalmatia, Istria and Fiume (Rijeka) opted to move to Italy to escape arbitrary measures against them by the partisans and the Communist authorities.55 The governments of Poland and the Soviet Union agreed to exchange Poles and Jews living east of the new border for Ukrainians and Belarussians living in Poland. Any Ukrainians in Poland who avoided the population exchange with the Soviet Union were forcibly settled in the "recaptured territories" in 1947.56
Motives and Aims
The expulsions and deportations were driven by varying motivations and pursued varying aims, though these motivations and aims overlapped in most cases. The aim of the National Socialist state was clear: eastern central Europe was to be integrated into the "Greater German Empire", and the deportation of "foreign" peoples was intended to create space for the settlement of Germans and "racially" similar groups.
The precautionary forced resettlement of populations in Soviet territory prior to the Soviet Union entering the war was intended to prevent ethnic minorities in the border regions and those nationalities that might look to a motherland outside of the Soviet Union from cooperating with an external enemy.
In the case of Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, an important motivation behind the expulsions was the wish to provide additional land to the agrarian "surplus population" of their own nations. The manifesto of the Lublin Committee of 22 July 1944 announced the creation of a land fund, from which land was to be assigned to farmers who had small holdings and were eager to expand their holdings. Consequently, the similarities between the spatial planning of the National Socialists and the spatial planning of the Polish government have been highlighted.57 The Czechoslovak government was particularly keen to offer land confiscated from Germans and Magyars to Slovak farmers.58 The Hungarian government was keen to make land available for refugees from Transylvania and Slovakia.59 The Yugoslav government was keen to accommodate those who had served with distinction as partisans.60
Another motive was the desire for revenge for actual or supposed collaboration with the German occupation. The Soviet leadership referred to resettlements that occurred in the final phase of the war and in the immediate post-war period as "punishment deporations".61 During and after the war, almost all sections of the Czech, Polish and Yugoslav populations were gripped by a fervent anti-German sentiment. In the early weeks, politicians and army generals stoked desires for revenge. On 17 April 1945, the new Czechoslovak government called on the population to take revenge on the Germans for their brutality and to show them no mercy.62 For Beneš, the expulsion of the Germans was a response to the stance of the Sudeten German Party from 1935 onward, and to its landslide victory (85 percent) in the local elections in 1938. At the ceremonial opening of the National Assembly on 28 October 1945, he declared: "Today it is clear that from 1934 onward the overwhelming majority of our Germans worked to destroy our whole state deliberately and in complete cooperation with Hitler ...".63 The commander of the Second Polish Army instructed his soldiers on 24 June 1945 to "treat [the Germans] the same way they treated us" so that "the Germans would flee of their own accord and thank God that they had escaped with their lives".64 In both states, there was a strong emotional resonance with the Nuremberg Trials and with the trials of high-ranking functionaries of the German occupation and concentration camp guards within the states themselves. Some of those convicted were executed in public.
However, some German refugees reported that Poles in their locality were more even-tempered towards them, and were even inclined to help them. It seemed that fear of the future under Soviet and Communist rule pushed hate for the Germans into the background.65 In particular, Czechs who had lived with their German neighbours for a long time argued in favour of granting Czechoslovak citizenship to particular Germans – often Germans to whom they were related – and treating them well. This contrasted with most of the new settlers, who laid claim to the farms, homes and businesses of the Germans.66
In the territories that had been under the control of the two fascist powers, the states placed primary importance on making their populations as ethnically homogenous as possible. Polish and Czechoslovak propaganda in the initial months after the end of the war shows that this was a central goal of forced resettlements. Just days after the end of the war, the Czechoslovak prime minister described "cleansing" the republic of Germans as the solution to a problem that "has weighed on our people for a thousand years".67 At a rally in Wenceslas Square in Prague on 28 October 1946 marking the anniversary of the foundation of the state, President Beneš declared that the state would from now on be a nation-state for Czechs and Slovaks.68 Before the war had ended, the Polish prime minister made the following plea: "Above all, we must endeavour to smash our eternal enemy, Germany, and to take from it the lands in the north and west that it has stolen from us during various periods of history." In the view of the Communist commander of Upper Silesia, Poland should "build a Polish nation-state, and not a state of nationalities".69
The concept of ethnic homogenization was primarily based on the conflicts that had occurred prior to the war between the nation-states and their minorities, primarily – but not exclusively – German minorities. Secondly, the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, the German-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Demarcation, and the subsequent conquests, had given Germany and the Soviet Union the opportunity to carry out extensive deportations within their occupied territories. Thirdly, hardly anybody thought it was possible to return to the principle of protecting minorities as enshrined in the League of Nations given the brutal experience of German occupation. Finally, it is fair to say that even without the war and occupation the deportations might still have happened within the Soviet Union, though not in the rest of Europe.