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Orderly and Humane

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

R.M. Douglas
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 416
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1nppqv
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  • Book Info
    Orderly and Humane
    Book Description:

    Immediately after the Second World War, the victorious Allies authorized and helped to carry out the forced relocation of German speakers from their homes across central and southern Europe to Germany. The numbers were almost unimaginable-between 12,000,000 and 14,000,000 civilians, most of them women and children-and the losses horrifying-at least 500,000 people, and perhaps many more, died while detained in former concentration camps, while locked in trains en route, or after arriving in Germany exhausted, malnourished, and homeless. This book is the first in any language to tell the full story of this immense man-made catastrophe.

    Based mainly on archival records of the countries that carried out the forced migrations and of the international humanitarian organizations that tried but failed to prevent the disastrous results,Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World Waris an authoritative and objective account. It examines an aspect of European history that few have wished to confront, exploring how the expulsions were conceived, planned, and executed and how their legacy reverberates throughout central Europe today. The book is an important study of the largest recorded episode of what we now call "ethnic cleansing," and it may also be the most significant untold story of the Second World War.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18376-4
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    Immediately after the Second World War, the victorious Allies carried out the largest forced population transfer—and perhaps the greatest single movement of peoples—in human history. With the assistance of the British, Soviet, and U.S. governments, millions of German-speaking civilians living in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and the parts of eastern Germany assigned to Poland were driven out of their homes and deposited amid the ruins of the Reich, to fend for themselves as best they could. Millions more, who had fled the advancing Red Army in the final months of the war, were prevented from returning to their places of...

  6. 1 The Planner
    (pp. 7-38)

    A week after the Munich Conference of September 1938, the Czechoslovak president, Edvard Beneš, composed his letter of resignation. After a quarter of a century at the heart of political life in Czechoslovakia, and almost three years as its unchallenged leader, he had become in the space of seven days a political irrelevance. While the great powers haggled over the future of his country at Munich—Czechoslovakia had not even been invited to send a delegation to the conference—Beneš was made to stand by helplessly, watching his life’s work crash in ruins. Two decades previously, as the foreign minister...

  7. 2 The Volksdeutsche in Wartime
    (pp. 39-64)

    In one respect it is misleading to speak of “the postwar expulsions.” From the very beginning of the Second World War, the European totalitarian powers engaged in ethnic cleansing on a scale never before seen in history. For Adolf Hitler, a continent from which “undesirable” peoples—Jews, Slavs, Roma, and others—had been displaced to make room for incoming German colonists lay at the very heart of his nightmarish racial vision. Even the Holocaust, when it had finally been decided upon, was but a means to this larger end. But his fellow dictator Josef Stalin also had grand ambitions to...

  8. 3 The Scheme
    (pp. 65-92)

    The expulsion of the ethnic Germans was not only to be by any measure the greatest forced migration in human history, but may well constitute the greatest single movement of population.¹ No precedent—not even Hitler’s or Stalin’s—existed for rounding up, transporting, and resettling so massive a number of people in such a short time. Nor did recent experience of the totalitarian states’ smaller-scale attempts to displace and transplant the indigenous populations of a given region augur well for the operation that was now being contemplated.

    Among the most remarkable aspects of the expulsion was the deliberate refusal of...

  9. 4 The “Wild Expulsions”
    (pp. 93-129)

    In calling for “orderly and humane” population transfers, the Potsdam Agreement was attempting to close the door upon a horse that was already halfway out of the stable. For more than three months, German civilians had been displaced from what the Polish government was now calling the “Recovered Territories”— a reference to the fact that Poland had once ruled Silesia and Pomerania under the Piast dynasty some six hundred years previously. Czechoslovakia had been following the Polish example since mid-May. Further to the south, although Yugoslavia had neither asked nor received permission from the Allies to expel itsVolksdeutschpopulation...

  10. 5 The Camps
    (pp. 130-157)

    Wenzel Hrneček was, in the view of those who knew him before the war, a thoroughly unremarkable young man. Like all Czechs of his generation he had been born a subject of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, an entity that had collapsed before he was halfway through his teens. He spent the years of his early adulthood as a citizen of the Czechoslovak Republic in the ethnically mixed city of České Budĕjovice in southern Bohemia, a municipality that under its German name of Budweis had gained a worldwide reputation for the Budweiser beer produced there in vast quantities. Fluent in Czech and...

  11. 6 The “Organized Expulsions”
    (pp. 158-193)

    Major Frederick Boothby, commander of the British Liaison Team at Kaławsk (today’s Węgliniec), a railhead seven miles east of the new Polish-German frontier, eyed expellee train No. 165, as it pulled up to the platform on the evening of May 18, 1946, with considerable suspicion. The first curious thing he noticed was the unusually large quantity of personal effects, including “everything from commodes to double beds,” that the expellees had been permitted to take with them. In contrast to most Germans arriving from Poland, they were without exception well nourished and adequately clothed. Furthermore, practically all of them appeared to...

  12. 7 The Numbers Game
    (pp. 194-228)

    The screams that alerted Dr. Loch, formerly the chief medical officer of St Joseph’s Hospital in Wroclaw, that his services were required at the other end of the pitch-black cattle car provided his only means of locating his patient. As a skilled worker the doctor was not supposed to have been on the train, as it jolted across the darkened Polish countryside on the night of December 20, 1946 en route to the Marienthal reception center in the British occupation zone. His sick wife, however, had been scheduled for deportation, and rather than waiting his turn and being separated from...

  13. 8 The Children
    (pp. 229-253)

    In April 1946 Willy Montandon, a member of the CICR delegation in Czechoslovakia, called at the Modřany internment camp in the southern suburbs of Prague. He had brought a doctor with him in the hope of providing medical attention to an elderly femaleSudetendeutschinmate who was soon to be expelled, but was allowed to proceed no further than the camp commandant’s office. There he was shown an order of the minister of the interior, issued two weeks previously, that “formally prohibited any person whatever from entering the camp and speaking with the internees who did not possess a written...

  14. 9 The Wild West
    (pp. 254-283)

    Kazimierz Trzciński was one of hundreds of thousands of eager colonists from central Poland who flocked to the Recovered Territories in 1947 in search of fortune. A demobilized soldier, he was just the kind of warrior-colonist the Polish government was most anxious to attract to the western borderlands—a man who knew how to fight and would not hesitate to defend his property, with armed force if necessary, should the Germans or, more likely, the peace conference attempt to take it away from him. Some of his actions, however, offered hints that he might not be the model settler he...

  15. 10 The International Reaction
    (pp. 284-300)

    Johannes Kostka, a German prisoner of war in a British camp in Egypt, wrote to the U.S. Office of Military Government in Frankfurt at the end of 1947 to express his anxiety about his young wife Gertrud, a resident of the southwestern Polish town of Bielsko-Biała (Bielitz). Born in 1921, Gertrud Kostka had barely missed becoming a citizen of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Although the region was largely inhabited by German speakers, it had been turned over to Poland after the Great War. The question of timing would prove critical in her case. After the invasion of Poland in 1939, instead...

  16. 11 The Resettlement
    (pp. 301-325)

    The attention of historians is naturally drawn to the most dramatic events and critical turning points of the past. Because of this, it is all too easy to overlook the importance of what G. M. Trevelyan describes as those turning points at which “history failed to turn”—moments when a development that might be expected to happen did not, after all, take place.¹ Among these unnoticed near misses of history, the successful resettlement and assimilation of more than twelve million German expellees, up to a tenth of whom did not even speak German, is a particular case in point. According...

  17. 12 The Law
    (pp. 326-345)

    Václav Klaus, the Czech president, startled and angered his fellow European leaders in October 2009 when he unexpectedly demanded that they endorse a statement affirming the legality of Edvard Beneš’s 1945 decrees authorizing the denationalization, expropriation, and expulsion of Czechoslovakia’s German population. The dispute arose as the ratification process of the Lisbon Treaty on centralization of the European Union was drawing to a close. For the treaty to enter into force, the assent of all twenty-seven members of the EU was required. By the time it reached Klaus’s desk, the other twenty-six had already ratified it; both houses of the...

  18. 13 Meaning and Memory
    (pp. 346-362)

    Robin Hankey, the Foreign Office Poland specialist and onetime diplomat at the Warsaw embassy, was one of a number of influential Britons to receive an unsolicited letter in the summer of 1947 from his friend and former Foreign Office colleague, Michael Vyvyan. Enclosed with the letter was a report written by a twenty-six-year-old woman who had arrived in Germany six months previously after spending more than eighteen months at the Potulice internment camp in Poland. Detailed, specific, and unemotional, though sometimes wryly humorous (the author noted that the quality of the food perceptibly improved after the camp cook was dispensed...

  19. Conclusion
    (pp. 363-374)

    Late in 1947, as the organized expulsions of Germans were coming to an end, the Allied Control Council—Germany’s temporary four-power government—invited its Prisoners of War and Displaced Persons Directorate to undertake a study of “the whole question of the transfers of population into Germany,” for the purpose of determining how these might better be managed in the future. The response of the U.S. officials who had administered the transfers was not long in coming. On the basis of their experience gained in organizing, supervising, and dealing with the impact of mass expulsions,

    we recommend that the Control Council...

  20. Notes
    (pp. 375-440)
  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 441-468)
  22. Index
    (pp. 469-487)
  23. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)