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The expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War II was part of a series of expulsions of Germans from Central and Eastern Europe after World War II.

During the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, most of the Czech resistance groups demanded the final solution of the German question ( ) which would have to be solved by transfer/expulsion. These demands were adopted by the Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile which, beginning in 1943, sought the support of the Allies for this proposal. The final agreement for the transfer of German minority however was not reached until 2 August 1945 at the end of Potsdam Conference.

In the months following the end of the war the expulsion happened from May till August 1945. These expulsions were encouraged by polemical speeches made by several Czechoslovak statesmen. The expulsions were executed by order of local authorities mostly by groups of armed volunteers. However in some causes was initiated or pursued by assistance of regular army. Several thousand died violently during the expulsion and many more died from hunger and illness as a consequence. The regular transfer according the Potsdam Conference proceeded from 25 January 1946 till October of that year. An estimated 1.6 million ethnic Germans were deported to the American zone of what would become West Germany. An estimated 800,000 were deported to the Soviet zone (in what would become East Germany).[452385]

There was substantial exceptions from expulsions that applied to about 244,000 ethnic Germans who were allowed to remain in Czechoslovakia.Following groups of ethnic Germans were not deported:
  • anti-fascists
  • persons crucial for industries
  • those married with ethnic Czechs

Estimates of casualties range between 20,000 and 200,000 people, depending on source. These casualties include violent deaths and suicides, deaths in internment camps and natural causes. name = "RD">Z. Beneš, Rozumět dějinám. (ISBN 80-86010-60-0)

Plans to expel the Sudeten Germans

The principle of “population transfer” of Germans in the West was first advocated second president of Czechoslovakia Edvard Beneš and later during World War II planned by the Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile. Almost as soon as German troops occupied the Sudetenland in October 1938, Edvard Beneš and later Czechoslovak_Government-in-Exile pursued a twofold policy: the restoration of Czechoslovakia in its pre-Munich boundaries and the removal, through a combination of minor border rectifications and population transfer, of the state’s disloyal German minority to restore the territorial integrity of state. Although the details changed along with British public and official opinion and pressure from the Czech resistance groups, broad goals of Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile remained the same throughout the war.

The pre-war policy of minority protection was now seen as useless and contraproductive (and the minorities themself were seen as the source of unrest and instability), because it led to the destruction of democratic régime and whole Czechoslovak state. Therefore the Czechoslovakian leaders made decision to change the multiethnical character of the state to the state of 2 or 3 ethnics (Czechs, Slovaks and initially also the Ruthenians). This goal was to be reached by the expulsion of the major part of minorities members and the successive assimilation of the rest. Because almost all people of German and Magyar ethnicity gained German or Hungarian citizenship during the occupation of Czechoslovakia, the expulsion could be legalized as the banishment ( ) of the foreigners.

On June 22, 1942, after plans for the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans had become known, Wenzel Jaksch (a Sudeten German Social Democrat in exile) wrote a letter to Edvard Beneš protesting the proposed plans.

During the course of the war, in his discussions with Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt, Beneš made the forced resettlement of the Germans of the Sudetenland his primary war aim. Initially only a few hundred thousand Sudeten Germans were to be affected, people who were perceived as disloyal to Czechoslovakia and who, according to Beneš and Czech public opinion, had acted as Hitler's "fifth column." Due to escalation of German atrocities in occupied Czechoslovakia demands of Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile, Czech resistance groups and also wide majority of the Czechs for expulsion included more and more Germans, without no individual investigation of inference of guilt on their part with only exception for 244,000 ethnic German "anti-fascists" and those ethnic Germans crucial for industries who were allowed to remain in Czechoslovakia. As conclusion the Czechs and their government did not want Czechoslovakia to be burdened in future with a sizable German minority.

During the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, especially after the Nazis reprisal for the assassination on Heydrich, most of the Czech resistance groups demanded the final solution of the German question which would have to be solved by transfer/expulsion. These demands were adopted by the Government-in-Exile which, beginning in 1943, sought the support of the Allies for this proposal. The final agreement for the transfer of German minority however was not reached until 2 August 1945 at the end of Potsdam Conference.

Germans in Czechoslovakia by the time of the armistice

Developing a clear picture of the expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia is difficult because of the chaotic conditions that existed at the end of the war. There was no stable central government and record-keeping was non-existent. Many of the events that occurred during that period were spontaneous and local rather than being the result of coordinated policy directives from a central government. Among these spontaneous events was the removal and detention of the Sudeten Germans which was triggered by the strong anti-German sentiment at the grass-roots level and organized by local officials.

Records of food rationing coupons show approximately 3,325,000 inhabitants of occupied Sudetenland in May 1945. Of these, about 500,000 were Czechs or other non-Germans. Thus, there were approximately 2,725,000 Germans in occupied Sudetenland in May 1945.

In addition, most of the roughly 120,000 Carpathian Germans from Slovakia were evacuated on Himmler's orders to the "Protectorate" and the occupied Šumava marker region just before the end of the war.

Chronology of the expulsions

At the end of World War II, Czechoslovakianmarker president Edvard Beneš advocated a policy of "no mercy" toward the Germans and indicated the "German problem" would have to be solved by transfers/expulsion.

From London and Moscow, Czech and Slovak political agents in exile followed an advancing Soviet army pursuing German forces westward, to reach the territory of the first former Czechoslovak Republic. Beneš proclaimed the programme of the newly appointed Czechoslovak government on April 5, 1945, in the northeastern city of Košicemarker ( , ), which included oppression and persecution of the non-Czech and non-Slovak populations of the partially restored Czechoslovak Republic. After the proclamation of the Kosice program, the German and Hungarian population living in the reborn Czechoslovak state were subjected to various forms of persecution, including: expulsions, deportations, internments, peoples court procedures, citizenship revocations, property confiscation, condemnation to forced labour camps, involuntary changes of nationality and appointment of government managers to German and Hungarian owned businesses and farms, referred to euphemistically as “reslovakization.”

Role of the Czechoslovak army

The Czechoslovak army played a major, if not central, role in the expulsions. General Zdeněk Novák, head of the Prague military command "Alex", issued an order to "deport all Germans from territory within the historical borders".

The "Ten Commandments for Czechoslovak Soldiers in the Border Regions" directed soldiers that "The Germans have remained our irreconcilable enemies. Do not cease to hate the Germans... Behave towards Germans like a victor... Be harsh to the Germans... German women and the Hitler Youth also bear the blame for the crimes of the Germans. Deal with them too in an uncompromising way."

On June 15 1945, a government decree directed the army to implement measures to apprehend Nazi criminals and carry out the transfer of the German population. On July 27 1945, the Ministry of National Defence, issued a secret order directing that the transfer should be carried out on as large a scale as possible and as expeditiously as possible so as to present the Western powers with a fait accompli. British and American representatives were already calling for discussions about the timing and means by which the transfer was to be conducted. The Anglo-American vision was for the resettlement to start in about five years. In the interim, they envisioned only partial, internal transfers of the German population who were to be subjected to forced labour.

Beneš decrees

Between 1945 and 1948, a series of presidential decrees, edicts, laws and statutes were proclaimed by the president of the republic, the Prague-based Czechoslovak Parliament, the Slovak National Council (Parliament) in Bratislavamarker ( ) and by the Board of Slovak Commissioners (an appendage of the Czechoslovak government in Bratislava).

The Beneš decrees are most often associated with the population transfer in 1945-47 of about 2.6 million former Czechoslovak citizens of German ethnicity (see also Sudetenland) to Germany and Austria. However, they do not directly refer to the expulsions; its advocates argue that the German exodus from Eastern Europe was agreed upon by the Allied powers at the Potsdam conference.

Some of the decrees concerned the expropriation of wartime "traitors" and collaborators accused of treason but also all Germans and Hungarians. They also ordered the removal of citizenship for people of German and Hungarian ethnic origin who were treated collectively as collaborators (these provisions were cancelled for the Hungarians in 1948). This was then used to confiscate their property and expel around 90 % of the ethnic German population of Czechoslovakia. These people were collectively accused of supporting the Nazis (through the Sudetendeutsche Partei (SdP), political party led by Konrad Henlein) and the Third Reich's annexation of Czech borderland in 1938. Almost every decree explicitly stated that the sanctions did not apply to "anti-fascists" although the term anti-fascist was not explicitly defined. Typically it was up to decision of local municipalities. Some 250,000 Germans, some "anti-fascists", but also people crucial for the industry remained in Czechoslovakia.

On May 19, 1945, Decree No. 5 of the President of the Republic proclaimed Germans in Czechoslovakia to be a people on which the state could not rely. This decree established the basis for a series of measures that would relegate the Germans to the status of second-class citizens and restrict their freedom of action in everyday life.


In the summer of 1945 there were a number of incidents and localised massacres of the German population. The following examples are described in a study done by the European University Institutemarker in Florence:
  • June 18-19, 1945, in the Přerovmarker incident, 71 men, 120 women and 74 children (265 Germans) who were Slovak Germans from Dobšiná were passing through Horní Moštěnice near Přerovmarker railway station. Here they were taken out of the train, taken outside the city to a hill named "Švédské šance", where they were forced to dig their own graves and all were shot. They were all murdered while being transported back to Slovakia by soldiers of the 17th Bratislava Foot Regiment.
  • 20,000 Germans were forced to leave Brnomarker for camps in Austriamarker. Some sources report 800 deaths.
  • Estimates of those killed in the Ústí massacre range from 30 - 50 to 600 - 700 civilians. Some women and children were thrown off the bridge into the Elbe River and shot.
  • 763 people were shot dead in Postoloprty and the immediate vicinity. In September 1947 a Czechoslovak parliamentary commission investigated reports of mass graves scattered around the north Bohemian town of Postoloprty. In all, the investigation unearthed 763 German bodies, victims of a zealous Czechoslovak army detachment carrying out orders to "cleanse" the region of Germans in late May 1945. Expellees who survived the massacre estimated the number of their murdered neighbors at around 800. The surprise here is that the numbers came from a Czech source, indeed from an inquiry at the highest levels of government only months before the Communists eliminated democratic opposition in February 1948.

Internment camps

A large number of Germans, most but by no means all of them active Nazis, were interned immediately after the liberation of Czechoslvakia. 1,215 internment camps, 846 work and disciplinary centres and 215 prisons were established on Czechoslovak territory. According to German figures, about 350,000 of the 2,750,000 Germans in Czechoslovakia passed through one or more of these institutions.

By the autumn of 1945, there were more than 150,000 people living in the internment camps including more than 16,000 children age 15 and younger. In his book, Our Threatened Values (London 1946) Victor Gollancz described the conditions Sudeten German civilians were faced with in a Czech concentration camp: "They live crammed together in shacks without consideration for gender and age ... They ranged in age from 4 to 80. Everyone looked emaciated ... the most shocking sights were the babies ... nearby stood another mother with a shrivelled bundle of skin and bones in her arms ... Two old women lay as if dead on two cots. Only upon closer inspection, did one discover that they were still lightly breathing. They were, like those babies, nearly dead from hunger ..."

According to Alfred de Zayas:

Conditions in the internment camp near Kolínmarker, in which internees were raped and beaten and two of them were killed were investigated by the Czechoslovak parliament. According to a rough estimate by Tomáš Staněk, approximately 10,000 people died in Bohemian and Moravian camps and prisons from 1945 to 1948. The causes of death included epidemics, undernourishment, overall exhaustion and old age, but also ill-treatment and executions.


Germans living in the border regions of Czechoslovakia were expelled from the country in late 1945. Several thousand died violently (some sources refers to 16.000 reported direct violent death including 6000 suicides during the expulsion and many more died from hunger and illness as a consequence. In 1946, an estimated 1.3 million ethnic Germans were deported to the American zone of what would become West Germany. An estimated 800,000 were deported to the Soviet zone (in what would become East Germany). [452386]

Act No. 115/1946 Coll.

On 8 May 1946 the Czechoslovak provisional National Assembly passed Act No. 115/1946 Coll. It is one of the most controversial laws enacted in conjunction with the Beneš decrees as it specifies that "Any act committed between September 30, 1938 and October 28, 1945, the object of which was to aid the struggle for liberty of the Czechs and Slovaks or which represented just reprisals for actions of the occupation forces and their accomplices, is not illegal, even when such acts may otherwise be punishable by law." This law, which is still in force, has de facto ensured that no atrocities against Germans during the time-period in question have been prosecuted in Czechoslovakia. [452387]

However, the Czech government did express its regret in the 1997 Joint Czech-German Declaration on the Mutual Relations and their Future Development:


German sources estimate that between 3 million and 3.4 million German civilians were to be found in Czechoslovak territory at the end of the war. Estimates of casualties range between 15,000 and 270,000 people, depending on source. They died in internment camps and on the roads.[452388] Approximately 10,000 died in "internment camps" in the years 1945-1948

Czech official records confirm the general outline of expellee memory, though Stanek convincingly discounts Sudeten German estimates of 250,000 deaths during the expulsions from 1945 to 1947. While no official death figures exist, Staněk puts the total of German deaths by suicide, murder, and disease at between 24,000 and 40,000.

Ironically, a large fraction of the expellees were themselves of Czech background, but as they had adopted the German language over centuries of Austrian rule, had often taken German names, and had forgotten Czech (or spoke it badly), they were expelled as "Germans". Today, German and Austrian citizens with Czech surnames are not uncommon.


The character of the post-war deportations of Sudeten Germans has been the subject of long-running debate between Germans, Czechs and Slovaks. In 1991 President Václav Havel apologized, on behalf of his people, for massacres of Germans during the expulsion, and even suggested that former inhabitants of the Sudetenland might apply for Czech nationality to reclaim their lost properties. However, the Czech government never followed through on Havel's suggestion.

In the Czech Republic the Sudeten question still poisons the political atmosphere. The present Czech government will not repeal the Benes decrees, which provided the legal basis for the expulsion of three million Germans accused of collective collaboration with the Nazi regime and the confiscation of their property. Public opinion surveys indicate that the public is opposed to such measures.

According to an article in the Prague Daily Monitor:

Compensation to expellees

Since the Czechoslovak government-in-exile decided that population transfer was the only solution of the German question, the problem of reparation (war indemnity) was closely associated. The proposed population-transfer as presented in negotiations with the governments of U.S., UK and U.S.S.R., presumed the confiscation of the Germans' property to cover the reparation demands of Czechoslovakia; then Germany should pay the compensation to satisfy its citizens. This fait accompli was to prevent Germany's evasion of reparation payment as happened after World War I.[452389]

This plan was suggested to the Inter-Allied Reparation Agency (IARA) in 1945, but because of the advent of the Cold war was never confirmed by any treaty with Germany. The IARA ended its activity in 1959 and the status quo is as follows: Czech Republic kept the property of expelled ethnic Germans while Germany didn't pay any reparations (only about 0.5 % of Czechoslovak demands were satisfied[452390]). For this reason, every time the Sudetengermans request compensation or the abolition of the Beneš decrees, the Czech side strikes back by the threat of reparation demands.

Even during the preparation of the Czech-German declaration the German side avoided the Czech demand to confirm the status quo by the agreement. However, Germany adopted the Czechoslovak fait accompli and had paid the compensation to the expellees. It is a little known fact that, up to 1993 the German government paid about 141,000,000,000 DEM to the expelees.[452391] This averages out to about 14,000 DEM for each expelled Sudeten Germans (just for comparison: the still living prisoners who worked for Siemens as slave labor in Ravensbrückmarker during the war, got only 1000 EUR(=cca 2000 DEM) as the compensation). But the total amount of money given to Sudeten Germans by German state is uncertain.

In contrast to Germany, the issue of compensation of expellees was, at least nominally, closed by several treaties with Austria and Hungary.[452392] The most important follows:
  • Treaty of 19 December 1974. According to this treaty Czechoslovakia pledged to pay 1,000,000,000 ATS to cover the property demands of Austrian citizens and waived all former territory and all other demands of country or individuals against Austria. The Austrian side waived all demands against ČSSR and pledged to not support any demands of individuals against the ČSSR related to expulsion.
  • Treaty of 3 February 1964. According to this treaty Czechoslovakia pledged to satisfy all demands of Hungary and Hungarian citizens related to confiscations by paying 20,000,000 Kčs.

See also


General articles


  1. Naše geografická situace a historie naší země od 10. století tu může býti všem dostatečným důvodem a dokladem k tomu, že toto konečné řešení německé otázky u nás je naprosto nezbytné, jedině správné a opravdu logické.[1]
  2. Edvard Beneš[2]
  3. Československo-sovětské vztahy v diplomatických jednáních 1939–1945. Dokumenty. Díl 2 (červenec 1943 – březen 1945). Praha. 1999. (ISBN 808547557X)
  4. Biman, S. - Cílek, R.: Poslední mrtví, první živí. Ústí nad Labem 1989. (ISBN 807047002X)
  5. P. WALLACE/BERLIN "Putting The Past To Rest", Time Magazine Monday, Mar. 11, 2002
  6. Miroslav Trávníček: Osidlování s hlediska mezinárodního a vnitrostátního právního řádu. In Časopis pro právní a státní vědu XXVII (1946).
  7. Sudeten German Inferno. Part 4: The hushed-up tragedy of the ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia. Ingomar Pust
  8. The Expulsion of 'German' Communities from Eastern Europe at the end of the Second World War, Steffen Prauser and Arfon Rees, European University Institute, Florense. HEC No. 2004/1. pg. 18.
  9. Z. Beneš, et al., p. 221
  10. Z. Beneš, et al., p. 221
  11. Z. Beneš, et al., p. 223
  12. Pätzold, Brigitte. "The German exodus" Le monde diplomatique March 2004

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