Why such little publicity for the largest ethnic cleansing ever?

Why is there such little publicity for the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe in the timeframe of 1945-1947? I’m placing this here because it’s too IMHO for GQ, and probably too controversial for IMHO.

During this tragic period, at least 13 million German civilians were forcibly deported, mainly from Poland and Czechoslovakia. RJ Rummel estimates 1,782,000 perished, whilst military historian John Keegan believes the number of dead around 2,100,000. Books on this subject in English are few, with the most notable having been written by scholar Alfred-Maurice de Zayas.

I personally feel it may be the connections with Holocaust deniers, wherein that Holocaust deniers trumpet this ethnic cleansing as evidence of an anti-German conspiracy. Some nutty scholars, like Bacque, have written on this ethnic cleansing, but so have reliable ones, like Rummel, de Zayas, and Keegan.

Probably two main reasons:

  1. The 'leadership" of both those communities actively collaborated with the Nazis, pre and post invasion, you know the whole drang nach osten thing.

  2. At the time and subsequently it probably is seen as a solution to a genuine problem, in the denazification context.

A third reason - the expulsion of a group of people from an area is a lot less repugnant than the wholesale slaughter that the Nazis perpetrated during the thrid reich.

Oh yeah, I think that several of Stalin’s ethnic purges and the late unpleasantness in Turkey around 1919 might easily unseat the eastern German claim as 'largest ethnic cleansing ever"? Not to mention the whole Jewish thing.

Stalin’s purges certainly were massive, but they were over a gradual period of years. The Armenian genocide expelled about 3 million Armenians, killing at least 600,00 IIRC. The Holocaust left 5.8 million Jews dead, and more than 5 million as refugees. The expulsion of ethnic Germans deported around 14 million and killed roughly 2 million.

I think the real reason this whole thing was ignored is that circa 1947, not many people had any sympathy left for the Germans.

I’m tempted to say “They deserved it”.

Yeah, those thousands of children who starved or forze to death while being herded away at gunpoint by the communists really had it coming. :rolleyes:

A good recent popular account on this topic: The Vanished Kingdom: Travels Through the History of Prussia, by James Charles Roy. Roy discusses the cleansing in the broader context of Prussian history. It makes for a dreary story, as the city of Konigsberg, rich with centuries of architecture and culture, gets leveled to the ground to make way for the bleak Stalinist military outpost of Kaliningrad. The deportations weren’t just from Poland and Czechoslovakia but actually from Germany, or at least from land which had been German until World War II. The former East Prussia, of course, was divided between Poland and the Soviet Union.

Nevertheless, I think the reasons why this brutality has been overlooked are fairly obvious. A certain amount of “compassion fatigue” sets in against the background of the Holocaust and the World War. Of course many (perhaps most) of the individuals involved were blameless, but it’s human nature to assign a certain collective responsibility, and Prussia enthusiastically supported Hitler while they had a choice. It doesn’t justify what followed, but it does help to explain the lack of attention this massacre has received. The fact that both the survivors and those who displaced them were closeted behind the Iron Curtain for 45 years also played a part.

Collateral damage? :stuck_out_tongue:

Maybe “They were asking for it” is more appropriate. Or not.

You know, FP, there are some things you just shouldn’t say in public.

Serious question here: are some of those deaths attributed to the German exodus from East Prussia in the Spring of 1945, while the war was still ongoing?

I want to apologise for that comment. I’m not sure why I said it, if a mod could delete them I’d appreciate. I don’t want that to hurt my image on these boards or get me banned. I was trying to poke fun at how some governments write off civilian deaths as collateral, but it didn’t work and came out offenside. I also said I was tempted to say it they deserved it, as I know it was inappropriate and irrational.

I would think that this isn’t as “talked about” because these people were nazis and/or nazi sympathizers. Jews, Armenians, and Russian commonfolk (despite what some people think) can’t be compared.


but I know

florentine, these people were not Nazis by and large, I doubt less than 1% of them had joined the Nazi party. For the most part they had no idea of what was going on back in Germany politically. They were ethnic germans living in many places in eastern europe. Suddenly an occupying army which spoke their language moved in, and they got co-opted to help out, willing or no (and many were willing). Frankly, most ethnic germans were ignored completely by the occupying german armies. Of course, this made them luckier than their non-german neighbors. And the neighbors remembered this after the war.

My Grandfather was one of them, a “Danube Swabian”, whose family had lived in what is now Croatia for ove 150 years before the region was “cleansed” of germans after WWII.

Keegan’s figure of 2,100,000 does NOT include deaths of Prussian refugees during the war. I’m uncertain about Rummel’s calculations.

I’d point out that Churchill made a big stink about this in Triumph and Tragedy, the volume of his History of the Second World War dealing with 1945 and the postwar settlement, and had intended, if he remained in office after the election of 1945, to fight strongly against the Russian/Polish pressure for this exodus.

Well I’m sorry for my misunderstanding, then. It looked like from previous posts that most of these people were full-fledged nazis/supporters.

I think the largest was 40 million chinese killed in the 12th century by the mongols. Don’t have a cite, read it in a book long ago.

You could very well be correct. In that case, it is roughly the largest ethnic cleansing of the 20th century.