The German eastward expansion (Ostsiedlung)1

(Page 4 of 4)

Only at the time of National Socialism were a part of the ethnic Germans (Volksdeutsche), scattered across Europe, resettled under the banner, "Heim ins Reich" in the German Reich (Deutsche Reich). This resettlement finally ended in total chaos as they fled from the Russian army.

Resettlement of Ethnic Germans from 1939 to 1944
Resettlement of Ethnic Germans from 1939 to 1944
Anzahl - Number of Persons in Thousands (Rounded up)


Many Germans who had been born in Russia, Ukraine or Romania, answered the call and lost family members, their homes, and their belongings. The "megalomania" of a dictator led to a historically unprecedented resettlement, expulsion and killing of people, that continued even after the end of the Second World War.

Of these, 16.9 million Germans were affected. Their ancestors had once left their homeland as colonists to develop land which was inhospitable at that time. Now that they had done their job 'outside', they were expected to help with the expansion of Nazi Germany, by being resettled in the Warthegau and by exercising their colonizing abilities there.

The Reichsgau Warthegau in the Nazi Germany in 1945
The Reichsgau Warthegau in the Nazi Germany in 1945


Throughout the Second World War, Sudeten Germans, Germans of Yugoslavia, Transylvanian Saxons and Banat Swabians fought side-by-side with the Imperial Germans in the Wehrmacht.

Battle of Stalingrad
Hitler's rallying call, "Fight to the bitter end,"
cost the lives of thousands of soldiers.

The heaviest tolls came from the minorities when the tide then turned against Germany in the Battle of Stalingrad (1943).

The victors vanquished the losers as the Nazis had demonstrated with their inhumane practice of extermination.

Only 3.2 million "dis-appeared" in the Russian extermination and internment camps (Gulag) or remained missing. Two million of them lost their civic rights and their property, because they remained in their homeland. The fate of 1.4 million Germans from Russia is still partly unresolved.


Their deportation to Siberia and Kazakhstan began in August 1941 and, although initially related only to the Volga Germans (nearly 366,000 were deported in September 1941), following an earlier expulsion in August of 40-50,000 Germans settled in Crimea (Crimea Germans) at the beginning of the invasion of German troops. In 1942, there were only 960 Crimea Germans in the Crimea.

Functionaries and sympathizers lists were created and they were liquidated (killed) before the deportation date.


From Ukraine 100,000 able-bodied men were deported from July to October 1941, and an additional 25,000 were deported from the Caucasus to Kazakhstan in October. 350,000 were overtaken in their flight from the Warthegau on the Eastern front and deported to the East. Countless numbers, who had escaped to the allies, were handed over to the Soviet Union and sentenced to forced labor (Trudarmija1).

Retaliatory actions of the Soviet, Polish, Czech and Yugoslav partisans were now directed against the Germans. The closer the front drew to Berlin, the more abuse, rapes, exterminations and mass deportations were used.

The Occupants of the GULAG also Worked in the Dead of Winter in the Siberian Forest.
The Occupants of the GULAG also Worked
in the Dead of Winter in the Siberian Forest..

In November 1944, already deprived of all State-civil rights and their property, 200,000 German origin Yugoslavs arrived in camps and 50,000 were deported to the Soviet Union.

In Romania, 500,000 who remained at "home" in 1949 were declared "outlaws" and experienced severe reprisals. In January 1945, more than 75,000 people 17 to 45 years of age were deported to the Soviet Union where they were forced to work (Trudarmija2). 425,000 were fully expropriated in March 1945.

"Savage Expulsions" in Czechoslovakia
"Savage Expulsions" in Czechoslovakia

Approximately 80,000 remaining in Hungary were deported to forced labor and 1/4 did not survive. In the spring and summer of 1945 there were mass executions and massacres (death march of Brno3) in Czechoslovakia. Approximately 400,000 Sudeten Germans died or remained missing.

A million Germans fled to the West, and thousands did not survive the hardships. Their abandoned villages and towns were occupied by Slavs.


Resettlement in the West
Resettlement in the West

By the end of 1949, 4.3 million uprooted/homeless people arrived in East Germany. This was 1/4 of the total population of the founding GDR.

A partial rehabilitation of the Volga Germans was made on 29 August 1964 - but they could not return to their home towns.


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1 Thanks to S. Winkler for help with the English translation of this page

2 Trudarmija = Labor Army (Russian: Трудовая армия Trudovaya armija) was a militarized form of forced labor in the Soviet Union during and after the Second World War from 1941 to 1946. It primarily affected Germans, but also, the Finno-Ugric Komis, Romanians, Hungarians and Italians.
The most innocent prisoners were used because of their German ancestry as free labor for which they were treated like criminals and murderers. The difference in the Trudarmija vs. prison was only the fact that the people were not imprisoned, but housed in a labor colony. The prisoners were shot in cold blood about 100 meters away from the barracks. All the prisoners were under special supervision of the NKVD (the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs) and could not leave the colony without permission of the NKVD.

3 Brno death march = After the end of World War II, the German-speaking population was forcibly expelled from the city. In the Brno death march (beginning on May 31, 1945) about 27,000 mainly elderly and young citizens had to walk 60 km to the Austrian border. According to the latest research approximately 5,200 people were killed, but only 2,000 deaths were officially assigned.