World War II evacuation and expulsion

World War II evacuation and expulsion

World War II evacuation and expulsion refers to forced deportation, mass evacuation and displacement of peoples spurred on by the hostilities between Axis and Allied powers, and the border changes enacted in the post-war settlement.

The crisis in former Axis-occupied territories after liberation provided the context for much of the new international refugee and human rights architecture that survives today.

World War II related deportations, expulsions and similar displacements

* During the Finnish occupation of East Karelia during World War II the Russian speaking population of the city of Petrozavodsk was held in an concentration camp.

* Expulsion of Poles by Germany. During World War II, Nazis planned to ethnically cleanse the whole Polish population. Eventually during Nazi occupation up to 1.6 to 2 million Poles were expelled, not counting millions of slave labourers deported from Poland. [ [ Poles: Victims of the Nazi Era] ]

* More than 250,000 Serbs were expelled from Croatia by the extreme nationalist Ustashe regime during the Serbian Genocide, in 1941-1945. [ [ Ustasa, Croatian nationalist, fascist, terrorist movement created in 1930.] ]

*During WWII, Japanese-Americans and Japanese-Canadians were interned in camps due to fears that Japanese immigrants might be a fifth column supporting the enemy.

* During WWII, in Kosovo & Metohija, some 10,000 Serbs lost their livesSerge Krizman, Maps of Yugoslavia at War, Washington 1943.] ISBN 86-17-09287-4: Kosta Nikolić, Nikola Žutić, Momčilo Pavlović, Zorica Špadijer: Историја за трећи разред гимназије природно-математичког смера и четврти разред гимназије општег и друштвено-језичког смера, Belgrade, 2002, pg. 182] , and about 80 to 100,000 [ Annexe I] , by the Serbian Information Centre-London to a report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.] or more were ethnically cleansed. Hundreds of thousands more Serbs would be ethnically cleansed from Kosovo by coercion in the decades from 1945 to 1991.

* Deportation of Volga Germans by Soviet Union to Kazakhstan, Altai Krai, Siberia, and other remote areas, in 1941-1942.

* Deportation of Crimean Tatars, Kalmyks, Chechens, Ingush, Balkars, Karachays, and Meskhetian Turks by Soviet Union to Central Asia and Siberia, 1943-1944. [ [ 60 Years After: For Victims Of Stalin's Deportations, War Lives On] ]

* The ethnic cleansing of Hungarians, or the massacres in Bačka by titoist partisans during the winter of 1944-45, about 40.000 massacred. [" [ Tibor Cseres: Serbian vendetta in Bacska] ] Afterwards, between 45-48, internation camps were set which led directly to the death of 70.000 more, of famine, frost, plagues, tortures and executions.

* The ethnic cleansing and massacres of Poles in Volhynia by nationalist UPA which took place in 1943 and 1944, with the bulk of victims reported for summer and autumn 1944.

* The ethnic cleansing of Cham Albanians from Southern Epirus by Greeks which took place in 1944 and 1945, circa 18,000-35000 [ Victor Roudometof, Collective Memory, National Identity, and Ethnic Conflict Greece, Bulgaria, and the Macedonian Question, p.181-182 The figure of 30,000 is adopted from the Cham associations without checking the other sources used in the discussion in this chapter.] fled to Albania, and from several hundred to 2,800 killed.

* Expulsion of Germans after World War II. From 1944 until 1948, between 13.5 and 16.5 million Germans were expelled, evacuated or fled from Central and Eastern Europe, making this the largest single instance of ethnic cleansing in recorded history. Estimated number of those who died in the process is being debated by historians and estimated between 500,000 and 3,000,000. [" [ The Expulsion of 'German' Communities from Eastern Europe at the end of the Second World War] ", European University Institute, Florense. EUI Working Paper HEC No. 2004/1, Edited by Steffen Prauser and Arfon Rees pp. 4]

* Istrian exodus during and after World War II. The diaspora of 350,000 ethnic Italians from Istria, Fiume and dalmatian Zara lands, after the collapse of Italian fascist regime.

* Manchuria, under Soviet occupation following World War II and soon to become a battlefield between the Chinese communist forces and the Nationalist forces was home to hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens. Korea and Taiwan, now free from Japanese rule, and Sakhalin, under Soviet military occupation, were Japanese territories before World War II and had millions of Japanese residents. All these were now to be expelled.

* The mass deportation of Ukrainian speaking ethnic minorities from the territory of Poland after World War II, culminating in 1947 with the start of Operation Wisla. 1.5 million Poles were simultaneously deported from the eastern territories annexed by the Soviet Union into the western territories, which Soviets transferred from Germany to Poland. By 1950, 1.6 million Poles from the eastern territories annexed by the Soviet Union had been settled in what the government called the Regained Territories.

* Communist regime in Romania begins evictions of the Greek community, approx. 75,000 migrate.

Establishment of refugee organisations

The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration was set up in 1943, to provide humanitarian relief to the vast numbers of potential and existing refugees in areas facing Allied liberation. UNRRA provided billions of US dollars of rehabilitation aid, and helped about 8 million refugees. It ceased operations in Europe in 1947, and in Asia in 1949, upon which it ceased to exist. It was replaced in 1947 by the International Refugee Organization (IRO), which in turn evolved into United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 1950.

External links

* [ Poles: Victims of the Nazi Era (USHMM)]
* [ The Expulsion of the Citizens of Skierbieszów]


Unbalanced and incomplete essays about Poland-related events

Deportation of Jews

After the invasion of Poland Western pre-WWII Polish territories were incorporated in the German Reich. The area was subdivided into three Regierungsbezirke ("administrative districts") – Poznań, Inowrocław, and Łódź. On September 1, 1939, it had 390,000 Jews (including 4,500 in Poznań, 54,090 in Inowrocław, and 326,000 in the Łódź district – 233,000 in the city of Łódź). Like all Polish areas incorporated into the Reich, Wartheland was from the beginning designated to become judenrein (Reinhard Heydrich's "Schnellbrief" of September 21, 1939). In a secret order to the RSHA (Reichssicherheitshauptamt – Reich Security Main Office) and the high SS and police officials, issued on October 30, 1939, Heinrich Himmler fixed the period of November 1939–February 1940 for clearing the incorporated areas of their entire Jewish population and the majority of their Polish population as well. A similar decree was issued on November 4, 1939, by Wartheland's Gauleiter Arthur Greiser.

Arrangements were made for the transfer of 100,000 Jews from Polish territory during this period. In fact, more than 50 Jewish communities were deported wholly or in part to the Lublin district between the Fall of 1939 and May 1940; the larger communities among those deported were Poznań, Kalisz, Ciechocinek, Gniezno, Inowrocław, Nieszawa, and Konin.

In some towns the deportation was carried out in stages, with a small number of Jews remaining, engaged in work for the Nazi authorities. In some instances, the regime of terror drove the Jews to desperation, so that they chose "voluntary" exile. This happened in Lipno and in Kalisz, where many Jews, unable to withstand the persecution, fled from the city in October and November 1939. In Łódź, over ten thousand Jews, including most of the Jewish intelligentsia, were deported in December 1939. For weeks the deportees were kept at assembly points, and had to supply their own means of subsistence, though they had been deprived of all their valuables. Large assembly points were located at Kalisz, Sieradz, and Łódź. There, the "Selektion" ("selection") took place in which able-bodied men, aged 14 and over, were sent to labor camps which had been established in the meantime, while women, children, and old men were deported in sealed freight cars to the Lublin and Kielce areas. This occurred in the severe winter of 1939-1940, and upon arrival at their destination, some of the deportees were dead, others nearly frozen, or otherwise seriously ill. The survivors were bereft of clothing, food, and money. A few found refuge with relatives or friends, but most of them had to find places in the crowded synagogues and poorhouses. For the Jewish communities of the Lublin and Radom districts, the influx of deportees was a very heavy burden. Most of the deportees perished before mass deportation began.

Deportation of Poles

::"Note: treatment of Poles of Jewish descent is covered in a separate section"

The Germanization of the annexed lands also included an ambitious program to resettle Germans from the Baltic and other regions on farms and other homes formerly occupied by Poles and Jews. The action started in the summer of 1939 with mass arrest and confiscation of property of Polish minority in Germany. Following the Polish Defensive War and the occupation of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union, mass expulsions started in various parts of the country.

Since October 1939, the Wehrmacht, SS and other Nazi organisations began to expel Poles and Jews from the Wartheland, Pomerelia and other parts of Poland directly incorporated into Nazi Germany. The modus operandi was similar for all areas: the German officials used to surround a village or a town and certain amount of time (usually between 15 minutes and 1 hour) all the non-German inhabitants are to pack their personal belongings (usually no more than 15 kilograms per person), clean the house and leave it with the doors open and all the keys on the table. Then the civilians were rounded up and transported to transfer camps, from where they were usually deported to various final train stations within the so-called General Government. By the end of 1940, the German authorities had expelled approximately 325,000 people without warning. Their property was either confiscated by the authorities and sent to Germany or given to German settlers.

Many elderly people and children died en route or in makeshift transit camps such as those in the towns of Potulice, Smukała, and Toruń. In 1941, the Germans expelled 45,000 more people, but they scaled back the program after the invasion of the Soviet Union in late June 1941. Trains used for resettlement were more urgently needed to transport soldiers and supplies to the front. However, the resettlement of Poles of all denominations continued, mostly in Silesia and the area of Żywiec, from where 19,000 people were deported in October of 1940.

At the same time Nazi Germany faced the problem of Germans forcibly resettled from parts of Romania annexed by the Soviet Union. As most of the gauleiters of the Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany refused to accept large number of refugees, on July 15, 1942 Odilo Globocnik announced that the area of Zamość was planned as a place of settlement of Transylvanian Germans. The city of Zamość itself was to be renamed "Himmlerstadt" and become a part of the Reich. Although the name shift did not succeed, the expulsions of Poles and other nationalities proceeded as planned. Until 1943 more than 116,000 people were expelled from their homes.

Altogether, during the German occupation of Poland, it is estimated that between 1.6 and 2 million people were expelled from their homes during the 1939-1944 period. This number does not include millions of slave workers or people arrested by the Germans and sent to Nazi concentration camps. According to Czesław Łuczak, the number could be broken down as follows:

* Wartheland - 630,000 people
* Silesia - 80,000
* Pomerelia - 124,000 (the number is disputed by prof. Bogdan Chrzanowski who sees it at ca. 140,000)
* Białystok and Ciechanów areas - 50,000 - 54,000
* Zamość - 116,000
* Warsaw - between 450,000 and 500,000

In addition, several hundred thousands of people were expelled by the local administration, outside of the official expulsions or were caught in łapankas and sent to Germany as slave workers. Poles were also expelled to make room for German quarters or ghettos.

After the war several millions of Poles were deported from the Kresy to Regained Territories. See Repatriation of Poles (1944-1946) and Repatriation of Poles (1955-1959).

Deportation of Germans and others

In May 1945, it was estimated that there were over 40 million displaced people in Europe in Germany itself. This number excludes some 13 million ethnic Germans who were evacuated and/or expelled from the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia, pre-war German territory and other European countries (see Flight and expulsion of Germans during and after WWII). In addition, there were nearly 11.5 million foreign labour forces and displaced persons in the territory of the former German Reich. Many of these were Polish, French, Danish, Ukrainian and Russian people who went voluntarly or had been taken by force to Germany to work in agriculture and industry.

Jewish Resettlement in Palestine

The Holocaust and its aftermath left millions of refugees, including many Jews who had lost most or all of their family members and possessions, and often faced persistent anti-Semitism in their home countries. The need to find a homeland for the Jewish refugees led to many of them fervently joining the Zionist movement. Many Zionists, pointing to the fact that Jewish refugees from Germany and Nazi-occupied lands had been turned away by other countries, argued that if a Jewish state had existed at the time, the Holocaust could not have occurred on the scale it did. The sudden rapid growth of Zionism and the post-Holocaust displacement resulted in the emigration of a great many Jews to Palestine, about 25% of which became the modern State of Israel soon after.


The Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 sparked a lasting refugee crisis, which in many respects persisted until the final resolution of the Chinese Civil War. Manchuria, under Soviet occupation following World War II and soon to become a battlefield between the Chinese communist forces and the Nationalist forces was home to hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens. Korea and Taiwan, now free from Japanese rule, and Sakhalin, under Soviet military occupation, were Japanese territories before World War II and had millions of Japanese residents. All these were now to be expelled. The broadening of the conflict beyond the Chinese theatre did however spark a wider refugee problem in the post war period.

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