Territorial changes of Germany

Territorial changes of Germany


German settlement in Eastern Europe

Part of the motivation behind the territorial changes are based on events in the history of Germany and Europe, especially Eastern Europe. Migrations that took place over more than a millennium led to pockets of Germans living throughout Eastern Europe as far east as Russia. The existence of these pockets was used by German nationalists and the Nazis to justify their territorial claims.

The rise of European nationalism

The territorial changes of Germany after World War II must be interpreted in the context of the evolution of global nationalism in general and European nationalism in particular.

The latter half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century saw the rise of nationalism in Europe. Previously, a country consisted largely of whatever peoples lived on the land that was under the dominion of a particular ruler. Thus, as principalities and kingdoms grew through conquest and marriage, a ruler could wind up with peoples of many different ethnicities under his dominion.

The concept of nationalism was based on the idea of a "people" who shared a common bond through race, religion, language and culture. Furthermore, nationalism asserted that each "people" had a right to its own state. Thus, much of European history in the latter half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century can be understood as efforts to realign national boundaries with this concept of "one people, one state".

Much conflict would arise when one nation asserted territorial rights to land outside its borders on the basis of a common bond with the people living on that land. Another source of conflict arose when a group of people who constituted a minority in one nation would seek to secede from the nation either to form an independent nation or join another nation with whom they felt stronger ties. Yet another source of conflict was the desire of some nations to expel people from territory within its borders on the ground that those people did not share a common bond with the majority of people living in that nation.

Formation of the German Empire

The North German Confederation, led by the Kingdom of Prussia, was combined with the southern states of Baden, Württemberg, Bavaria and Hesse to form the German Empire in 1871. In some of Prussia's eastern provinces, such as the Province of Posen, the majority of the population was Polish.


Britain ceded Heligoland to Germany in 1890 in accordance with the terms of the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty.

World War I


As part of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Russia's new Bolshevik (communist) government renounced all claim to Finland, the future Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), Poland, Belarus, Ukraine.

Most of these territories were in effect ceded to the German Empire, intended to become economically dependent on and politically closely tied to that empire under different German kings and dukes.

Regarding the ceded territories, the treaty stated that "Germany and Austria-Hungary intend to determine the future fate of these territories in agreement with their population" with few other effects than the appointment of German rulers to the new thrones of Finland, Latvia and Lithuania.

Territorial changes after World War I

Treaty of Versailles

legend|#f6d3a9|Weimar Germany
The provisions of the Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I obliged Germany to transfer some territory to other countries. Besides the loss of the German colonial empire the territories Germany lost were:
* Alsace-Lorraine, the territories, actually annexed by France in 1681, which were ceded to Germany in accordance with the Preliminaries of Peace signed at Versailles on February 26, 1871, and the Treaty of Frankfurt of May 10, 1871, were restored to French sovereignty without a plebiscite as a precondition to armistice (i.e. and therefore not as a clause of the Treaty of Versailles) with effect from the date of the Armistice (November 11, 1918). (area 14 522 km², 1,815,000 inhabitants (1905)),
* Northern Schleswig including the German-dominated towns of Tondern (Tønder), Apenrade (Aabenraa), Sonderburg (Sønderborg), Hadersleben (Haderslev) and Lügum in Schleswig-Holstein, after the Schleswig Plebiscite, to Denmark (area 3 984 km², 163,600 inhabitants (1920)),
* The Prussian provinces Posen and West Prussia, which Prussia had annexed in Partitions of Poland (1772-1795), were returned to the reborn Poland. This territory had already been liberated by local Polish population during the Great Poland Uprising of 1918-1919 (area 53 800 km², 4,224,000 inhabitants (1931), including 510 km² and 26,000 inhabitants from Upper Silesia).
* West Prussia was given to Poland to provide free access to the sea, along with a sizeable German minority, creating the Polish corridor.
* The Hlučínsko Hulczyn area of Upper Silesia to Czechoslovakia (area 316 or 333 km², 49,000 inhabitants),
* The east part of Upper Silesia, to Poland (area 3 214 km², 965,000 inhabitants), although during the Upper Silesia plebiscite 60 % voted in favour of remaining inside Germany
* The area of German cities Eupen and Malmedy to Belgium
* The northern part of East Prussia as "Memelland" under control of France, later transferred to Lithuania without plebiscite.
* The area of Soldau in East Prussia (railway station on the Warsaw-Gdańsk route) to Poland (area 492 km²),
* From the eastern part of West Prussia and the southern part of East Prussia Warmia and Masuria, a small area to Poland (see East Prussian plebiscite),
* The province of Saarland to be under the control of the League of Nations for 15 years, after that a plebiscite between France and Germany, to decide to which country it would belong. During this time the coal went to France.
* The port of Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland) with the delta of Vistula river at the Baltic Sea was made the "Freie Stadt Danzig" (Free City of Danzig) under the League of Nations. (area 1 893 km², 408,000 inhabitants (1929)).
* Germany acknowledges and will respect strictly the independence of Austria.


The Sudeten Germans had attempted to prevent the German language border areas of former Austria from becoming part of Czechoslovakia in 1918. They had proclaimed the German-Austrian province Sudetenland in October 1918, voting instead to join the newly declared Republic of German Austria in November 1918. This had been forbidden by the victorious allied powers of the First World War (the Treaty of Saint-Germain) and by the Czechoslovak government, partly with force of arms in 1919. Many Sudeten Germans rejected an affiliation to Czechoslovakia, because they had been refused the right to self-determination promised by US president Woodrow Wilson in his Fourteen Points of January 1918.

ilesian uprisings

The Silesian Uprisings ( _pl. Powstania śląskie) were a series of three armed uprisings (1919–1921) of the Polish people in the Upper Silesia region against Weimar Republic in order to separate the region (where in some parts Poles constituted a majority) from Germany and join it with the Second Polish Republic.


Territorial claims of German nationalists

By World War I, there were isolated groups of Germans or so-called Schwaben as far southeast as the Bosphorus (Turkey), Georgia, and Azerbaijan. After the war, Germany's and Austria-Hungary's loss of territory and the rise of communism in the Soviet Union meant that more Germans than ever constituted sizable minorities in various countries.

German nationalists used the existence of large German minorities in other countries as a basis for territorial claims. Many of the propaganda themes of the Nazi regime against Czechoslovakia and Poland claimed that the ethnic Germans ("Volksdeutsche") in those territories were persecuted. Indeed there was discrimination, harassment of ethnic Germans and confiscations of their property particularly in Poland.Fact|date=March 2008

The Nazis negotiated a number of population transfers with Joseph Stalin and others with Benito Mussolini so that both Germany and the other country would increase their ethnic homogeneity. However, these population transfers were not sufficient to appease the demands of the Nazis. The "Heim ins Reich" rhetoric of the Nazis over the continued disjoint status of enclaves such as Danzig and Königsberg was an agitating factor in the politics leading up to World War II, and is considered by many to be among the major causes of Nazi aggressiveness and thus the war. Adolf Hitler used these issues as a pretext for waging wars of aggression against Czechoslovakia and Poland.


On March 7, 1936, Hitler sent a small expeditionary force into the demilitarized Rhineland. This was a clear violation of the Treaty of Versailles (1919, official end of World War I), and as such, France and Britain were within their rights, via the Treaty, to oust the German forces. British public opinion blocked any use of military force, thus preventing French action, as they were internally divided and would not act without British support.

aar region

In 1933, a considerable number of anti-Nazi Germans fled to the Saar, as it was the only part of Germany left outside the Third Reich's control. As a result, anti-Nazi groups campaigned heavily for the Saarland to remain under control of League of Nations as long as Adolf Hitler ruled Germany. However, long-held sentiments against France remained entrenched, with very few sympathizing openly with France. When the 15-year-term was over, a plebiscite was held in the territory on 13 January, 1935: 90.3% of those voting wished to join Germany.

On 17 January 1935, the territory's re-union with Germany was approved by the League Council. On March 1, the Nazi Germany took over the region, and appointed Josef Bürckel as "Reichskommissar für die Rückgliederung des Saarlandes", "Imperial Commissioner for the re-union of Saarland".

As the new Gau was extended to the Rhine, including the historic Palatinate, the region's name was changed again on 8 April 1940 to "Saarpfalz", "Saar-Palatinate". After the Battle of France, the re-annexed French département of Moselle was incorporated in the Reichsgau.


The Allies were, on paper, committed to upholding the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, which specifically prohibited the union of Austria and Germany. This notwithstanding, the Anschluss was among the first major steps in Adolf Hitler's long-desired creation of an empire including German-speaking lands and territories Germany had lost after World War I.

The events of March 12, 1938, marked the culmination of historical cross-national pressures to unify the German populations of Austria and Germany under one nation. However, the 1938 Anschluss, regardless of its popularity, was enacted by Germany. Earlier, Hitlerian Germany had provided support for the Austrian National Socialist Party (Austrian Nazi Party) in its bid to seize power from Austria's Austrofascist leadership. Fully devoted to remaining independent but amidst growing pressures, the chancellor of Austria, Kurt Schuschnigg, tried to hold a plebiscite.

Although Schuschnigg expected Austria to vote in favour of maintaining autonomy, a well-planned internal overthrow by the Austrian Nazi Party of Austria's state institutions in Vienna took place on March 11, prior to the vote. With power quickly transferred over to Germany, the Wehrmacht troops entered Austria to enforce the Anschluss. The Nazis held a plebiscite within the following month, where they received 99.73% of the vote. No fighting ever took place and the strongest voices against the annexation, particularly Fascist Italy, France and the United Kingdom: the Stresa Front, were powerless or, in case of Italy, appeased.

Memel Territory

By late 1938, Lithuania had lost control over the situation in the Memel Territory. In the early hours of 23 March 1939, after a political ultimatum had made a Lithuanian delegation travel to Berlin, the Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Juozas Urbšys and his German counterpart Joachim von Ribbentrop signed the "Treaty of the Cession of the Memel Territory to Germany" in exchange for a Lithuanian Free Zone in the port of Memel, using the facilities erected in previous years.



On September 29, 1938 Adolf Hitler, Neville Chamberlain, Benito Mussolini and Édouard Daladier signed the Munich Agreement. The Czechoslovak government capitulated on September 30 and agreed to abide by the agreement. The settlement gave Germany the Sudetenland starting October 10, and de facto control over the rest of Czechoslovakia as long as Hitler promised to go no further.

Hitler and Chamberlain signed an additional resolution determining to resolve all future disputes between Germany and the United Kingdom through peaceful means. This is often confused with the Four-Power Munich Agreement itself, not least because most photographs of Chamberlain's return show him waving the paper containing the resolution, not the Munich Agreement itself.

Invasion of the rest of Czechoslovakia

On 13 March 1939, Nazi armies entered Prague and proceeded to occupy the remainder of Bohemia and Moravia, which was transformed into a protectorate of the Reich. The eastern half of the country, Slovakia, became a separate pro-Nazi state, the Slovak Republic.

Prime Minister Chamberlain felt betrayed by the Nazi seizure of Czechoslovakia, realising his policy of appeasement towards Hitler had failed, and immediately began to mobilize the British Empire's armed forces on a war footing. France did the same. Though no immediate action followed, Hitler's move on Poland in September started World War II in Europe.

World War II

seealso|Nazi Germany Geography SectionSee also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/


After invading Poland in 1939, Germany annexed the lands it was forced to give to a reformed Poland in 1919–1922 by the Treaty of Versailles, including the "Polish Corridor", West Prussia, the Province of Posen, and parts of eastern Upper Silesia. The council of the Free City of Danzig voted to become a part of Germany again, although Poles and Jews were deprived of their voting rights and all non-Nazi political parties were banned. Parts of Poland that had not been part of Wilhelmine Germany were also incorporated into the Reich.Two decrees by Adolf Hitler (October 8 and October 12, 1939) provided for the division of the annexed areas of Poland into the following administrative units:

* Reichsgau Wartheland (initially Reichsgau Posen), which included the entire Poznań Voivodeship, most of the Łódź Voivodeship, five counties of the Pomeranian Voivodeship, and one county of the Warszawa Voivodeship;
*Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia (initially Reichsgau West Prussia), which consisted of the remaining area of the Pomeranian Voivodeship and the Free City of Danzig;
* Ciechanów District (Regierungsbezirk Zichenau), consisting of the five northern counties of Warszawa Voivodeship (Płock, Płońsk, Sierpc, Ciechanów, and Mława), which became a part of East Prussia;
* Katowice District (Regierungsbezirk Kattowitz), or unofficially East Upper Silesia (Ost-Oberschlesien), which included Sosnowiec, Będzin, Chrzanów, and Zawiercie Counties, and parts of Olkusz and Żywiec Counties.

These territories had an area of 94,000 km² and a population of 10,000,000 people. The remainder of the Polish territory was annexed by the Soviet Union (see Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) or made into the German-controlled General Government occupation zone.

After the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, the district of Białystok, which included the Białystok, Bielsk Podlaski, Grajewo, Łomża, Sokółka, Volkovysk, and Grodno Counties, was "attached to" (not incorporated into) East Prussia.


After the invasion of France in 1940, Germany annexed Alsace-Lorraine. The German government never negotiated or declared a formal annexation, however, in order to preserve the possibility of an agreement with the West.Fact|date=July 2008

Eupen and Malmedy


Parts of Slovenia

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Slovenia "After Yugoslavia fell, Germany, Italy, and Hungary each annexed parts of Slovenia, the largest part being Lower Styria which was annexed to the "Ostmark" (Nazi German Austria)."

outh Tyrol

See ”Annexation to Nazist Germany” in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Alto_Adige-South_Tyrol

See also, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_Social_Republic

Territorial changes within 1937 Boundary after World War II

Note: The borders of Nazi Germany were considered to coincide with the 1937 boundaries of Germany for purposes of the Yalta, Potsdam, etc. agreements i.e., all areas that were incorporated into Nazi Germany between 1937 and 8 May 1945 were de facto repudiated (Yalta, Potsdam), and were therefore nonissues in the division of Nazi Germany. One exception was Memelland, which was incorporated into Nazi Germany at the end of March, 1939 (the U.S. didn't recognize that transfer, although the UK & France did). The Potsdam Conference declared that both East Prussia and Memelland should be placed under Soviet Administration. From Wikipedia on "Klaipėda Region": On 7 April 1946, the Königsberg Oblast (later renamed Kaliningrad Oblast) was founded that included the Memel Territory and became a new subject of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. On 7 April 1948, the Soviet Union transferred the Memel/Klaipeda District from Kaliningrad Oblast to the Lithuanian SSR.

As it became evident that the Allies were going to defeat Nazi Germany decisively, the question arose as to how to redraw the borders of Eastern European countries after the war. In the context of those decisions, the problem arose of what to do about ethnic minorities within the redrawn borders. The territorial changes at the end of World War II were part of negotiated agreements between the victorious Allies to redraw national borders and arrange for "orderly population transfers" to remove ethnic minorities that were viewed as troublesome.

The Yalta Conference

The final decision to move Poland's boundary westward was made by the US, Britain and the Soviets at the Yalta Conference, shortly before the end of the war. The precise location of the border was left open; the western Allies also accepted in general the principle of the Oder River as the future western border of Poland and of population transfer as the way to prevent future border disputes. The open question was whether the border should follow the eastern or western Neisse rivers, and whether Stettin, the traditional seaport of Berlin, should remain German or be included in Poland.

Originally, Germany was to retain Stettin while the Poles were to annex East Prussia with Königsberg. [http://www.ipn.gov.pl/biuletyn9-10_56-57.pdf] . Eventually, however, Stalin decided that he wanted Königsberg as a year-round warm water port for the Soviet Navy and argued that the Poles should receive Stettin instead. The wartime Polish government in exile had little to say in these decisions. [http://www.ipn.gov.pl/biuletyn9-10_56-57.pdf]

Key points of the meeting that are relevant to the territorial changes of Germany are as follows:
*There was an agreement that the priority would be the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. After the war, Germany would be split into four occupied zones, with a quadripartite occupation of Berlin as well, prior unification of Germany.
*Stalin agreed to let France have the fourth occupation zone in Germany and Austria, carved out from the British and American zones. France would also be granted a seat in the Allied Control Council.
*Germany would undergo demilitarization and denazification.
*The status of Poland was discussed, but was complicated by the fact that Poland was at this time under the control of the Red Army. It was agreed to reorganize the Provisionary Polish Government that had been set up by the Red Army through the inclusion of other groups such as the Polish Provisional Government of National Unity and to have democratic elections. This effectively excluded the Polish government-in-exile that had evacuated in 1939.
*The Polish eastern border would follow the Curzon Line, and Poland would receive substantial territorial compensation in the west from Germany, although the exact border was to be determined at a later time.
*A "Committee on Dismemberment of Germany" was to be set up. The purpose was to decide whether Germany was to be divided into several nations, and if so, what borders and inter-relationships the new German states were to have.

The Potsdam Conference

At the Potsdam Conference the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union placed the German territories within the 1937 Nazi Germany borders east of the Oder-Neisse line, and with the exception of parts of East Prussia, as formally under Polish administrative control (These were referred to by the Polish communist government as the "Western Territories" or "Regained Territories"). It was anticipated that a final peace treaty would follow shortly and either confirm this border or determine whatever alterations might be agreed upon. Northern East Prussia and Memelland were placed under Soviet administrative control. The 1919 Versailles Treaty created City-State of Danzig was also placed under Polish administration.

The final agreements in effect compensated Poland for 187,000 km² located east of the Curzon line with 112,000 km² of former German territories. The northern part of East Prussia was directly annexed by the Soviet Union and remains part of Russia to this day.

It was also decided that all Germans remaining in the new and old Polish territory should be expelled, to prevent any claims of minority rights. Among the provisions of the Potsdam Conference was a section that provided for the "Orderly transfer of German populations". The specific wording of this section was as follows::"The Three Governments, having considered the question in all its aspects, recognize that the transfer to Germany of German populations, or elements thereof, remaining in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, will have to be undertaken. They agree that any transfers that take place should be effected in an orderly and humane manner."

In fact, these transfers weren't orderly and humane at all. Caused by fear of the Red Army, most Germans in Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia fled to "the west". A lack of food and the frequency of military actions from the SS (it was forbidden to try to exit the region by order of Hitler) and the Red Army led to 1,8 million deaths. Women and children were most commonly victims of this chaotic transfer.

At the end of the conference, the Three Heads of Government agreed on the following actions:

Oder-Neisse Line (click to enlarge)]

** Issuance of a statement of aims of the occupation of Germany by the Allies: demilitarization, denazification, democratization and decartelization.
** Division of Germany and Austria respectively into four occupation zones (earlier agreed in principle at Yalta), and the similar division of each's capital, Berlin and Vienna, into four zones.
** Reversion of all German annexations in Europe after 1937, among these were Sudetenland, Alsace-Lorraine, Austria, the westmost parts of Poland, and others.
** Germany's eastern border was to be shifted westwards to the Oder-Neisse line, effectively reducing Germany in size by approximately 25% compared to her 1937 borders. The territories east of the new border comprised East Prussia, Silesia, the eastern part of Brandenburg, and two thirds of Pomerania. These areas were mainly agricultural, with the exception of Upper Silesia which was the second largest centre of German heavy industry.
** Expulsion of the German populations remaining beyond the new eastern borders of Germany.

*::"See also Western betrayal and Territorial changes of Poland after World War II
**Creation of a Provisional Government of National Unity recognised by all three powers. Recognition of the Soviet controlled government by the Western Powers effectively meant end of recognition for the existing Polish government in Exile.
**Poles who were serving in British Army formations should be free to return to Poland. With no security upon their return to the communist country guaranteed.
**The provisional western border should be the Oder-Neisse line, parts of East Prussia and former free City of Danzig should be under Polish administration, but that the final delimitation of the western frontier of Poland should await the peace settlement, which had to await the Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany in 1990.

Finalization of the Polish-German border

The problem with the status of these territories was that the concluding document of the Potsdam Conference in 1945 was not a legally binding treaty, but a memorandum between the USSR, the USA and the UK. It regulated the issue of the eastern German border, which was to be the Oder–Neisse line, but the final article of the memorandum said that the final decisions concerning Germany were to be subject to a separate peace treaty.

Based upon this interpretation of the Potsdam Agreement, the CDU controlled German government maintained that the Oder-Neisse line was completely unacceptable and subject to negotiation. Even the Social Democrats of the SPD initially refused to accept the Oder-Neisse line. Thus, the official German government position on the status of areas vacated by settled German communities east of the Oder–Neisse rivers was that the areas were "temporarily under Polish (or [Soviet] administration."

Between 1970 and 1990, the West German political establishment gradually recognised the "facts on the ground" and accepted clauses in the Treaty on the Final Settlement, whereby Germany renounced all claims to territory east of the Oder–Neisse line.In the Treaty of Warsaw (1970; ratified in 1972) West Germany recognized the Oder-Neisse line as Poland's western border and renounced any present and future territorial claims; this was reaffirmed by both German states in the 1990 Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany. The treaty was ratified in 1991 by the united Germany. This ended the legal limbo which meant that for 45 years, people on both sides of the border could not be sure whether the settlement reached in 1945 might be changed at some future date.


The "Working Party on Provisional Adjustments to the Western Frontiers ofGermany" approved in 1949 the provisional transfer of 20 km2 containing 500 inhabitants to Belgium: [ [http://www.law.fsu.edu/library/collection/limitsinseas/IBS007.pdf] ]
#Bildchen (returned in 1956)
#Lichtenbusch (returned in 1956)
#Leykoul (returned in 1956)
#Losheim (only the village returned in 1956)
#Hemmeres (returned in 1956)

The detached territory, in 1956 containing 704 inhabitants including refugees, was prior to its 1956 dissolution and partition between West Germany and Belgium ruled as an independent territory by Belgian Army Major General Paul Bolle who enjoyed dictatorial powers. [ [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,824416-1,00.html Autocrat's Adieu] Time Magazine, Oct. 08, 1956.]


See Bakker-Schut Plan


France expanded the Saarland by attaching parts of the Rhineland and thereafter detached the territory in 1947. see Monnet plan




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