Former eastern territories of Germany
The former eastern territories of Germany (German: Ehemalige deutsche Ostgebiete) refer in present-day Germany to those territories (provinces or regions) east of the current eastern border of Germany (the Oder–Neisse line) which historically had been considered German and which were lost by Germany after World War II. Territories acquired by Poland after World War II were officially called there the Recovered Territories (but the term was used inconsistently in regard to the former Free City of Danzig). These territories had been ruled as part of Poland by the Piast dynasty in the High Middle Ages with the exception of East Prussia which originally was inhabited by Old Prussians and came under Polish suzerainty in the Late Middle Ages, which become predominantly German during the Ostsiedlung, either almost exclusively (Sambia, Natangia, and Bartia, together forming the central part of the region, approximately one-third), mixed German-Lithuanian (the North-Eastern part called Lithuania Minor, approximately one-third of the region, including Sudovia, Nadrovia and Scalovia), or mixed German-Polish (Masurians) limited to the one third comprising the southern rim of the region (Sasna and Galindia, together forming southern Masuria), as well as (to lesser extent) to Warmia, Pomesania, and Pogesania. The northern half of historic East Prussia was, however, made part of the Soviet Union, with the former Klaipeda Region reattached to the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic, and the rest being annexed by the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic as the Kaliningrad Oblast, now forming a Russian exclave.
In contrast to the lands awarded to the restored Polish state by the Treaty of Versailles, the territories lost after World War II included areas which were either contained mixed Polish-German population with German majority (Posen-West Prussia Border March, Ermland, the southern rim of East Prussia, West Upper Silesia, and the part of Lower Silesia east of Oder), or were almost exclusively inhabited by Germans before 1945 (rest of East Prussia, the part of Lower Silesia west of Oder, Farther Pomerania, and the parts of Hither Pomerania, Lusatia and Neumark awarded to Poland). The German population of the territories that had not fled in 1945 was expropriated and expelled, forming the majority of the Germans expelled from Eastern Europe.
The post-war border between Germany and Poland along the Oder–Neisse line was defined in August 1945 by the Potsdam Agreement of the leaders of the three Allied Powers, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States; and was formally recognized by East Germany in 1950, by the Treaty of Zgorzelec, under pressure from Stalin. In 1952, recognition of the Oder–Neisse Line as a permanent boundary was one of Stalin's conditions for the Soviet Union to agree to a reunification of Germany (see Stalin Note). The offer was rejected by West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. The then official West German government position on the status of former eastern territories of Germany east of the Oder and Neisse rivers was that the areas were "temporarily under Polish [or Soviet] administration", because the border regulation at the Potsdam Conference had been taken as preliminary provisions to be revisited at a final peace conference, which, also due to the Cold War had been indefinitely postponed.; however by 1970, West Germany recognised the Oder-Neisse line as the western boundary of Poland by the Treaty of Warsaw; and in 1973, the Federal Constitutional Court acknowledged the capability of East Germany to negotiate the Treaty of Zgorzelec as an international agreement binding as a legal definition of its boundaries. In signing the Helsinki Final Act in 1975, both West Germany and East Germany recognised the existing boundaries of post-war Europe, including the Oder-Neisse line, as valid in international law.
In 1990, as part of the reunification of Germany, West Germany accepted clauses in the Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany whereby Germany renounced all claims to territory east of the Oder–Neisse line. Germany's recognition of the Oder–Neisse line as the border was formalised by the re-united Germany in the German–Polish Border Treaty on 14 November 1990; and by the repeal of Article 23 of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany under which German states outside the Federal Republic could formerly have declared their accession.
The Pomeranian areas of the former eastern territories of Germany correspond to today's Polish Western Pomerania.The Pomeranian parts of the former eastern territories of Germany had been under Polish rule several times from the late 10th century on, when Mieszko I acquired at least significant parts of them. Mieszko's son Bolesław I established a bishopric in the Kołobrzeg area in 1000–1005/07, before the area was lost by Poland again to pagan Slavic tribes. Despite further attempts by Polish dukes to again control the Pomeranian tribes, this was only partly achieved by Bolesław III in several campaigns lasting from 1116 to 1121. Successful Christian missions ensued in 1124 and 1128; however, by the time of Bolesław's death in 1138, most of West Pomerania (the Griffin-ruled areas) was no longer controlled by Poland. The easternmost part of later Western/Farther Pomerania[Note 1] in the 13th century was part of Gdańsk Pomerania and was re-integrated with Poland, and later on, in the 14th and 15th centuries formed a duchy, whose rulers were vassals of the Jagiellonian-ruled Kingdom of Poland, before it was integrated with Western/Farther Pomerania. Over the following centuries the area was largely Germanized, although a Polish minority remained. An Duchy under the House of Griffin was constituted in the area. By the end of the Middle Ages, by influx of Germanic settlers, the introduction of German town law, the influence of Germanic customs and the trade of the Hanse the area has been heavily Germanized, except Gdansk Pomerania.The region of Pomerelia or Gdańsk Pomerania became part of the monastic state of the Teutonic Knights in 1308, after conflicts between Władysław I Łokietek and the local rulers had erupted. Under the Teutonic Order, the land advanced economically by influx of western, mainly German-speaking farmers, traders and craftsmen. In the Second Peace of Thorn, most of the region became part of Royal Prussia, which formed an autonomous province loyal to the Polish king. The region had initially until 1569 broad autonomy, governing itself and maintaining its own laws, customs and rights. The locally spoken language differed among social classes, with the aristocracy and urban population initially predominantly German-speaking, but gradually shifting towards Polish in the later years, while the peasantry continued as predominantly Kashubian-speaking.A small area in the west of Pomerelia, the Lauenburg and Bütow Land, was granted to the rulers of Pomerania as a Polish fief before it was reintegrated with Poland in 1637. It was later again transformed into a Polish fief, which it remained until the First Partition of Poland, with the exception of the City of Gdańsk, captured only in the Second Partition. The Prussian area was formed from Royal Prussia in 1773. After the first two Partitions of Poland in 1772 and 1793, the region with its minority of German-speakers was annexed by Prussia, forming the province of West Prussia, and returned to Poland after First World.
East Brandenburg (Neumark)Edit
The medieval Lubusz Land, on both sides of the Oder River up to the Spree in the west, including Lubusz (Lebus) itself, also formed part of Mieszko's realm. Poland lost Lubusz when the Silesian duke Bolesław II Rogatka sold it to the Ascanian margraves of Brandenburg in 1249. Brandenburg also acquired the castellany of Santok from Duke Przemysł I of Greater Poland and made it the nucleus of its Neumark ("New March") region. The Bishopric of Lebus remained a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Gniezno until 1424, when it passed under the jurisdiction of the Archbishopric of Magdeburg. The Lubusz Land was part of the Lands of the Bohemian (Czech) Crown from 1373 to 1415.
Posen-West Prussia, Lauenburg and Bütow Land, Free City of DanzigEdit
In the First Partition of Poland, the King in Prussia gained the territory of Royal Prussia including the Lauenburg and Bütow Land, but excluding Danzig, which was captured along with the region of Greater Poland in the Second Partition of Poland. During the Napoleonic era the Greater Polish territories formed part of the Duchy of Warsaw, and Danzig was granted a status of a Free City, but after the Congress of Vienna, Prussia annexed the Free City and Greater Poland, forming it (without its northern part around Wałcz and Złotów, transferred to West Prussia) into the autonomous Grand Duchy of Posen, later stripping it of its autonomy and reducing it to an ordinary Province of Posen (1849), but remaining outside of the German Confederation. The former Royal Prussia was divided, with its bulk forming West Prussia (together with the northern part of Greater Poland detached from the Grand Duchy of Posen), while Warmia wss assigned to East Prussia, with both West and East Prussia remaining outside the German Confederation. All the Polish territories included in the Province of Posen and West Prussia, as well as other parts located in East Prussia (Warmia) were annexed by Germany upon the formation of North German Confederation in 1866. In contrast, the Lauenburg and Bütow Land was annexed earlier immediately into the Province of Pomerania, thus into the Holy Roman Empire and its successor, the German Confederation (it is therefore treated on the maps presented in this section as a part of Pomerania). After the Treaty of Versailles, only the predominantly German-speaking western rim of these territories, as well as the Malbork Land in the East, remained a part of Germany, forming the province of Posen-West Prussia (except for the Lauenburg and Bütow Land remaining a part of the Province of Pomerania). The area was ecclesiastically covered by the Roman Catholic Territorial Prelature of Schneidemühl, a sui iuris iurisdiction (also covering the Lauenburg and Bütow Land). The bulk of the territory was awarded to the Second Polish Republic, while Danzig formed once again a Free City of Danzig, a self-governing territory under the auspices of the League of Nations, with a German-speaking majority and Polish minority, but in an imposed union with Poland covering the matters of foreign policy, customs, railways and the military, while ecclesiastically covered by a newly established sui iuris iurisdiction, the Diocese of Danzig.
Silesia, Kłodzko Land and Eastern LusatiaEdit
After Germanic tribes had left the area in the Migration Period, Lechitic tribes began to settle Silesia, while Lusatia was settled by the Polabian Slavs, and the Kłodzko Land by Bohemians. In the 10th century Mieszko I of Poland made Silesia part of his realm. From the 10th century to the 12th century, Silesia, Lusatia, as well as the Kłodzko Land, were contested between Bohemia and Poland. Several independent duchies formed, and eventually some attached themselves to the Kingdom of Bohemia, an Electorate of the Holy Roman Empire, while the Kłodzko Land became a constituent part of the Kingdom itself. In the 14th century, the Treaty of Trentschin had King Casimir III the Great give up all Polish claims to Silesia and ceded the Duchies of Silesia to the Lands of the Bohemian Crown.
The first German colonists arrived in he late 12th century, and large-scale German settlement started in the early 13th century during the reign of Henry I New forms of agriculture, technology, and law brought in by the German settlers, took root in the region, also to the profit of the Slavic population. By the late 14th century, 130 towns and 1300 villages had adopted German law. Typical Silesian cities such as Jelenia Góra (Hirschberg), Lwówek Śląski(Löwenberg), Złotoryja (Goldberg), introduced new laws to attract German settlers, had a typical architecture of being centered around a central square, the Ring, which became known in Polish as Rynek. German craftsmen and miners also started settling mountainous areas.
Briefly under the rule of the House of Jagiellon in personal union with the Kingdom of Hungary until the Battle of Mohacs, the Bohemian Lands were afterwards ruled in personal union with the Kingdom of Hungary and the Archduchy of Austria by the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperors, finally ceasing de facto (but not de jure) to exist as a separate realm and becoming a part of the Habsburg Monarchy, in the aftermath of crushing the Bohemian Revolt in the Battle of White Mountain. After another century, the bulk of the region was severed from the rest of the Lands of the Bohemian Crown, when the Habsburg Monarchy lost the Silesian Wars to the Kingdom of Prussia under Frederick the Great, thus being forced to cede most of it (excluding Austrian Silesia) in the Treaties of Breslau and Berlin, as well as the strategically important Kłodzko Land, a part of the core territory of the Kingdom of Bohemia. The latter area continued, however, to form a part of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Prague until 1972.
As the result of the peaceful influx of German-speakers, most of Silesia became German-speaking upon the consecutive extinction of various branches of Silesian Piasts, as earlier did Lusatia and later did most of the Kłodzko Land following the Silesian Wars, but Czech continued to be spoken in parts of Austrian Silesia, in Hlučín Region of the Upper Silesia and in the western part of Kłodzko Land (Czech Corner), Sorbian in parts of Lusatia, while Polish prevailed in Middle Silesia north of the Oder River and in Upper Silesia. In the latter case, the Germans who arrived during the Middle Ages became mostly Polonized, in particular with the advent of the industrial revolution which created employment and business opportunities, attracting numerous Poles to the area. The Polish-speaking parts of Lower and Middle Silesia, commonly described until the late 19th century as the Polish side, were mostly Germanised in the 18th and 19th centuries, except for a few patches and a larger area along the northeastern frontier.
East Prussia, including Warmia, and the Klaipėda RegionEdit
Originally inhabited mainly by the pagan Old Prussians (with the exceptions of the Polish-populated southern rim bordering Masovia, as well as the Lithuanian-populated Lithuania Minor), the regions were conquered and incorporated into the state of the Teutonic Knights in the 13th and 14th centuries. Under the Teutonic Order, the region's towns were founded, woodlands were cleared and marshlands made arable to be settled by colonists, prevailingly from German-speaking areas but also from neighboring Polish areas. By the Second Peace of Thorn (1466), Warmia and the Malbork Land were became subject to the Polish Crown as a part of Royal Prussia, a region initially holding considerable autonomy and keeping the German language. Masuria stayed part of the rump Teutonic state which became a German fief of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, finally secularised in 1525 to become the Ducal Prussia. The latter later emancipated and merged with the Electorate of Brandenburg, shortly thereafter becoming an independent Kingdom, and subsequently took direct control of the remaining areas in the First Partition of Poland (1772), and in 1773 included the area in the newly formed province of East Prussia. As a result of the Treaty of Versailles, a minor part around Soldau was transferred to Poland, the Klaipėda Region formed a free city supervised by the League of Nations, annexed following the Klaipėda Revolt by Lithuania but reclaimed by Germany in 1938, while the bulk (including entire Warmia and Masuria) remained a part of Germany, following the East Prussian plebiscite.
Other uses and definitions of the termEdit
In the Potsdam Agreement the description of the territories transferred is "The former German territories east of the Oder–Neisse line", and permutations on this description are the most commonly used to describe any former territories of interwar Germany east of the Oder–Neisse line.
The term has sometimes been confused with the name East Germany, a political term, used to be the common colloquial English name for the German Democratic Republic (GDR), and mirrored the common colloquial English term for the other German state of West Germany. When focusing on the period before World War II, "eastern Germany" is used to describe all the territories east of the Elbe (East Elbia), as reflected in the works of sociologist Max Weber and political theorist Carl Schmitt, but because of the border changes in the 20th century, after World War II the term "East Germany" and eastern Germany in English has meant the territory of the German Democratic Republic.
In German, only one corresponding term Ostdeutschland exists, meaning both East Germany and Eastern Germany. The rather ambiguous German term never gained as widespread use for the GDR during its existence, as did the English designation, or the derived demonym Ossi (Eastie), and only following the German reunification has it started to be commonly used to denote both the historic post-war German Democratic Republic, and its counterpart five successor states in the current reunited Germany. However, because people and institutions in the states traditionally considered as Middle Germany, like the three southern new states Saxony-Anhalt, the Free State of Saxony and the Free State of Thuringia, still use the term Middle Germany when referring to their area and its institutions, the term Ostdeutschland is still ambiguous.
As various Germanic tribes had moved to Central Europe, West Slavic tribes moved to most of present-day Poland from the 6th century onward. Duke Mieszko I of the Polans, from his stronghold in the Gniezno area, united various neighboring tribes in the second half of the 10th century, forned the first Polish state and became the first historically-recorded Piast duke. His realm bordered the German state, and control over the borderlands would shift back and forth between the two polities over the centuries to come.
Mieszko's son and successor, Duke Bolesław I Chrobry, upon the 1018 Peace of Bautzen expanded the southern part of the realm but lost control over the lands of Western Pomerania on the Baltic coast. After pagan revolts and a Bohemian invasion in the 1030s, Duke Casimir I the Restorer (reigned 1040-1058) again united most of the former Piast realm, including Silesia and Lubusz Land, on both sides of the middle Oder River but without Western Pomerania, which returned to of the Polish state only under Bolesław III Wrymouth from 1116 to 1121, when the noble House of Griffins established the Duchy of Pomerania. On Bolesław's death in 1138, Poland was for almost 200 years was subjected to fragmentation and ruled by Bolesław's sons and by their successors, who were often in conflict with one another. Władysław I the Elbow-high, who was crowned king of Poland in 1320, achieved a partial reunification, but the Silesian and Masovian duchies remained independent Piast holdings.
In the 12th to the 14th centuries, German settlers, most of whom spoke Low German, moved into Central and Eastern Europe in a migration process known as the Ostsiedlung, and the Hanseatic League dominated the shores of the Baltic Sea. In Pomerania, Brandenburg, Prussia and Silesia, the former West Slav (Polabian Slavs and Poles) or Baltic population became minorities in the course of the following centuries, but substantial numbers of them inhabitants remained in areas such as Upper Silesia. In Greater Poland and in Eastern Pomerania (Pomerelia), German settlers formed a minority. Some of the territories, such as Pomerelia and Masovia, reunited with Poland during the 15th and 16th centuries. Others became more firmly incorporated into German polities.
Kingdom of Prussia and German EmpireEdit
In the course of the Partitions of Poland, the Kingdom of Prussia and the Austrian Empire acquired vast territorial shares of the demised Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In 1815, the Congress of Vienna established as a replacement for the dissolved Holy Roman Empire the German Confederation (German: Deutscher Bund), an association of 39 German-speaking states in Central Europe. Its boundaries largely followed the ones of its predecessor, the Holy Roman Empire, defining the territory of Germany for much of the 19th century and confirming Pomerania, East Brandenburg and Silesia as its parts. On the other hand, the remaining parts of the lands ruled by the House of Hohenzollern which were not included in the Holy Roman Empire, namely the German-speaking Prussian nucleus (East Prussia), and the newly acquired predominantly Polish- or Kashubian-speaking territorial share of the collapsed and dismembered Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Posen and West Prussia), continued as external to the Confederation, as did the German-speaking cantons of Switzerland and the French region of Alsace.
In the following years, Prussia superseded Austria in the role of the primary driving force of the restoration of German unity. At the time of German Unification in 1871, the Kingdom of Prussia was the largest and dominant part of the newly formed German Empire. With rise of nationalism the eastern territories with a predominantly Polish population (especially the formerly Polish territories of Posen and West Prussia) were increasingly exposed to Germanisation efforts.
Treaty of Versailles, 1919Edit
The Treaty of Versailles of 1919, which ended the war, restored the independence of Poland, known as the Second Polish Republic, and Germany was compelled to cede territories to it, most of which were taken by Prussia in the three Partitions of Poland and had been part of the Kingdom of Prussia and later the German Empire for the 100 years of the non-existence of Polish state. The territories retroceded to Poland in 1919 were those with an apparent Polish majority, such as the Province of Posen, as well as Pomerelia, were Poles were overwhelming majority, with Germans forming small minority, but historically the part of Poland providing its access to the sea. Restoration of Pomerelia to Poland meant the loss of Germany's connection with East Prussia making it an exclave.
Most of the eastern territories with a predominantly or almost exclusively German population (East Brandenburg, East Prussia, Pomerania, and the bulk of Silesia) remained with Germany with the exception of Danzig and its surrounding area, which henceforth formed the Free City of Danzig.
However, in areas such as Upper Silesia, no clear division between the mostly bilingual population was possible. After a first plebiscite, Upper Silesia was to stay part of Germany's territory. However, after the Silesian Uprisings, the area was divided.
The parts of the former Province of Posen and of West Prussia that were not restored as part of the Second Polish Republic were administered as Grenzmark Posen-Westpreußen (the German Province of Posen–West Prussia) until 1939.
Division of Germany's eastern provinces after 1918Edit
|From province:||Area in 1910 in km2||Share of territory||Population in 1910||After WW1 part of:||Notes|
|West Prussia||25,580 km2||100%||1.703.474||Divided between:|
|to Poland||15,900 km2||62% ||57%||Pomeranian Voivodeship||[Note 2]|
|to Free City Danzig||1,966 km2||8%||19%||Free City of Danzig|
|to East Prussia
(within Weimar Germany)
|2,927 km2||11%||15%||Region of West Prussia||[Note 3]|
|to Germany||4,787 km2||19%||9%||Posen-West Prussia||[Note 4]|
|East Prussia||37,002 km2||100%||2.064.175||Divided between:|
|to Poland||565 km2||2%||2%||Pomeranian Voivodeship
|to Lithuania||2,828 km2||8%||7%||Klaipėda Region|
|to East Prussia
(within Weimar Germany)
|33,609 km2||90%||91%||East Prussia|
|Posen||28,992 km2||100%||2.099.831||Divided between:|
|to Poland||26,111 km2||90%||93%||Poznań Voivodeship|
|to Germany||2,881 km2||10%||7%||Posen-West Prussia||[Note 6]|
|Lower Silesia||27,105 km2||100%||3.017.981||Divided between:|
|to Poland||526 km2||2%||1%||Poznań Voivodeship
|to Germany||26,579 km2||98%||99%||Province of Lower Silesia|
|Upper Silesia||13,230 km2||100%||2.207.981||Divided between:|
|to Poland||3,225 km2||25%||41%||Silesian Voivodeship||[Note 8]|
|to Czechoslovakia||325 km2||2%||2%||Hlučín Region|
|to Germany||9,680 km2||73%||57%||Province of Upper Silesia|
|TOTAL||131,909 km2||100%||11.093.442||Divided between:|
|to Poland||46,327 km2||35%||35%||Second Polish Republic||[Note 9]|
|to Lithuania||2,828 km2||2%||2%||Klaipėda Region|
|to Free City Danzig||1,966 km2||2%||3%||Free City of Danzig|
|to Czechoslovakia||325 km2||0%||0%||Czech Silesia|
|to Germany||80,463 km2||61%||60%||Free State of Prussia|
German annexation of Hultschin Area and Memel TerritoryEdit
In October 1938 Hlučín Area (Hlučínsko in Czech, Hultschiner Ländchen in German) of Moravian-Silesian Region, which had been ceded to Czechoslovakia under the Treaty of Versailles was annexed by the Third Reich as a part of areas lost by Czechoslovakia in accordance with the Munich agreement. However, as distinct from other lost Czechoslovakian domains, it was not attached to Sudetengau (the administrative region covering the Sudetenland) but to Prussia (Upper Silesia).
By late 1938, Lithuania had lost control over the situation in the Memel Territory, which had been annexed by Lithuania in the Klaipėda putsch. In the early hours of 23 March 1939, after a political ultimatum caused a Lithuanian delegation to travel to Berlin, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Juozas Urbšys and German Foreign Minister 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 that used the facilities erected in the previous years.
In the interwar period, the German administration, both Weimar and Nazi, conducted a massive campaign of renaming of thousands of placenames, to remove traces of Polish, Lithuanian and Old Prussian origin.
Second World War and the German occupation of Poland, 1939–1945Edit
The defeat of Germany and the imposed terms of peace left a sense of injustice among the population. Subsequent interwar economic crisis acted as a fertile ground for irredentist claims that the territory ceded to Poland in 1919–1922 should be returned to Germany, paving the way to a Nazi takeover of the government and serving as one of the justifications for the German invasion of Poland in 1939, which heralded the start of the Second World War. The Third Reich annexed the Polish lands included the former Prussian Partition, comprising Pomerelia (the "Polish Corridor"), Chełmno Land, Greater Poland proper, Kuyavia, Łęczyca Land, Sieradz Land, Northern Masovia, as well as the parts of Upper Silesia located in Poland, including the former Czechoslovak part of Cieszyn Silesia annexed by Poland in 1938. The council of the Free City of Danzig, already also dominated by the Nazi Party at that time, voted to become a part of Germany again, but Poles and Jews were deprived of their voting rights and all non-Nazi political parties were banned. In addition to taking territories lost in 1919, Germany.
Two decrees by Adolf Hitler (8 and 12 October 1939) divided the annexed areas of Poland into 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 East Upper Silesia (Ost-Oberschlesien), which included Sosnowiec, Będzin, Chrzanów, and Zawiercie Counties, and parts of Olkusz and Żywiec Counties.
The territories had an area of 94,000 km2 and a population of 10,000,000 people. Throughout the war, the annexed Polish territories were subject to German colonisation. Because of the lack of settlers from Germany itself, the colonists were primarily ethnic Germans relocated from other parts of Eastern Europe. The ethnic Germans were then resettled in homes from which the Poles had been expelled.
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" but not incorporated into East Prussia, and Eastern Galicia (District of Galicia), which included the cities of Lwów, Stanislawów and Tarnopol, was made part of the General Government.
The final decision to move Poland's boundary westward was made by the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union at the Yalta Conference in February 1945, shortly before the end of the war. The precise location of the border was left open, and the western Allies also accepted in general the principles of the Oder River being the future western border of Poland and of population transfer being the way to prevent future border disputes. The open questions were whether the border should follow the Eastern or Lusatian Neisse rivers and whether Stettin, the traditional seaport of Berlin, should remain in Germany or be included in Poland.
Originally, Germany was to retain Stettin, and the Poles were to annex East Prussia with Königsberg. 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 say in the decisions.
The Yalta Conference agreed to split Germany into four occupation zones after the war, with a quadripartite occupation of Berlin as well, prior to the reunification of Germany. The status of Poland was discussed but was complicated by the fact that Poland was then controlled by the Red Army. The conference agreed to reorganise the Provisionary Polish Government, which had been set up by the Red Army, by the inclusion of other groups such as the Polish Provisional Government of National Unity and to have democratic elections. That effectively excluded the Polish government-in-exile, which had been evacuated in 1939. The conference agreed that the Polish eastern border would follow the Curzon Line and that Poland would receive substantial territorial compensation in the west from Germany, but the exact border was to be determined later. A "Committee on Dismemberment of Germany" was to be set up to decide whether Germany was to be divided into six nations and, if so, what borders and interrelations the new German states would have.
Potsdam Agreement, 1945Edit
After World War II, several memoranda of the US State Department warned against awarding Poland such extensive lands, apprehensive of creation of new long-standing tension in the area. Particularly, the State Department acknowledged that Polish claims to Lower Silesia had no ethnic or historic justification.
Under Stalin's pressure, the Potsdam Conference, held from 17 July until 2 August 1945, placed all of the areas east of the Oder–Neisse line, whether recognised by the international community as part of Germany until 1939 or occupied by Germany during World War II, under the jurisdiction of other countries, pending a final Peace Conference.
The Allies also agreed that:
XII. Orderly transfer of German populations. The Three Governments [of the Soviet Union, the United States and Great Britain], 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.
because in the words of Winston Churchill
Expulsion is the method which, in so far as we have been able to see, will be the most satisfactory and lasting. There will be no mixture of populations to cause endless trouble. A clean sweep will be made.
The problem with the status of these territories was that the Potsdam Agreement was not a legally binding treaty, but a memorandum between the USSR, the US and the UK (to which the French were not party). It regulated the issue of the eastern German border, which was confirmed as being along the Oder–Neisse line, but the final article of the memorandum said that the final decisions concerning Germany, and hence the detailed alignment of Germany's eastern boundaries, would be subject to a separate peace treaty; at which the three Allied signatories committed themselves to respect the terms of the Potsdam memorandum. Hence, so long as these Allied Powers remained committed to the Potsdam protocols, without German agreement to an Oder–Neisse line boundary there could be no Peace Treaty and no German Reunification. This treaty was signed in 1990 as the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany.
Expulsion of Germans and resettlementEdit
With the rapid advance of the Red Army in the winter of 1944–1945, German authorities desperately evacuated many Germans westwards. The majority of the remaining German-speaking population in the territory of former Czechoslovakia and east of the Oder–Neisse line (roughly 10 million in the ostgebiete alone), that had not already been evacuated, was expelled by the new Czech and Polish administrations. Although in the post-war period earlier German sources often cited the number of evacuated and expelled Germans at 16 million and the death toll at between 1.7 and 2.5 million, today, the numbers are considered by some historians to be exaggerated and the death toll more likely in a range between 400,000 and 600,000. Some present-day estimates place the numbers of German refugees at 14 million of which about half a million died during the evacuations and expulsions.
At the same time, Poles from central Poland, expelled Poles from former eastern Poland, Polish returnees from internment and forced labour, Ukrainians forcibly resettled in Operation Vistula, and Jewish Holocaust survivors were settled in German territories gained by Poland, whereas the north of former East Prussia (Kaliningrad Oblast gained by the USSR) was turned into a military zone and subsequently settled with Russians. The first Polish settlers in contrast experienced complete alienation from their new surroundings, perceived as fully foreign and German.
However, contrary to the official declaration that the former German inhabitants of the Recovered Territories had to be removed quickly to house Poles displaced by the Soviet annexation, the new Polish lands initially faced a severe population shortage.
Polish population transfers from the Soviet Union only amounted for 1.5 million people, while more than 8 million German lost their homes in the German Eastern Territories.
In continuity with interwar demands by Polish nationalists, Poland's sweeping territorial gains of German land were seen as inspired by the Piast vision of an ethnically homogeneous state within the borders of medieval Piast Poland. Fully German-speaking areas such as Lower Silesia and Farther Pomerania suffered expulsion of its entire indigenous population in 1945-46. Polonization proceeded rapidly, irrespective of the still uncertain border.
Rather than taking over German place names, new Polish place names were determined by decree, reverting to a Slavic name or inventing a new name for places founded by German-speakers. In order to establish the Piast vision in the consciousness of the population and to convince them of the historical justice of the annexation of the former German territories, the 'Recovered Territories' were covered with a network of designations connected with the Piast dynasty, even if the buildings themselves had no reference to the Piast rulers.
The Polish Communists mobilized for cleansing and acculturation to de-Germanize their new home. German words were removed from buildings and even from art works, dishes, and gravesites.
German politics in the early post-World-War-II yearsEdit
After the War, the so-called "German question" was an important factor of post-war German and European history and politics. The debate affected Cold War politics and diplomacy and played an important role in the negotiations leading up to the reunification of Germany in 1990. In 1990 Germany officially recognized its present eastern border at the time of its reunification in the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany, ending any residual claims to sovereignty that Germany may have had over any territory east of the Oder–Neisse line.
Between 1945 and the 1970s the government of West Germany referred to these territories as "former German territories temporarily under Polish and Soviet administration". This terminology was used in relation to territories of eastern Germany within the 1937 Germany border, and was based on the terminology used in the Potsdam Agreement. It was used only by the Federal Republic of Germany; but the Polish and Soviet governments objected to the obvious implication that these territories should someday revert to Germany. The Polish government preferred to use the phrase Recovered Territories, asserting a sort of continuity because parts of these territories had centuries previously been ruled by ethnic Poles.
In the early history of West Germany, refugee organizations were an important political factor, demanding for Germany to never renounce the land that was deemed still part of Germany. However, contrary to the official claims, the bulk of the expelleés likely would not have a real intent of returning to their homeland.
In the 1970s, West Germany adopted Ostpolitik in foreign relations, which strove to normalise relations with its neighbours by recognising the realities of the European order of the time, and abandoning elements of the Hallstein Doctrine. West Germany also abandoned for the time being its claims with respect to German reunification, recognising the existence of the German Democratic Republic (GDR); and the validity of the Oder–Neisse line in international law." As part of this new approach, West Germany concluded friendship treaties with the Soviet Union (Treaty of Moscow (1970)), Poland (Treaty of Warsaw (1970)), East Germany (Basic Treaty (1972)) and Czechoslovakia (Treaty of Prague (1973)); and participated in the Helsinki Final Act (1975). Nevertheless, West Germany continued its long-term objective of achieving a reunification of East Germany, West Germany and Berlin; and maintained that its formal recognition of the post-war boundaries of Germany would need to be confirmed by a united Germany in the context of a Final Settlement of the Second World War. Some West German commentators continued to maintain that neither the Treaty of Zgorzelec nor the Treaty of Warsaw should be considered as binding on a future united Germany; albeit that these reservations were intended for domestic political consumption, and the arguments advanced in support of them had no substance in international law.
This section possibly contains original research. (June 2021)
Over time, the "German question" has been muted by a number of related phenomena:
- The passage of time resulted in fewer people being left who have firsthand experience of living in these regions under German jurisdiction.
- In the Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany, Germany renounced all claims to territory east of the Oder–Neisse line. Germany's recognition of the border was repeated in the German–Polish Border Treaty on 14 November 1990. The first of those treaties was made by both German states and ratified in 1991 by a united Germany. The second was already signed by the united Germany.
- The expansion of the European Union towards east in 2004 enabled any German wishing to live and work in Poland, and thus east of the Oder–Neisse line, to do so without requiring a permit. German expellees and refugees became free to visit their former homes and set up residence, though some restrictions remained on the purchase of land and buildings.
- Poland entered the Schengen Area on 21 December 2007, removing all border controls on its border with Germany.
Under Article 1 of the Treaty on Final Settlement, the new united Germany committed itself to renouncing any further territorial claims beyond the boundaries of East Germany, West Germany and Berlin; "The united Germany has no territorial claims whatsoever against other states and shall not assert any in the future." Furthermore, the Basic Law of the Federal Republic was required to be amended to state explicitly that full German unification had now been achieved, such that the new German state comprised the entirety of Germany, and that all constitutional mechanisms should be removed by which any territories outside those boundaries could otherwise subsequently be admitted; these new constitutional articles being bound by treaty not to be revoked. Article 23 of the Basic Law was repealed, closing off the possibility for any further states to apply for membership of the Federal Republic; while Article 146 was amended to state explicitly that the territory of the newly unified republic comprised the entirety of the German people; "This Basic Law, which since the achievement of the unity and freedom of Germany applies to the entire German people, shall cease to apply on the day on which a constitution freely adopted by the German people takes effect". This was confirmed in the 1990 rewording of the preamble; "Germans ... have achieved the unity and freedom of Germany in free self-determination. This Basic Law thus applies to the entire German people." In place of the former Article 23 (under which the states of East Germany had been admitted), a new Article 23 established the constitutional status of accession of the Federal Republic to the European Union; hence with the subsequent accession of Poland to the EU, the constitutional bar on pursuing any claim to territories beyond the Oder–Neisse Line was reinforced. In so far as the former German Reich may be claimed to continue in existence within 'Germany as a whole', former eastern German territories in Poland, Lithuania and Russia are now definitively and permanently excluded from ever again being united with Germany.
In the course of the German reunification, Chancellor Helmut Kohl accepted the territorial changes made after World War II, creating some outrage among the Federation of Expellees, while some Poles were concerned about a possible revival of their 1939 trauma through a "second German invasion", this time with the Germans buying back their land, which was cheaply available at the time. This happened on a smaller scale than many Poles expected, and the Baltic Sea coast of Poland has become a popular German tourist destination. The so-called "homesickness-tourism" which was often perceived as quite aggressive well into the 1990s now tends to be viewed as a good-natured nostalgia tour rather than an expression of anger and desire for the return of the lost territories.
Some organisations in Germany continue to claim the territories for Germany or property there for German citizens. The Prussian Trust (or the Prussian Claims Society), that probably has less than a hundred members, re-opened the old dispute when in December 2006 it submitted 23 individual claims against the Polish government to the European Court of Human Rights asking for compensation or return of property appropriated from its members at the end of World War II. An expert report jointly commissioned by the German and Polish governments from specialists in international law have confirmed that the proposed complaints by the Prussian Trust had little hope of success. But the German government cannot prevent such requests being made and the Polish government has felt that the submissions warranted a comment by Anna Fotyga, the Polish Minister of the Foreign Affairs to "express [her] deepest concern upon receiving the information about a claim against Poland submitted by the Prussian Trust to the European Court of Human Rights". On 9 October 2008 the European Court of Human Rights declared the case of Preussische Treuhand v. Poland inadmissible, because the European Convention on Human Rights does not impose any obligations on the Contracting States to return property which was transferred to them before they ratified the Convention.
After the National Democratic Party of Germany, described as a neo-Nazi organisation, won six seats in the parliament of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in September 2006, the leader of the party, Udo Voigt, declared that his party demands Germany in "historical borders" and questioned the current border treaties.
- List of people from former eastern territories of Germany
- Areas annexed by Nazi Germany
- History of German settlement in Central and Eastern Europe
- Drang nach Osten
- Major treaties affecting the former eastern territories of Germany:
- World War II evacuation and expulsion
- Expulsion of Poles by Germany
- Evacuation, flight and expulsion of Germans from those territories:
- Polish population transfers (1944–1946)
- The region is called Western Pomerania in Polish historiography and Farther Pomerania in German historiography.
- Poland received several cities and counties of West Prussia located east of the Vistula: Lubawa, Brodnica, Wąbrzeźno, Toruń, Chełmno, Grudziądz; as well as most of cities and counties of West Prussia located west of it: Świecie, Tuchola, Starogard Gdański, Kwidzyn (only part west of the Vistula), most of county Tczew, eastern part of county Złotów, part of county Człuchów, as well as counties Chojnice, Kościerzyna, Kartuzy, coastal Wejherowo and Puck with Gdynia; as well as a small-western part of Danziger Höhe and areas around Janowo east of the Vistula.
- Parts of West Prussia east of Nogat and Vistula rivers which remained in Germany after 1918, including the city and the county of Elbląg and Malbork (part east of Nogat), Sztum, Kwidzyn (only part east of the Vistula) and Susz Counties, were incorporated to East Prussia as the Regency of West Prussia. The area of historical Pomesania had a significant Polish minority.
- Western part of West Prussia with county Wałcz and parts of counties Złotów and Człuchów (the latter two split between Poland and Germany). This area included 12 towns and cities: Człuchów, Debrzno, Biały Bór, Czarne, Lędyczek, Złotów, Krajenka, Wałcz, Mirosławiec, Człopa, Tuczno and Jastrowie. The area was home to significant Polish minority.
- Part of pre-1918 Nidzica County with Działdowo and with around 27,000 inhabitants; as well as parts of Ostróda County near Dąbrówno, with areas around Groszki, Lubstynek, Napromek, Czerlin, Lewałd Wielki, Grzybiny and with around 4786 inhabitants. Too small to form its own voivodeship, this territory was incorporated to intewar Pomeranian Voivodeship.
- Western fringes of Prussian Greater Poland, which remained in Germany after 1918. The area included the entire Skwierzyna County as well as portions of Wschowa, Babimost, Międzyrzecz, Chodzież, Wieleń and Czarnków Counties (Netzekreis). It contained 12 towns and cities: Piła, Skwierzyna, Bledzew, Wschowa, Szlichtyngowa, Babimost, Kargowa, Międzyrzecz, Zbąszyń, Brójce, Trzciel and Trzcianka. The area was home to significant Polish minority.
- After World War I, Poland received a small part of historical Lower Silesia, with majority-Polish population as of 1918. That area included parts of counties Syców (German: Polnisch Wartenberg), Namysłów, Góra and Milicz. In total around 526 square kilometers with around 30 thousand inhabitants, including the city of Rychtal. Too small to form its own voivodeship, the area was incorporated to Poznań Voivodeship (former Province of Posen).
- Interwar Silesian Voivodeship was formed from Prussian East Upper Silesia (area 3,225 km2) and Polish part of Austrian Cieszyn Silesia (1,010 km2), in total 4,235 km2. After the annexation of Zaolzie from Czechoslovakia in 1938, it increased to 5,122 km2. Silesian Voivodeship's capital was Katowice.
- All in all, the post-Prussian part of Poland had ca. 4 million inhabitants immediately after the Great War - ca. 2 million from Province of Posen, ca. 1 million from West Prussia and ca. 1 million from Upper Silesia, plus 60,000 from Lower Silesia and East Prussia.
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- The problem with the status of these territories was that in 1945 the concluding document of the Potsdam Conference was not a legally binding treaty, but a memorandum between the USSR, the US 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 subject to a separate peace treaty. This treaty was signed in 1990 under the name of Treaty on the Final Settlement by both the German states and ratified in 1991 by the united Germany. This ended the legal limbo state 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.
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