Demographic Estimates of The Flight and Expulsion of Germans - Population Balance Method Versus Counts of Confirmed Deaths - Method of Counting Confirmed Deaths - 1974 German Federal Archive Report

1974 German Federal Archive Report

On 28 May 1974, the West German Federal Archive (Bundesarchiv) issued a report following a directive of the Federal Ministry of the Interior to "compile and evaluate information available in the Federal Archives and elsewhere regarding crimes and brutalities committed against Germans in the course of the expulsion". In particular, the report was to identify deaths due to crimes against international law: the 1958 report of the Federal Office for Statistics listed as "post-war losses" two million people whose fate remained unaccounted for in the population balance, but who according to the 1974 report were "not exclusively victims of crimes against international law". The report defined the term "expulsion" (Vertreibung) "according to its prevailing interpretation", i.e. the "whole uprooting process". Sources used for the report were:

  • about 10,000 eyewitness accounts (Erlebnisberichte), compiled primarily during the "documentation of the expulsion of Germans from East Central Europe", conducted on initiative of the Federal Ministry for Expellees between 1950 and 1953, which since 1955 were stored in the Federal Archive. To this stock added eyewitness accounts from the Secret State Archive (GStA) in Dahlem, from the Main State Archive in Düsseldorf, from the collection of the State Commissioner for Refugee Affairs in Stuttgart and from the collection of the Bavarian Ministry of the Interior, as well as further eyewitness accounts sent to the Federal Archive directly.
  • about 18,000 reports about the fate of municipalities (Gemeindeschicksalsberichte), collected since 1952 in the course of the abovementioned "documentation", and from 1954 to 1959 by the Federal Archive itself. These reports were laid out as standartized questionaries about distinct municipalities and covered 85.2% of the municipalities in the former eastern territories of Germany, the majority of those municipalities in the area of pre-war Poland which were previously home to a German population, and other such municipalities in former Sudetenland and southeastern Europe.
  • about 12,100 so-called "soul lists" (Seelenlisten) compiled between 1952 and 1956 listing the former German inhabitants of rural and small urban communities east of the Oder-Neisse line, in part noting deaths and their causes.
  • information from the archives of German dioceses.

The final report included deaths confirmed by at least two independent sources. Deaths reported by one source only were rejected unless they met certain reliability criteria laid out in a catalogue adopted from Schieder et al. (1958): Dokumentation der Vertreibung der Deutschen aus Ost-Mittewleuropa Vol. I/1, page IIIf. The report states that the sources hint at the magnitude of crimes, but are not sufficient for a thorough statistic. Of only a faction of the sources it is said that they detail names and number of victims, others would merely point to crime scenes but do not elaborate on numbers and details. Especially the extent of crimes in larger municipalities and, with few exceptions, in camps and prisons is not replicable with the sources given according to the report.

In the areas east of the Oder-Neisse line, the reviewers identified 3,250 crime scenes in the sources. For 630 of those, the number of victims could not be established, while 23,200 people were identified who died at the other 2,620 scenes. To estimate a total number of casualties, the 1974 report relied on a data set retrieved from the 1964 Church Search Service report compiling the most complete of the "soul lists". For 455 rural communities of East Prussia and 432 rural communities of Pomerania, these lists reported 1,731 and 1,278 people killed, respectively, which is about 1% of their 1939 population (152,124 and 137,709 inhabitants, respectively). To the number of these identified deaths added the number of 4,000 missing, some of whom may also be unconfirmed deaths. The 1974 report then relates the 1% confirmed deaths as a minimum value to the 1939 population of the former eastern territories of Germany set at 9.6 million people, thus receiving a number of at least 96,000 people killed in that area during the expulsion. Similarly it was estimated that at least 19,000 people were killed during the expulsions from the area of pre-war Poland, which was calculated as 1% of 1,9 million Germans living there in 1944. On the premise that in the area of pre-war Poland, 20% more people were overrun by the advancing Red Army than in areas occupied later on, the number was adjusted to above 20,000, resulting in a total of at least 120,000 people killed east of the Oder and Neisse rivers. Furthermore, it was estimated that 200,000 people were incarcerated in Polish-run and 110,000 in Soviet-run camps and prisons in that area with death rates between 20% and 50%. Therefore, it was estimated that at least 100,000 people died in these camps and prisons. Another 200,000 people died as a result of deportation to the USSR, based on German Red Cross estimates. From addition of these values, the report found that east of the Oder and Neisse rivers, at least 400,000 people died during the expulsions.

Of the abovementioned sources, 2,000 were concerned with Czechoslovakia (including Sudetenland). Of those, only a faction included reliable numbers of killed Germans adding to about 6,000 confirmed deaths. The report cites an estimate by Kurt W. Böhme (1965): Gesucht wird..., p. 264, according to whom 350.000 Germans were interned in camps, about 100,000 of whom died. From the sources, the 1974 report says that the numbers of the interned are likely to be higher, and refers to another study by A. Bohmann (1959): Das Sudetendeutschtum in Zahlen, p. 199, presenting an estimate of up to one million internees. The report further states that from Czechoslovakia, relatively few Germans were deportated to the USSR.

For Yugoslavia, the report says that their sources confirm that about 7,200 Germans were killed outside of camps. The researchers suspected that the numbers given in the sources are in part inflated, but also referred to sources reporting other killings without quantifying the victims. Adding to those numbers the victims of executions of camp inmates, the report estimates that between 15,000 and 20,000 Germans died a "violent death". The report thereby refers to sources about 49 large camps, where of an estimated total of 67,000 deaths about 8,000 were due to violence, and the rest primarily due to starvation, disease and maltreatment. For many small camps and prisons, as well as for Yugoslav German POWs shot in captivity by partisans, the report lacked detailed sources. Regarding the numbers of Yugoslav Germans deported to the USSR, the report refers to Theodor Schieder et al. (1958): Dokumentation der Vertreibung vol. V, p. 97E, citing the numbers of 27,000 to 30,000 deportees and the respective death toll of 4,500 people given there. The report postulates that at least 80,000 Yugoslav Germans died during the expulsions.

The report concludes that

  • no distinct group of Germans was preferred as target, instead the remaining German population was targeted as a whole
  • the perpetrators were identified as members of the Red Army, the NKVD, Polish militia and security forces, Czechoslovak people's guard and liberation army and Yugoslav partisans
  • the sources used for the report were insufficient to calculate a comprehensive balance, especially for the situation in larger communities and camps the available sources were too fragmentary for an overview
  • the sources differed in their accounts of number of inmates and deaths in camps
  • the total numbers of deaths given in the report are "rough estimates".

Expulsion Deaths Listed by German Federal Archives 1974

Description Total Deaths Oder-Neisse region, Poland Czechoslovakia Yugoslavia
Violent Deaths during war 1945 138,000 100,000 30,000 8,000
Deported to USSR 205,000 200,000 - 5,000
Forced labor N. East Prussia 40,000 40,000 - -
In Post War Internment Camps 227,000 60,000 100,000 67,000
Total 610,000 400,000 130,000 80,000

Source: German Federal Archive, Spieler, Silke Vertreibung und Vertreibungsverbrechen 1945-1948. Bericht des Bundesarchivs vom 28. Mai 1974. Archivalien und ausgewählte Erlebnisberichte. Bonn 1989 Pages 53–54 The authors maintain that these figures cover only those deaths caused violent acts and inhumanities(Unmenschlichkeiten) and do not include post war deaths due to malnutrition and disease. Also not included are those persons who were raped or suffered mistreatment and did not die immediately. No figures were given for Romania and Hungary.

Rüdiger Overmans believes that the 1974 report is not definitive and that new research is needed to determine total deaths due to the expulsions. Overmans made the following observations regarding the German Federal Archives Report:

  • Some deaths may have gone unreported in the Archives study because there were no eye witnesses to the events.
  • The German Federal Archives Report is not comparable to the other studies because the USSR, Hungary, Romania and deaths in the air war were not surveyed.
  • Overmans maintains there are more arguments for the lower figures of 500,000 to 600,000 rather than the higher figures of over 2.0 million

The German historian Ingo Haar believes a realistic view of the total deaths due to the expulsions is in the range of 500,000 to 600,000. Harr maintains that these figures include include post war deaths due to malnutrition and disease and that the higher figures of over 2.0 million have been overstated by the German government for political reasons.

Since the fall of the USSR the Soviet archives have been accessible to researchers. The Russian scholar Pavel Polian in 2001 published an account of the deportations during the Soviet era, Against Their Will, Polian's study detailed the Soviet statistics on the employment of German civilian labor during the Stalin era. The research by Polian put the number of deported Germans at 271,672 and deaths at about 66,000. During the Cold war the German Red Cross made rough estimates of those deported at about 400,000 persons of whom about 200,000 perished, these figures were used by the German Federal Archives to compile their 1974 report on deportations to the USSR. The recent disclosures by Polian contradict the figures in the German Federal Archives report of 1974.

In 1995, a joint German and Czech commission of historians revised the number of civilian deaths in Czechoslovakia to between 15,000 and 30,000 persons During the Cold war German historians made rough estimates of about 350,000 persons interned in Czechoslovakia of whom 100,000 perished, these estimates were used by the German Federal Archives They also estimated 30,000 persons killed during the Prague uprising and in post- war Czechoslovakia. The recent report by the joint German and Czech commission of historians contradict the figures in the German Federal Archives report of 1974.

The German historians Hans Henning Hahn and Eva Hahnova have published a detailed study of the flight and expulsions that put the number of dead in Polish internment camps at 15,000 based on information recently published in Poland. These recent disclosures contrdict the figures in the German Federal Archives report of 1974 that put the figure at 60,000. However, the Polish historians Witold Sienkiewicz and Grzegorz Hryciuk maintain that the internment "resulted in numerous deaths, which cannot be accurately determined because of lack of statistics or falsification. Periodically, they could be 10% of inmates. Those interned are estimated at 200-250,000 Germans and the local population, and deaths might range from 15,000 to 60,000 persons."

Read more about this topic:  Demographic Estimates Of The Flight And Expulsion Of Germans, Population Balance Method Versus Counts of Confirmed Deaths, Method of Counting Confirmed Deaths

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