Memorial near the former Znaim
to the ''Sudeten
'' expellees of South
Moravia (Kreis Znaim). The text translates as "Homeland rights are human rights."
''Heimatvertriebene'' (, "homeland expellees") are 12—16 million German citizen
s (regardless of ethnicity) and ethnic Germans
(regardless of citizenship) who fled or were expelled after World War II
from parts of Germany annexed by Poland and the Soviet Union
and from other countries (the so-called ''einheitliches Vertreibungsgebiet'', i.e. uniform territory of expulsion), who found refuge in both West
and East Germany
, and Austria
Refugees who had fled voluntarily but were later refused permission to return are often not distinguished from those who were forcibly deported. By the definition of the West German Federal Expellee Law
, enacted on 19 May 1953, refugees of German citizenship or German ethnicity, whose return to their home places was denied, were treated like expellees, thus the frequent general usage of the term expellees for refugees alike.
Distinguished are refugees and expellees who had neither German citizenship nor German ethnicity but as a matter of fact had fled or been expelled from their former domiciles and stranded in West Germany or West Berlin before 1951. They were taken care of – as part of the displaced persons
– by international refugee organisations until 1951 and then by West German authorities granting them the extra status of "heimatloser Ausländer
" with preferential naturalisation rules, distinct from other legal aliens or stateless people. Occupational functionaries and other German expatriates, who had moved to German-annexed or German-occupied foreign territory only due to the war were not considered expellees by law unless they showed circumstances (such as marrying a resident of the respective area) providing for the intention to settle abroad also for the time after the war. Besides the narrow legal definition for the Heimatvertriebene, there were also other groups accepted as Vertriebene (expellees) such as the Aussiedler
. These comprised refugees and emigrants either originally of foreign citizenship but of German ethnicity, or who themselves or whose ancestors had involuntarily lost German citizenship, coming from the above-mentioned uniform territory of expulsion or from Albania, Bulgaria, China, Romania, the Soviet Union, or Yugoslavia, and arriving only after the end of general expulsions but not later as 31 December 1992.
[Cf. Federal Expellee Law, § 1 (2) No. 3.]
In a document signed in 1950 the ''Heimatvertriebene'' organisations recognised the plight of the different groups of people living in today's Poland who were resettled there by force. The Heimatvertriebene are just one (but by far the largest) of the groups of millions of other people, from many different countries, who all found refuge in today's Germany.
Some of the expellees are active in politics and belong to the political right wing. Many others do not belong to any organizations, but they continue to maintain what they call a lawful right to their homeland
. The vast majority pledged to work peacefully towards that goal while rebuilding post-war Germany and Europe.
The expellees are still highly active in German politics, and are one of the major social groups of the nation, with around 2 million members. A president of the Federation of Expellees
was a member of the Bundestag
Although expellees and their descendants were active in West German politics, the prevailing political climate within West Germany was that of atonement for Nazi
actions. However the CDU
governments have shown considerable support for the expellees and German civilian victims.
As a result of the huge influx of expellees, there was a massive increase of population in some areas such as Mecklenburg
(where population numbers doubled), and in some places the previous homogeneity of the population was broken by Protestant expellees moving to a purely Catholic area or conversely. The population numbers of a number of small settlements in West Germany exploded permanently due to a refugee camp on their territory or nearby. Examples of this phenomenon include ''Neugablonz'', a quarter of Kaufbeuren
, founded by the expellees and named after Gablonz (Jablonec nad Nisou)
. Neugablonz nowadays makes up a third of the town's population. An extreme example of the population explosion is Neutraubling
(also in Bavaria), which had 53 inhabitants in 1947, 1300 in 1951, and 3800 in 1960. Since the refugee camps were mostly located on the sites of former hidden ammunition factories, most of these ''Vertriebenenstädte'' are located in a (former) forest. See also Espelkamp
*Flight and evacuation of German civilians during the end of World War II
*Flight and expulsion of Germans (1944–1950)
*Federation of Expellees
*Glossary of the Third Reich
File:Ostlandkreuz Schorndorf.jpg|Ostlandkreuz between Schorndorf and Winterbach
File:Oberursel, Vertriebenendenkmal.JPG|Memorial in Oberursel
File:Bad Homburg Denkmal Egerland.jpg|Memorial in Bad Homburg vor der Höhe
Category:Aftermath of World War II in Germany
Category:Post–World War II forced migrations
Category:German words and phrases