Forgotten Voices: The Expulsion of the Germans from Eastern Europe after World War II
As a result of the War, some 12 to 14 million Germans fled or were expelled from Eastern Europe and the German lands annexed by Poland and the Soviet Union. Of these, about two million died or were killed in the expulsions. It is this story that I have told, principally through the voices of the individuals caught up in the disaster. I also covered the history of Germans in the former eastern provinces of Germany as well as in their historic settlements in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Lastly, this story would not be complete without a description of the subsequent successful integration of the refugees in the Federal Republic. as well as the reconciliation with Germany’s Eastern neighbors.
Of course one must be careful in addressing this subject. This tragedy cannot be taken as a moral equivalent of the suffering caused by the Nazi Regime. As a leading German historian, Hans-Ulrich Wehler, said, Germany should avoid creating a cult of victimization, thus forgetting Auschwitz and the mass killing of Russians. It should also be remembered that the 1945 Potsdam Agreement between the three powers sanctioned some of these expulsions, although it was stipulated that it be done in an “orderly and humane” manner.
In summary, as stated in the book, “It is quite evident that the criminal policies of the German National Socialist regime were the basic cause for the tragedy that befell the German people of Central and Eastern Europe, who became victims of terror, flight, and expulsion. That is not to say there was a moral equivalency between the crimes committed by the German Nazi regime and the crimes committed against the Germans. The former was genocide and the latter ethnic cleansing. The violations of human rights committed by the Nazi German regime far overshadowed those committed against the Germans. On the other hand, two wrongs do not make a right, and even horrendous Nazi crimes could not justify the expulsion of a people from their ancestral homes. Thus, the expellees were also victims of the Nazi regime, even though some of them, no doubt, had supported it. For the expellees and refugees, the expulsion was a deeply traumatic experience that certainly scarred many for life because of the brutalities that accompanied their flight and deportation. Many were victims of horrible atrocities. The enormity of their loss cannot be justified with any historical argument to the contrary. There is no moral justification for saying they were collectively guilty of the crimes of the Nazi regime and thus deserved to be punished collectively”.
About the Author
The author was born in Berlin, Germany and came to the United States as a small child before the Second World War. His family were political refugees because his father was a lawyer in the Prussian Ministry of the Interior, active in prosecuting the Nazi Party.
Mr. Merten grew up in New York City and after the war, returned to Europe, studying at the University of Zürich, Switzerland and the University of Zaragoza in Spain. He subsequently earned his BA degree at Columbia College, Columbia University and M.A. at the Graduate Faculties, Columbia University. He also did post-graduate study at the Securities Industry Institute, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
In his professional life he was an international banker, a senior executive of the Bank of America, working almost exclusively in Latin America and the Caribbean, over a period of 38 years. Subsequently, he was a managing director of an NGO involved in democracy building in Cuba. His book, “Forgotten Voices; The Expulsion of the Germans from Eastern Europe after World War II ” was published in 2012 by Transaction Publishers,, New Brunswick, New Jersey. In (2015) a companion history was published by the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, Lincoln, Nebraska, entitled “Voices from the Gulag: The Oppression of the German minority in the Soviet Union”. Mr. Merten’s most recent book, “The Gulag in East Germany: Soviet Special Camps,1945-1950” was published in 2018, by Teneo Press, Amherst, New York. The author lives in Miami.