Central European History


National Mythologies and Ethnic Cleansing: The Expulsion of Czechoslovak Germans in 1945

Eagle Glassheima1

a1 Princeton University

Beginning in January of 1946, trains filled with Sudeten Germans—forty wagons, thirty passengers per wagon—left Czechoslovakia daily for the American Zone of occupied Germany. By the end of 1946, the Czechoslovak government completed the “organized transfer” of almost 2 million Germans, and it did so in a manner that in many respects fulfilled the mandate of the Potsdam agreement that the resettlement be “orderly and humane.” But a focus on these regularized trainloads of human cargo obscures the extent of the humanitarian disaster facing Germans during the summer months of 1945, immediately after the Nazi capitulation. By the end of 1945, Czech soldiers, security forces, and local militias had already expelled over 700,000 Sudeten Germans to occupied Germany and Austria. As many as 30,000 Germans died on forced marches, in disease-filled concentration camps, in summary executions, and massacres.