The expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War II was part of a series of evacuations and deportations of Germans from Central and Eastern Europe during and after World War II.
During the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, the Czech resistance groups demanded the deportation of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia. The decision to deport the Germans was adopted by the Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile which, beginning in 1943, sought the support of the Allies for this proposal.
The final agreement for the expulsion of the German population however was not reached until 2 August 1945 at the end of the Potsdam Conference.
In the months following the end of the war, “wild” expulsions happened from May until August 1945. Czechoslovak President Edvard Beneš on 28 October 1945 called for the “final solution of the German question” (Czech: konečné řešení německé otázky) which would have to be solved by deportation of the ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia.
The expulsions were carried out by order of local authorities, mostly by groups of armed volunteers. However, in some cases it was initiated or pursued with the assistance of the regular army. Several thousand died violently during the expulsion and more died from hunger and illness as a consequence. The expulsion according to the Potsdam Conference proceeded from 25 January 1946 until October of that year. Roughly 1.6 million ethnic Germans were deported to the American zone (West Germany), and an estimated 800,000 were deported to the Soviet zone (East Germany).
The expulsions ended in 1948, but not all Germans were expelled; estimates for the total number of non-expulsions range from approximately 160,000 to 250,000.
The West German government in 1958 estimated the ethnic German death toll during the expulsion period to be about 270,000, a figure that has been cited in historical literature since then. Recent research by a joint German and Czech commission of historians in 1995 found that the previous demographic estimates of 220,000 to 270,000 deaths were overstated and based on faulty information; they concluded that the actual death toll was at least 15,000 persons, and that it could range up to a maximum of 30,000 dead if one assumes that some deaths were not reported. The Commission statement also said that German records show 18,889 confirmed deaths including 3,411 suicides. Czech records indicated 22,247 deaths including 6,667 unexplained cases or suicides.
The German Church Search Service was able to confirm the deaths of 14,215 persons during the expulsions from Czechoslovakia (6,316 violent deaths, 6,989 in internment camps and 907 in the USSR as forced laborers).
The 1945 expulsion was referred to as the “wild transfer” (divoký odsun) due to the widespread violence and brutality that were not only perpetuated by mobs but also by soldiers, police, and others acting under the color of authority.
In the summer of 1945, for instance, there were localised massacres of the German population. The following examples are described in a study done by the European University Institute in Florence:
- 18–19 June 1945, in the Přerov incident, 71 men, 120 women and 74 children (265 Germans) who were Carpathian Germans from Dobšiná were passing through Horní Moštěnice near Přerov railway station. Here they were taken out of the train by Czechoslovakian soldiers, taken outside the city to a hill named “Švédské šance”, where they were forced to dig their own graves and all were shot. The massacre did not become publicly known until the fall of the Communist regime in 1989.
- 20,000 Germans were forced to leave Brno for camps in Austria. Z. Beneš reported 800 deaths.
- Estimates of those killed in the Ústí massacre range from not less than 42 up to 2,000 civilians. Recent estimates range from 80 to 100 deaths.
- 763 ethnic Germans were shot dead in and around Postelberg (now Postoloprty).
- During the wild transfer phase, it is estimated that the number of murdered Germans was between 19,000 and 30,000.Accounts indicated that the Czechoslovak government was not averse to “popular justice” as long it did not excessively blacken the country’s reputation abroad. There were even government officials who maintained that the massacres at Usti would not have happened if the government dealt with the Germans more harshly.