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The Heimatvertriebene (aka Heimatvertriebene or 'Vertriebenen', trans.: "ethnic German refugees", lit. trans: "the ones driven from their homeland") are the result of the diaspora of the approximately 15 million ethnic Germans and German citizens, who in the years surrounding World War II fled or were evicted from countries occupied by the Soviet army, particularly those parts of eastern Germany that after World War II became part of Poland as well as Sudeten Germans from the former Czechoslovakia.

In the period from 1945 to 1950, Germans were forced to move out of these territories or out of other Eastern European countries. At the time this was considered to be justifiable as punishment for the atrocities of Nazi Germany in Eastern Europe, and sympathy for the plight of the expelled Germans was and remains low in Eastern Europe.

After World War II, many refugees returned to their homes, but were then expelled by the new communist regimes in these countries.

It is estimated that between 1.8 & 3 million German refugees died during the forced trek, due to being bombarded, refugee boats and ships being torpedoed, of having to walk thousands of kilometers to west of the Odra/Nysa river in Germany, over the frozen Baltic Sea and heavy snow and of starvation.

Table of contents

Charter of the Ethnic German Refugees The Charta der deutschen Heimatvertriebenen (Charter of the Ethnic German Refugees) of August 5, 1950 announced their belief in requiring that "the right to the homeland is recognized and carried out as one of the fundamental rights of mankind given by God", while renouncing revenge and retaliation in the face of the "infinite wrong" of the previous decade, and supporting the unified effort to rebuild Germany and Europe.

German Laws concerning Expellees Between 1953 and 1991 the West German government, the Bundesregierung, has passed several laws dealing with the expellees. Most notable of these laws is the law of return which granted West Germany citizenship to any ethnic German. Several additions were made to these laws: [[1] (http://www.landkreis-guenzburg.de/behoerde/sozww/daten/gesetze/bvfg.htm)].

Recent developments

Under previous governments, especially those led by the CDU, the (West) German government has shown more rhetorical support for the refugeed and expelled Germans. SPD governments have been traditionally less supportive of the Heimatvertriebene and it was under an SPD government under Willy Brandt that recognized the Odra-Nysa line as part of a policy of Ostpolitik.

Nevertheless, support for the aims of these groups within the German electorate remains low, and recent German governments both CDU and SPD have tended to favor better relationship with Eastern Europe even when this conflicted with the interests of the Heimatvertriebenen. The issue of the Eastern border of Germany and of return of Heimatvertiebene to their original home is an issue which current German governments consider closed.

Holocaust deniers have attached themselves to the issue of the Heimatvertriebenen, and have attempted to use the sympathy for the plight of those Germans who suffered and died in the expulsions to put forward their right-wing agenda. These revisionists attempt to retroactively minimise the suffering of the Holocaust, or to blame the Jews for the suffering of the Heimatvertriebenen.

German right-wing revisionist author and ethnic nationalist Rolf Josef Eibicht[?] has described what has happened to the Heimatvertriebe as "an unparalled genocide, an eviction-Holocaust of the German people, an undescribable thousand-year crime".

Most Heimatvertriebene are not organized within any group or organization. They are well integrated within their new surrounding. Many or their children and grandchildren even don't know where their family originally comes from or they have been to these regions for sightseeing ("Heimwehtourismus"). During these trips many friendships to the new inhabitants of these towns and villages developed.

See also: German expulsion after World War II, nationalism.

External Links and References

  • Charta der deutschen Heimatvertriebenen (http://www.cdu.de/omv/charta.htm) photograph (http://www.dhm.de/lemo/objekte/pict/JahreDesAufbausInOstUndWest_chartaDerDeutschenHeimatvertriebenen/index.jpg)
  • For latest developments:[2] (http://cdu.de/politik-a-z/vertriebenen/inhalt.htm)

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