Emigration from Poland to Germany after World War II
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As a result of the World War II, Poland's borders were shifted dramatically westwards. Within Poland's new boundaries there remained a substantial number of ethnic Germans who were largely expelled from Poland, until 1951. The remaining former German citizens were mostly so-called "autochthons" who were allowed to stay in post-war Poland after declaring Polish nationality in a special verification process. However, according to article 116 of the German constitution, all former German citizens, regardless of their nationality, can be "re-granted German citizenship on application" and also are "considered as not having been deprived of their German citizenship if they have established their domicile in Germany after May 8, 1945 and have not expressed a contrary intention." This regulation allowed the "autochthons", as well as ethnic Germans who at first decided to stay in Poland and were allowed to do so, to reclaim German citizenship and settle in West Germany. Besides those groups a substantial community of Poles who never had German citizenship were immigrating to West Germany during the whole period of the People's Republic of Poland due to its undemocratic political system and constant economic problems.
Evacuation, flight and expulsions of Germans from Poland
After 1945, ethnic deportation was used as a tool to create a homogenous nation within the new borders of the People's Republic of Poland, which contained a large amount of territory that was once part of Germany. The Masses of people were forced to move: ethnic Germans and Germans from what became Western Poland (the so-called Recovered Territories) to the post-war Allied Occupation Zones in Germany; ethnic Ukrainians from eastern regions of Poland to the USSR or to the Recovered Territories.
The decision to move the Polish border westward was made by the Allies of World War II during the wartime Tehran and Yalta Conferences, and fixed in the post-war Potsdam Agreement, which also provided for the expulsion of German citizens to Allied occupation zones. Though the Potsdam agreement left the final decision about the border shift, and thus the extent of the expulsions, to a future peace treaty, the Polish administration, who had already worked toward a fait accompli with its pre-Potsdam ("wild") expulsions from the territories adjacent to the Oder-Neisse line, interpreted the agreement as final decision which would only be formally confirmed in the projected peace treaty. Since the peace treaty looked like it would never take place (it didn't until the early 1990s, see Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany), the Potsdam Agreement de facto took its place. The status of the expellees in post-war West Germany, who granted a right of return to the German diaspora, was legally defined in the Federal Expellee Law of 1953.
The deportations of people considered German stopped in 1950 (in 1945–1950 almost 3.2 million Germans were ousted). From that time on, the authorities officially conceded that there were at most a few thousand ethnic Germans living in Poland. These numbers included the ethnic Germans among the Mazurians, Silesians and Kashubs. Practically all through the years until the Polish communist regime was ousted, the existence of Germans remaining in Poland was denied. Polish prime minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, in office 1989–91, was the first to recognize the German minority officially.
In the same period regained territories were resettled by Poles coming from various locations. Around 155,000 men from the Kresy (the former Polish territories east of the Curzon line) who in 1944 were conscripted to the Polish army, were after the war settled in the West. Around 2.9 million came from central Poland. Up to two million had been freed from forced labor in Nazi Germany. 1.126 million were expelled from the former Polish territories in the east. However, despite the repatriation, it is estimated that over 525,000 Poles remained in those territories after the war.
Family reunification process
After the Polish "Bureau for Repatriation" (PUR) had declared the forced expulsions of Germans accomplished and was thus dissolved in 1951, official estimates placed the number of remaining Germans at about 130,000. Historian Witold Sienkiewicz analyzed estimates of various historians and concluded that almost 300,000 Germans were still living in Poland at that time. Most of these people had first wanted to remain in their homeland, but later decided to leave Poland and settle in Germany. On 2 January 1950, the governments of Poland and the newly established East Germany negotiated a treaty allowing 76,000 Germans to voluntarily migrate from Poland to East Germany from early 1950 to late 1951.
Later emigrations from Poland to Germany, though formally possible, were effectively impeded by the Polish local and central authorities. Many of the former German citizens willing to settle in West Germany were not allowed to leave Poland until the Polish October of 1956. This event, which marked the fall of Stalinism in Poland, allowed many to finally leave the country in the so-called "family reunification process".
In the following years, between 231,000 and 260,000 people left Poland and settled in both parts of Germany (about 80% in West Germany). At the same time, about 250,000 people were allowed to immigrate to Poland from the Soviet Union during the so-called "repatriations" between 1955 and 1959.
The German minority in Poland and other people who immigrated to Germany were of heterogenic descent. During the post-war expulsions, it was possible for former German citizens who had held Polish citizenship before to become "rehabilitated", and for former German citizens of Polish, Kashubian, Masurian or Silesian descent to become "verified" as "autochtones", thus gaining Polish citizenship and avoiding expulsion. Some ethnic Germans able to communicate in dialects such as Silesian and Masurian were classified as autochthons by the Polish authorities as well. While 1,104,134 people were verified, the number of people who were rehabilitated is unknown. In addition, there were Germans who were allowed to stay in Poland when the expulsion decree of 1946 was partially reonunced in 1950. Their number is estimated between 160,000 and 200,000. The majority of emigrants were people who had been verified as autochthones. They decided to start a new life in Germany due to cross-border family ties, the poor economic situation and the lack of democracy in Poland. Emigrees automatically lost Polish citizenship and were granted German citizenship on crossing the border if the emigrant or deportee had not been a German citizen before.
In the early 1960s, immigration to Germany was again impeded by the authorities, leading to a considerably lower number of emigrees throughout the 1960s and 1970s. It is estimated that between 1960 and 1970 about 22,000 people per year immigrated, 12% to 28% of whom came from those parts of the western and northern ("recovered") territories that were populated by autochthons. In the early 1970s, about 67,000 people were leaving Poland annually with a rate of 10% to 26% of people from those territories.
In the late 1970s, West German chancellor Willy Brandt's policy of Ostpolitik led to a rapproachment with Poland. Relations between the two states were normalized in the Treaty of Warsaw. This led to further agreements between the Polish leader Edward Gierek and Willy Brandt, concluded in Helsinki during the third phase of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe. According to these agreements, 120,000 to 125,000 people were to be allowed to leave Poland in the family reunification process in exchange for economic aid from Western Germany to Poland. Actually, more than 230,000 people left Poland, among whom were almost all remaining "autochthons" who were dissatisfied with the political and economical situation in Poland. Many of them, especially if they were born after 1945, were not able to speak German. At home, they spoke their regional dialect and at school they were taught only literary Polish and Russian. Those emigrants were usually manual laborers, farmers and craftsmen mostly without higher education. After arriving in Germany, they usually kept together and cultivated their regional traditions and language. Some of them retained Polish citizenship and played an active role in the Polish organisations in Germany. In the long run, however, most of them assimilated into German society.
In the 1980s, which marked the last decade of the Polish People's Republic's existence, almost 740,000 people decided to leave Poland. This was due to the implementation of martial law and a stagnating economy affected by the economic sanctions imposed by the USA under Ronald Reagan. These emigrants were primarily ethnic Poles, most of whom were unable to communicate in German and had to learn it at special language courses organised by the German authorities. Most of them kept close contacts with their relatives and friends in Poland and some of them retained Polish citizenship. They are usually active in Polish organizations in Germany.
Besides former German citizens, their descendants and members of their families (usually a party of a mixed marriage – autochthon and nonautochthon) other Polish citizens also emigrated to Germany after World War II. The exact numbers are difficult to estimate. It is known that in the 1980s about 300,000 Poles left Poland (usually illegally) and settled in Western Germany. Among many true political emigrants, some of these people only claimed to be such, in fact emigrating for economic reasons. This so-called "Solidarity emigration" involved a high number of people with secondary and higher education. They were characterised by possessing deep national pride, and actively participate in Polish cultural and political life in Germany. Few of them returned to Poland after the fall of communism in 1989 (see Polish Round Table Agreement and Contract Sejm).
After World War II over 2.5 million Polish citizens emigrated to the Federal Republic of Germany. Most of them accepted German citizenship and gave up Polish citizenship. However more than 300,000 people decided to retain Polish citizenship and now have both Polish and German citizenships. Almost all who emigrated from Poland at least in their teens are still Polish speakers. Yet their children are usually only German-speaking. It is estimated that former Polish citizens together with the holders of both citizenships living in Germany form a group of 2 million people.
- Grzegorz Janusz in Manfred Kittel, Deutschsprachige Minderheiten 1945: ein europäischer Vergleich, Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 2007, pp.143,144, ISBN 3-486-58002-7
- (English)The Expulsion of 'German' Communities from Eastern Europe at the end of the Second World War, Steffen Prauser and Arfon Rees, European University Institute, Florense. HEC No. 2004/1. p.28
- (English)Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany
- Ryszard W. Piotrowicz, Sam Blay, Gunnar Schuster, Andreas Zimmermann, The unification of Germany in international and domestic law, Rodopi, 1997, pp.46-49, ISBN 90-5183-755-0 
- Potsdam Agreement, full text at pbs.org 
- Philipp Ther, Deutsche Und Polnische Vertriebene: Gesellschaft und Vertriebenenpolitik in SBZ/DDR und in Polen 1945-1956, 1998, p. 57, ISBN 3-525-35790-7
- Ryszard W. Piotrowicz, Sam Blay, Gunnar Schuster, Andreas Zimmermann, The unification of Germany in international and domestic law, Rodopi, 1997, pp.48-50, ISBN 90-5183-755-0 
- (German) Federal Expellee Law (Germany) at juris.de 
- (English) K. Cordell in Stefan Wolff (2000). Berghahn Books, ed. German Minorities in Europe: Ethnic Identity and Cultural Belonging. pp. :80. ISBN 157181504 Check
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- (Polish) Jerzy Kozłowski (2001). Wydawnictwo Literackie, ed. Polska Diaspora. Kraków. pp. :248. ISBN 83-08-03096-3.
- K. Cordell in Stefan Wolff, German Minorities in Europe: Ethnic Identity and Cultural Belonging, Berghahn Books, 2000, pp.79,80, ISBN 157181504
- Philipp Ther, Deutsche und polnische Vertriebene: Gesellschaft und Vertriebenenpolitik in SBZ/DDR und in Polen 1945-1956, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1998, p.306, ISBN 3-525-35790-7
- (English) Christian Raitz von Frentz (1999). LIT Verlag Berlin-Hamburg-Münster, ed. A lesson forgotten. pp. :257. ISBN 3-8258-4472-2. Google Books
- (English) Miroslawa Czerny (2006). Nova Publishers, ed. Poland in the geographical centre of Europe. pp. :76. ISBN 1-59454-603-7. Google Books