Dr. Herbert Czaja (November 5, 1914 – April 18, 1997) was a German Christian Democratic politician and advocate for Germans expelled after World War II. He was a Member of the Bundestag, the Parliament of West Germany, from 1953 to 1990, a long-time member of the Central Committee of German Catholics, and was President of the Federation of Expellees from 1970 to 1994.
Herbert Czaja was born in Teschen in Austria-Hungary to a German-speaking, Catholic family (the name Czaja has Polish origin). He became a Polish citizen at age four when part of Cieszyn Silesia became Polish, as part of the restored Polish Republic. Czaja studied German studies, History, and Philosophy in Vienna and Kraków. During the 1930s, he was active in German student organisations in the Autonomous Silesian Voivodeship of Poland, as a member of Senator Eduard Pant's Deutsche Christliche Volkspartei, a Catholic party working for the interests of the German minority in Poland. At the same time, he worked as a teacher in eastern Upper Silesia. In 1939, before the start of World War II, he received his doctorate from the University of Kraków. Herbert Czaja was fluent in Polish and German.
During World War II, when the Autonomous Silesian Voivodeship was annexed by Nazi Germany and reattached to the Province of Silesia inside Prussia, he was granted German citizenship, being considered part of the ethnic German community.
In 1939, Czaja refused to enter the Nazi Party, which resulted in loss of his position as a teacher and assistant at schools and the Kraków University, which was later closed by the occupying German forces.
From October 1940 till March 1941 Czaja worked as secondary school (Oberschule) director in Zakopane and then from March 1941 till May 1942 in Przemyśl. His status actually prevented him from joining the Nazi Party, which only allowed native Germans (Reichsdeutsche) at this time but in 1941 he joined Deutsche Gemeinschaft, a branch of the Nazi Party created for Germans with Volksdeutsche status.
On the basis of alleged high treason during the war by military service in the army of the enemy state of Germany, Polish People's Republic authorities expelled Czaja to Stuttgart in 1946 during the expulsion of Germans after World War II. He was a member of the Bundestag, the Parliament of West Germany, from 1953 to 1990. During this time he represented Stuttgart-Nord from 1983 to 1990. He also served as spokesman of the Landsmannschaft der Oberschlesier from 1969 and president of the Federation of Expellees (Bund der Vertriebenen, BdV) from 1970-1994. From 1948 he was also member of the Central Committee of German Catholics.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Czaja voted - along with several conservative politicians - against the recognition of the Oder-Neisse line as the Polish-German definitive border in 1990, and claimed the reunification of the Federal Republic of Germany with the territory of the former German Democratic Republic was not a complete reunification according to the German constitution, as it did not include the eastern provinces of Nazi Germany as they existed on December 31, 1937. Czaja proposed to establish out of Western Poland an autonomous zone under international administration
However, he was active in Polish-German reconciliation in the 1990s, and worked for the authorities of Opole Voivodeship in modern Poland. While promoting ethnic peace between Poles and Germans, he was criticized for insisting that legally the historically eastern German provinces could in future be reunited to a German state, as he repeated in his 1996 book Unterwegs zum kleinsten Deutschland?. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung criticized him for this opinion. Czaja however stated that no expulsions may ever be repeated; that millions of Poles had lived in a German state before and could so once again if these lands would be reintegrated into Germany; Czaja however explicitly called for a Centre against Expulsions in Berlin to be established by Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic in a joint effort to promote peace and reconciliation.
Czaja died in Stuttgart in 1997, survived by a wife and ten children. The Dr.-Herbert–Czaja-Weg in Stuttgart was named in his honour the same year. His oldest daughter, Christine Czaja, who is the current vice president of the Landsmannschaft der Oberschlesier (Federation of [German] Upper Silesians), has recently published a biography of her father, who is increasingly seen positively in Poland.
- Czaja, Christine (2003): Herbert Czaja - Anwalt für Menschenrechte. Kulturstiftung der deutschen Vertriebenen
- Fakty wypaczone przez Erikę Steinbach Bogdan Musiał 24-06-2009 Rzeczpospolita
- Jeszcze Steinbach nie zginęła 09-03-2009 Rzeczpospolita