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The Ostflucht (flight from the East) was a movement by residents of the former eastern territories of Germany, such as East Prussia, West Prussia, Silesia and Province of Posen beginning around 1850, to the more industrialized western German Rhine and Ruhr provinces. Along with ethnic Germans, many of those migrating to the Ruhr were originally of Polish ethnicity later so-called Ruhrpolen.

The United States, which had been the major destination of emigrants from the German East, lost much of its attraction when it stopped granting free land to settlers in 1893.[1] At the same time, the Ruhr area prospered, leading to a high demand of workforce, especially in coal mining and heavy industries. This led to an East-to-West inner-Prussian migration. Until 1907, of Prussia's eastern provinces (Pomerania, West Prussia, East Prussia, Posen, Silesia), 2,300,000 emigrated, while only 358,000 migrated into these provinces.[2] Among these were 600,000 Poles,[3] This loss of workforce hit farms, which made up for this calling in season workers from further east. Berlin and Brandenburg in the same time gained 1,200,000 inhabitants, while the Ruhr area and surrounding provinces (Westphalia and Palatinate) gained 640,000 people.[2]

At the same time, increased immigration into the eastern German regions by Poles from western Russia caused imbalances and upheavals there, especially in Upper Silesia[citation needed].

The emigration of Germans, and the higher Polish birth rate in these areas caused concern among German nationalists, leading to the introduction of some special measures:

  • limiting sale of estates to Germans only,
  • encouraging Germans to immigrate to the Prussian state,
  • creating an Ansiedlungskommission, ("Settlement Commission") funded by the state, that aimed at buying land from ethnic Poles and selling it to Germans,
  • instituting rules which required an ethnic Pole to apply for approval (rarely given) to build a new house on a newly acquired farm.

The sociologist Max Weber first came to public attention in Germany as a result of his study of the Ostflucht and of methods of combatting it, carried out on behalf of the Verein für Socialpolitik.

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  1. ^ Otto Büsch, Ilja Mieck, Wolfgang Neugebauer, Handbuch der preussischen Geschichte, p.57
  2. ^ a b Otto Büsch, Ilja Mieck, Wolfgang Neugebauer, Handbuch der preussischen Geschichte, p.58
  3. ^ "Świat, Europa, Polska 1795-1939" Halina Tomalska, page 258 Warsaw 1994