Deportation of Germans from Romania after World War II

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Expulsion of Sudeten Germans following the end of World War II
Flight and expulsion of Germans during
and after World War II
(demographic estimates)
Wartime flight and evacuation
Post-war flight and expulsion
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Traditionally German (Saxon or Swabian) territories in Transylvania.

The deportation of Germans from Romania after World War II, conducted on Soviet order early in 1945, uprooted over 30,000 of Romania's Germans, one tenth of whom lost their lives. The deportation was part of the Soviet plan for German war reparations in the form of forced labor, according to the 1944 secret Soviet Order 7161. Most of the survivors returned to Romania between late 1945 and 1952, with a smaller part settling in different parts of Germany.

Official position of the Rădescu government[edit]

Plans for transfer of the German population from Romania existed at least since 1939, but abandoned during World War II. The idea re-emerged, at the proposal of the German government, after Romania left the Axis and joined the Allies. The proposal was received favourably by the Romanian foreign minister Grigore Niculescu-Buzești and the Sănătescu government, the only opposition coming from the representatives of the Communist Party. The proposal was put forward to the Soviets for approval during the armistice negotiations in Moscow, but was bluntly rejected, as the Soviets feared such a transfer would only serve to strengthen the Wehrmacht. The Romanian authorities however continued to study the possibility of a mass expulsion, and prepared a bill that would have left a large number of Germans without Romanian citizenship.[1]

Nevertheless, the last non-communist government of Romania, headed by Prime Minister Nicolae Rădescu, declared itself "completely surprised" by the order that Romania's Soviet occupiers issued on January 6, 1945.[citation needed] The order provided for the mobilisation of all the German inhabitants of Romania, with a view toward deporting many of them to the Soviet Union. The deportation order applied to all men between the ages of 17 and 45 and women between 18 and 30. Only pregnant women, women with children less than a year old and persons unable to work were excluded. On January 13, 1945, when arrests had already begun in Bucharest and Brașov, the Rădescu government sent a protest note to the (Soviet) Vice-President of the Allied Control Commission for Romania, General Vladislav Petrovich Vinogradov. This note explained that the armistice treaty (signed on September 12, 1944) did not envision expulsions and that Romanian industry would suffer following the deportation of so much of its workforce, and especially of a high percentage of its skilled workforce, to be found among its German population. In closing, Rădescu raised humanitarian concerns regarding the fate of women and children left behind.[citation needed] The expulsion has been characterised[citation needed] as being one of the first manifestations of the Cold War, as it showed the impossibility of joint control between East and West, even before the end of World War II.


Statistics regarding the expulsion of Transylvanian Saxons indicate that up to 30,336 individuals were deported to the Soviet Union — some 15% of Transylvania's German population (according to 1941 data).[2] 12% of expellees were outside the age limits provided for in the deportation order; a 13-year-old girl was deported, as were people aged 55. 90% of expellees ended up in the Ukrainian SSR (the areas of Dnipropetrovsk, Stalino and Voroshilovgrad), the rest in the Urals. (see Forced labor of Germans in the Soviet Union for more background.)

The expellees were received in 85 camps. A third worked in mines, a quarter in construction, the rest in industry, agriculture or camp administration. Very few were given the jobs they had done in Romania.

The first expellees unsuited for work were returned to Transylvania at the end of 1945. Between 1946 and 1947, about 5,100 Saxons were brought, by special transports for the sick, to Frankfurt an der Oder, a city then in the Soviet occupation zone of Germany.

3,076 of the deportees died while in the USSR,[2] three quarters of them being male. When they were freed, a quarter of deportees were sent to Germany, of whom just a seventh returned to Transylvania.

The highest number of deaths occurred in 1947. Starting in 1948, the situation improved, with a dramatic drop in the number of sick and dead expellees.

In 1948, those able to work also began to be freed from the camps (49% of them), so that in October 1949 the camps were shut down. The last third of the expellees returned to Transylvania. Of those brought to the Soviet occupation zone, around half received permission to return home. The rest moved elsewhere (mostly to West Germany), but a few remained in East Germany.

202 expellees were allowed to return home only in 1950-52. According to Soviet documents, 7 expellees chose to remain in the USSR.

Further turmoil came for Romania's ethnic Germans (this time mainly Banat Swabians) during the Bărăgan deportations of the 1950s.

Collectivization of Farms and the Forced Resettlement of Banat Germans to the Baragan Steppes[edit]

The agrarian reform of March 1945 targeted, initially at least, the German minority in Romania. Thus, Romanians of German descent who had been part of the Nazi-aligned "German Ethnic Group" or otherwise supported the policies of Nazi Germany in any form had their properties confiscated without compensation. The respective lands were generally awarded to Romanian ethnics during the subsequent land reform. After a revolt against the government policy of collectivisation, asserted by the Romanian authorities to have been instigated by Tito, the population living on the border with Yugoslavia and deemed unreliable was forcefully transferred to the Baragan plain, in eastern Romania. Some estimates claim that between 30,000 and 40,000 of the displaced were Banat Swabians. Most were able to return in 1955, though their former properties had been in the meantime allocated to others.[3]

1995 revelations[edit]

An article in the newspaper Allgemeine Deutsche Zeitung für Rumänien, published on January 13, 1995, revealed that the Romanian government was not in fact "completely surprised" by the deportation order. In fact, even before receiving the order, the government had ordered that lists of men and women capable of performing hard labour be drawn up. Weeks in advance, the state railway, Căile Ferate Române, had begun to prepare cattle wagons to transport the deportees. Documents uncovered after 1989 show that the deportations were planned in detail: as early as December 19, 1944, the prime minister's office transmitted orders by telephone to police inspectors for the purpose of registering the work-capable German population, to comply with the Soviet Order 7161 issued 3 days earlier.

All Red Army groups had orders to bring a certain number of work-capable ethnic Germans to camps, and then to deport them to the Soviet Union - this mission was accomplished with the Romanian authorities' assistance, as well as by Red Army units and GRU agents.

In fiction[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Baier, Hannelore (2014). "Germanii din România în atenţia lui Stalin. Politica faţă de minoritatea germană în anii 1944-1948*". Archiva Moldaviae (in Romanian). 6 (6): 229–245. ISSN 2067-3930.
  2. ^ a b Schuller, August. "Transylvanian Newspaper" (in German). Siebenbürgische Zeitung. Retrieved 15 November 2010.
  3. ^ Merten, Ulrich (2012). Forgotten Voices: The Expulsion of the Germans from Eastern Europe after World War II. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. pp. 271, 274. ISBN 978-1-4128-4302-7.