Deportation of Germans from Transylvania after World War II
(Article under construction.)
The deportation of Germans from Transylvania after World War II, conducted on Soviet order early in 1945, uprooted tens of thousands of Romania’s Germans, many 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.
|Flight and expulsion of Germans during
and after World War II
|Wartime flight and evacuation|
|Post-war flight and expulsion|
Official position of the Rădescu government
The government headed by Prime Minister Nicolae Rădescu, declared itself “completely surprised” by the order that Romania’s Soviet occupiers issued on January 6, 1945. The order provided for the mobilisation of all the German inhabitants of Transylvania, 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 Brașov, the Rădescu government sent a protest note to the (Soviet) Vice-President of the Allied Control Commission, General Vladislav Petrovich Vinogradov. This note explained that the armistice treaty (signed on September 12, 1944) did not envision expulsions and that Transylvanian 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. The expulsion has been characterised 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 around 75,000 individuals were deported to the Soviet Union — some 15% of Transylvania’s German population (according to 1941 data). 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, 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.
The colonization of Transylvania by Germans was begun by King Géza II of Hungary (1141–1162). For decades, the main task of the German settlers was to defend the southeastern border of the Kingdom of Hungary. The colonization continued until the end of the 13th century. Although the colonists came mostly from the western Holy Roman Empire and generally spoke Franconian dialects, they were collectively known as Saxons because of Germans working for the Hungarian chancellery.
After 1918, when, following the Treaty of Trianon, Transylvania was separated from Hungary and united with Romania, Transylvanian Saxons, together with other German-speaking groups in newly enlarged Romania (Banat Swabians, Sathmar Swabians, Bessarabia Germans, Bukovina Germans, became part of the German minority in Romania. The Transylvanian Saxon population has decreased since World War II. Transylvanian Saxons started leaving Transylvania during and after WWII, settling first in Austria, then especially in Germany. The process of emigration continued during Communist rule in Romania, and even into the collapse of the Ceaușescu regime in 1989 when approximately half a million fled to homeland Germany. The great majority of Transylvanian Saxons now live in Germany. A sizable Transylvanian Saxon population also resides today in the United States, notably in Idaho, Ohio and Colorado and in Southern Ontario, Canada. Very few still live in Romania, where at the last official census around 37,000 Germans were registered, the number including also Banat Swabians and Sathmar Swabians.