The ‘Good War’ Ends & 95% Of Babies Born in Berlin Die On America’s Watch: The Policy To Expel & Force Resettlement of Germans into Germany
“In the U.S. sector of Berlin, the infant mortality rate for infants born in the summer of 1945 was 95%. The records of the occupying authorities and humanitarian bodies are replete with descriptions of overcrowded, unheated, disease-ridden, and even roofless facilities in which expellees languished for months or years.”
The Policy To Expel & Force Resettlement of Germans into Germany
One of the great tragedies of the 20th century was the forced expulsion of ethnic Germans from their homes after the end of World War II. The Allies carried out the largest forced population transfer—and perhaps the greatest single movement of people—in human history. A minimum of 12 million and possibly as many as 18.1 million Germans were driven from their homes because of their ethnic background. Probably 2.1 million or more of these German expellees, mostly women and children, died in what was supposed to be an “orderly and humane” expulsion.
The surviving expelled Germans continued to face unimaginable hardships and suffering once they arrived in Germany. The devastation of Germany by total warfare had demolished its life-sustaining resources. Industrial production in the American zone after the war had gradually risen until it reached a high of about 12% of the old normal. However, with a cut in food rations, the industrial production index had begun to decline again. On May 4, 1946, Brig. Gen. William H. Draper, Jr., the Allied Military Government director of economics, reported that industrial output in the American zone was “far below that necessary to maintain the minimum standard of living.”
By August 1945, the daily death rate in Berlin had risen from a prewar amount of 150 to 4,000, even though Berlin’s population in August 1945 was significantly smaller than before the war. In the U.S. sector of Berlin, the infant mortality rate for infants born in the summer of 1945 was 95%. Germany also faced an acute shortage of housing after the war. Even where houses existed, the inadequacy of water or drainage facilities in them was giving rise to the grave danger of epidemics. Because of the high proportion of sick, abused, or infirm expellees, the hospitals and asylums in Germany were full to overflowing. This was the environment into which the Allies proposed to transfer another 7 to 8 million people.
By September 1945, 45 makeshift reception camps had been set up in Berlin, employing barracks, schools, and any other building not already being used for other purposes. The number of expellees seeking admission to these camps greatly exceeded the spaces available. Thousands of expellees never left the station at which they had arrived, while thousands more set up improvised tent villages in city parks or woods on the outskirts of Berlin. Many expellees died of hypothermia as the weather turned colder, and the sight of corpses of people who had spent their last night outdoors became a common spectacle during the first peacetime winter in Germany. By the end of 1945, 625 camps of various kinds with a total population of more than 480,000 had been established in eastern Germany. The number of camps in the Western zones of Germany ran into the thousands.
Conditions in most of the expellee camps were extremely grim. The records of the occupying authorities and humanitarian bodies are replete with descriptions of overcrowded, unheated, disease-ridden, and even roofless facilities in which expellees languished for months or years. Unemployment was also a problem for the expellees. When German expellees could find work at all, it tended to be poorly paid if not positively exploitative.
As 1946 began drawing to a close, Germany continued to feel the strain of the so-called organized expulsions. Col. Ralph Thicknesse, a senior officer administering Operation Swallow, warned:
“At present, we tend to regard occupied Germany as a waste-paper basket with a limitless capacity for the unwanted waste of the world. We are not convinced that this attitude is correct, either economically or politically.”
The Western democracies generally disavowed any responsibility for the suffering that resulted from the German expulsions, which they claimed was entirely the concern of the expelling states or of the Germans themselves. Some officers attached to the Allied Military Government in Germany even stated that mass deaths among expellees were a matter of no great significance compared to the overriding objective of not offending the Soviet Union. For example, Goronwy Rees stated on November 2, 1945:
It is inevitable that millions of Germans must die in the coming winter. It is inevitable that millions of the nomads who wander aimlessly in all directions across Germany should find no resting place but the grave….These facts could only be altered, if at all, by a universal effort of philanthropy which would reverse the result of the war….
The real danger of Germany at the moment is not that millions of Germans must starve, freeze and die during the winter; it is that out of their misery the Germans should create an opportunity for destroying the unity of the Allies who defeated them.
While not in the majority, views like these were far from unusual.
Although most of the German expellees were Catholic, the Vatican conspicuously refrained from protesting their mass expulsion. While individual priests and bishops in the United States and central Europe vigorously condemned mass expulsions as inconsistent with the laws of God, the Pope never publicly did so. Nor did the governing body of any other Christian denomination protest the mass deportations of ethnic Germans. The Christian churches were only prepared to give small-scale assistance to the expellees out of existing funds. To mount a larger appeal on behalf of the expelled Germans would have required at least a public announcement on their behalf, and this was something that none of the Christian churches was prepared to do.
Those individuals and nongovernmental organizations that sought to mitigate the ill effects of the German expulsions could make little headway. The Allies insisted that the German expellees be excluded from any form of international protection or assistance. As a result, humanitarian organizations like the Red Cross were frequently prevented from extending even minimal assistance to the German expellees.
In addition to denying food, clothing, and shelter to the German expellees, Allied policy prevented any organization from representing the expellees to the expelling states or the Allied governments in Germany. Nor was there any agency or organization to which German expellees subject to inhumane treatment could appeal. Because of this Allied policy, advocates for the expellees could do little more than attempt to raise public awareness. While advocates for the expellees enjoyed limited success in this regard, it was never enough to make a difference in the way in which the expulsions were conducted. None of the expelling or receiving governments was ever compelled by the pressure of public opinion to abandon or modify a policy on which they had previously decided.
Freda Utley described the treatment of the German expellees in Germany:
Many of the old, the young, and the sick died of hunger or cold or exposure on the long march into what remained of Germany, or perished of hunger and thirst and disease in the crowded cattle cars in which some of the refugees were transported. Those who survived the journey were thrust upon the slender resources of starving occupied Germany. No one of German race was allowed any help by the United Nations. The displaced-persons camps were closed to them and first the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and then the International Refugee Organization (IRO) was forbidden to succor them. The new untouchables were thrown into Germany to die, or survive as paupers in the miserable accommodations which the bombed-out cities of Germany could provide for those even more wretched than their original inhabitants.
How many were killed or died will never be known. Out of a total of 12 to 13 million people who had committed the crime of belonging to the German race, 4 or 5 million are unaccounted for. But no one knows how many are dead and how many are slave laborers….
The estimate of the number of German expellees, or Flüchtlinge as the Germans call them, in Rump Germany is now 8 or 9 million. The International Refugee Organization (IRO) takes no account of them, and was expressly forbidden by act of Congress to give them any aid. It is obviously impossible for densely overcrowded West Germany to provide for them. A few have been absorbed into industry or are working on German farms, but for the most part they are living in subhuman conditions without hope of acquiring homes or jobs.
American aid in the form of the Marshall Plan eventually helped to improve conditions in Germany. The famous “economic miracle” made possible by the Marshall Plan achieved two important goals: rapid economic recovery and the integration of millions of expellees into the German economy. The expellees had many years of pain behind them; now they could rebuild their lives and have a chance to begin anew. Unfortunately, even in 1949 many of the German expellees still had to live in group housing.
Freda Utley wrote of the discrimination expellees faced in obtaining adequate housing:
Although the number of displaced persons in Germany is continually diminishing and many of the camps are half empty, the Germans are not allowed either to regain possession of the many houses, barracks, and other buildings occupied by the DP’s, or to place their own refugees in them. Exact information is not available since the German authorities are not allowed to enter the DP camps but, according to the estimate of the Bavarian Minister for Refugees, between 24 thousand and 28 thousand beds are now unoccupied. While this accommodation is wasted the German refugees are crowded into unsanitary huts and other accommodation unprovided with the most elementary comforts and decencies, and frequently have to sleep on the floor….
In the Dachau camp near Munich I found 50 or more people—men, women and children—to each wooden hut 26 x 65 feet in size. There were no partitions, but the inmates were using some of their precious blankets to screen off their cubicles. The huts were cold and damp. It was raining and one woman with a little girl suffering from a bad cold showed me the wall behind their bed where the rain seeped through.
Four hundred people at Dachau shared one washroom and one outdoor latrine and there was no hot water. No one had any linen or sheets, and some had neither shoes nor overcoats.
One positive result of the expulsions is that within an incredibly few years, the German expellees had become effectively integrated into the larger society in both West and East Germany. Instead of becoming terrorists in order to force the return of their homelands, the expellees preferred to take the path of peace and reconstruction. They renounced revenge and retaliation and made a decisive contribution to the West German economic miracle by means of hard work and sacrifice. It should be noted that the expellees’ public expression against revenge did not merely stem from a condition of weakness. It has been maintained ever since, and remains as Germany has become a respected political and economic power.
The hard work and sacrifice of the German expellees was duplicated by Germans already living in Germany. With an incredible will and energy, Germans set out to rebuild their country. Admiring the hard work of German women, one American exclaimed: “Did you ever see anything like it! Aren’t those German women wonderful?” Another American said: “I used to think that it was only in China you could see women working like that; I never imagined white people could do it. I admire their guts.”
However, the fact that the German expellees quickly integrated into German society should not be viewed as a kind of retrospective vindication of Allied policy. The costs of the expulsions were all too apparent. Probably at least 2 million of the German expellees, most of whom were women and children, lost their lives during the expulsions. Millions more of the expellees were impoverished, without the assets they had lost in the expelling countries necessarily enriching those who took possession of them. The economies of entire regions were disrupted, and the surviving expellees suffered tremendous hardships both during and after the expulsions. Tens of thousands of German women who had been repeatedly raped had to bear the physical and psychological scars for their entire life. The legacy of bitterness, recrimination, and mutual distrust between Germany and her neighbors from the expulsions still lingers to this day.
 Dietrich, John, The Morgenthau Plan: Soviet Influence on American Postwar Policy, New York: Algora Publishing, 2002, p. 137.
 Keeling, Ralph Franklin, Gruesome Harvest: The Allies’ Postwar War against the German People, Torrance, CA: Institute for Historical Review, 1992, p. 84.
 Douglas, R. M., Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War, New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2012, pp. 198, 303.
 Ibid., pp. 303-304, 309.
 Ibid., pp. 185, 192, 310-312.
 Ibid., pp. 286-287.
 Ibid., p. 297.
 Ibid., p. 286.
 Utley, Freda, The High Cost of Vengeance, Chicago: Regnery, 1949, pp. 202-203.
 De Zayas, Alfred-Maurice, A Terrible Revenge: The Ethnic Cleansing of the East European Germans, 2nd edition, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, p. 130.
 Utley, Freda, The High Cost of Vengeance, Chicago: Regnery, 1949, pp. 203-204.
 De Zayas, Alfred-Maurice, A Terrible Revenge: The Ethnic Cleansing of the East European Germans, 2nd edition, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, pp. 135-137.
 Utley, Freda, The High Cost of Vengeance, Chicago: Regnery, 1949, p. 37.
 Douglas, R. M., Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War, New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2012, pp. 302, 364.