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« Emancipation of the P… | Home | Provinces (Länder) of… »

The Oder - Neisse Line

by Bill Biar

Friday 18 November 2011 at 11:46 pm.

To better understand the Oder-Neisse Line, the modern boundary between Germany and Poland, please refer to Map I.

The 1937 eastern boundary is outlined by the heavy black line.  Hitler and Stalin divided Poland in 1939.  See Map II.  The light-shaded area in the east (four dark arrows) covers Polish territory that was annexed by the Soviet Union.  The rest of pre-World War II Polish territory (in the center) was annexed by Germany under Hitler.  Also note that Map I shows the 4 Occupation Zones (French, British, United States and Soviet) of Germany after World War II.

After World War II Polish territory annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939 was not returned to Poland.  Instead, the German territory covered by the dark-shaded area in the west and north (five white arrows on Map II), was given to Poland.  In other words, Polish losses to the Soviet Union in the east were compensated for by German lands in the west.  Thus the Oder-Neisse Line (Oder and Lusatian Neisse Rivers) became the boundary between Poland and what was up to 1990 the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik), usually referred to as East Germany.  All  the territory of the Provinces of  Pomerania (Pommern), Brandenburg and Silesia (Schlesien) east of the Oder-Neisse Line was placed under Polish administration.  That part of East Prussia (Ostpreussen) shown on the extreme northern part of Map II was annexed by the Soviet Union.  The larger southern part went to Poland.  The division of East Prussia is also shown on Map III, a more detailed map of German losses in the east.  Germany lost one-fourth of its territory as a result of World War II.

That part of Pomerania that was annexed by Poland was known as Hinterpommern.  That part of Pomerania west of the Oder River, known as Vorpommern (West Pomerania), is now a part of the newly-formed German Province of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Mecklenburg-West Pomerania).

The Province of Brandenburg was decreased by the territory it had east of the Oder River.

There are two Neisse Rivers in the south which flow into the Oder River.  One flows east of Breslau (now Wroclaw) and is often referred to as the Glatzer Neisse.  The other one referred to as the “Lusatian Neisse” (Lausitzer Neisse) is considerably to the west.  These two rivers figured in sometimes ambiguous discussions between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union concerning the fixing of the western boundary of postwar Poland.  In spite of Anglo-American protests, the line Oder-Western Neisse (Lusatian Neisse) became the boundary as the Western Allies caved in to the Soviets.

The pre-World War II German Province of Silesia had a panhandle that extended west of the Lusatian Neisse River.  See Map IV.  This former Silesian territory on the west side of the Lusatian Neisse River is now included in the newly-formed Province of Saxony.  Most of the Prussian Wends who migrated to Texas in the mid 19th century came from this area.  Thus nearly all the localities where the Texas Wends originated are now located in the modern Province of Saxony.  All the rest of pre-World War II Silesia is now a part of Poland.

All German nationals in the German provinces east of the new Polish boundary were forcibly expelled from their homeland.  They were forced to leave behind, for the most part, everything they owned, and became residents in German territory west of the new boundary.  They were limited to take along 42 pounds of their possessions.  The Allies called them “expellees,” while the Germans called them “Flüchtlinge” (refugees).  While the writer was stationed in Germany after World War II it was estimated that the number of expellees would be 6 million German nationals from former German provinces east of the Oder-Neisse line.  Mrs. Stefana Todt Biar’s parents and aunt were among these expellees.

In addition to these expellees it was estimated that 6 million ethnic Germans would be expelled from eastern European countries, such as, Czechoslovakia (now separate Czech and Slovak Republics), Hungary, Rumania, Yugoslavia, Russia, etc. 

Some time ago the writer’s attention was called to a book entitled “Nemesis of Potsdam.” by Alfred M. de Zayas, published in 1970.  Here are some statistics quoted in this book:

German population of the above mentioned areas in 1939    16,999,000

Excess of births over deaths from 1939 to 1945                    +659,000   

War losses from 1939 to  1945                                          -1,100,000     

German population at the end of the war                           16,558,000

Surviving the flight and expulsion from 1945 to 1950:

From eastern areas of Germany                                           6,944,000   

From Czechoslovakia                                                           2,921,000

From other countries                                                          1,865,000

Plus those who remained in former home areas:                                                                                 

Former eastern areas of Germany:                                         1,101,000

Czechoslovakia:                                                                      250,000

Other countries:                                                                  1,294,000

Plus those presumed still alive as prisoners of war:                         72,000

Total:                                                                               14,447,000

 Expulsion Losses                                                                   2,111,000

The question raised by the above-mentioned book is: What happened to the 2,111,000 who are unaccounted for?

Map V indicated the areas from which German nationals and ethnic Germans were expelled and shipped to what is now the Federal Republic of Germany.

Map VI is a modern map of Germany and among other things indicated the land ceded after World War I and World War II.

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