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Twelve million refugees and expellees were registered in East and West Germany in 1950. They had to eke out a living under extremely difficult economic and social conditions. Cultural differences also presented a challenge to the coexistence of the locals and the new arrivals. This is also evident in the traditional clothing that some Hungarian Germans continued to wear.
© Donauschwäbisches Zentralmuseum Ulm
The photo shows an Italian naval vessel taking refugees on board in international waters about 50 km off of the Libyan coast on May 29, 2015. The number of people making their way to Europe via the Central Mediterranean route is constantly growing. The overcrowded boats frequently encounter distress at sea along the way.
© Fabrizio Villa/Polaris/laif
Few people today know that there were innumerable people in flight throughout Europe during World War One. From France in the west to the Ottoman Empire and Russia in the east, refugees and deportation trains were phenomena related to the War. About 1.5 million Belgian civilians ‒ almost one-fifth of the entire population ‒ fled from the German occupation regime in 1914. The Belgian refugees were able to return to their homeland after the end of the War.
© bpk / adoc-photos
There are millions of people all over the world today, primarily in Africa and Asia, who have been affected by ethnic conflicts. Refugees and expellees often flee to neighbouring states that are scarcely able to cope with the flood of refugees. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is charged with providing humanitarian support for refugees. This includes establishing tent encampments (here in Mazraq in Yemen).
© Khaled Fazaa/AFP/Getty Images
Before 1945, many of today’s Czech cities had a majority German population, as in Trautenau/Trutnov in the Sudetes mountain range in Bohemia. The circular-shaped square with its striking pergolas still dominates the city’s appearance.
Beginning in the late nineteenth century, attacks against Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire occurred with increasing frequency. The conflicts peaked in 1915/16 with a systematic deportation that led to the obliteration of a rich Armenian culture within the Ottoman Empire. Churches and monasteries were plundered and destroyed. The restoration of the Armenian church on the Akdamar peninsula on Lake Van in Anatolia could signal a new beginning after almost one century.
© Tuul/Robert Harding World Imagery/Getty Images
During World War Two, more than one million Germans from the area under the control of the Soviet Union were resettled into the Warthegau, an area comprised of territories annexed by the Third Reich. An assistant who accompanied the resettlement trains took this photograph, which shows the arrival of Germans from Bessarabia at the Prahovo transit camp in Serbia.
© Stiftung Flucht, Vertreibung, Versöhnung
Karelia, located on both sides of the Finnish-Soviet border, was a contested territory in World War Two. About 420,000 Finnish Karelians were evacuated during the winter war started by Stalin in 1939/40. Some of them returned in 1941, yet in 1944 another offensive by the Soviet Union forced hundreds of thousands of Karelians into what turned out to be their final flight. Most of Karelia was annexed to the Soviet Union.
© [Keystone-France]/[Gamma-Keystone]/Getty Images
The organized expulsion of Germans by Polish authorities ‒ after an agreement with the British occupation zone ‒ reached its zenith in 1946 with “Operation Swallow”. Millions of people were affected in Silesia, the most heavily populated province in the eastern German Empire. This image shows Lower Silesians in February 1946 in front of the Minorite Church in Glatz on their way to the train station, where they were sent off in cattle cars to the west. The white armbands that identified them as Germans are clearly visible.
© Archiv Zentralstelle Grafschaft Glatz/Schlesien e.V., Lüdenscheid
Many of today’s refugees are children and youths. An example of this could be seen in 2015, when lots of children were separated from their parents as crowds tried to push past the border guards and cross from Greece into Macedonia. This picture by photographer Georgi Licovski went around the world and was named photo of the year by UNICEF in 2015. Licovski had previously documented the expulsion of hundreds of thousands from Kosovo in the 1990s.
© picture alliance/dpa/Georgi Licovski
Millions of refugees and expellees had to be provided with provisional living quarters in the post-war period. Housing in private households or in encampments were not meant to be a long-term solution. This is why settlements were built in several locations in the 1950s: to provide the homeless with a new home.
© BArch, B 145 Bild-F000102-0008
The cultural society of Borussia was founded in 1990. The association is dedicated to communicating the history and culture of the diverse landscapes of former East Prussia and works together with civic initiatives in Poland, Germany, Lithuania, Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus. The “house of cleansing” (Bet Tahara) at the Jewish cemetery is being restored and will host a cultural centre. This structure was the first project by the world-famous architect Erich Mendelsohn, who was born in Allenstein in 1887.
© Fotoarchiv Wspólnota Kulturowa Borussia, Olsztyn
The Red Army took the Hanseatic city of Danzig in March 1945. Most citizens fled to the west. The remaining German population was expelled after the end of the war.
© Deutsch-Russisches Museum Berlin-Karlshorst, photo correspondent Timofej Melnik
The village of Deutsch-Weißkirch (Romanian Viscri, Hungarian Szásfehéregyháza) was populated overwhelmingly by Transsylvanian Saxons for almost eight hundred years. Almost all of the village residents moved to the Federal Republic of Germany in the 1980s. The village centre and Protestant fortified church were registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1999.
© Wikimedia Commons/ public domain
Ethnically motivated conflicts in the 1990s forced people of various ethnicities to leave their homeland in the Balkans. Conflicts began to escalate in Kosovo in 1998 between Serbia, to which the Kosovo territory belonged, and the Kosovo Albanians, who were struggling for independence. Kosovo Albanians and Serbs had to flee or were brutally expelled. This photograph shows an Albanian family returning to the destroyed city of Djacovica.
© Georges Merillon/Gamma Rapho/Getty Images
On October 28 and 29, 1938, about 18,000 Jews holding Polish citizenship were deported from the German Reich as part of the so-called “Polenaktion”. This anti-Semitically motivated expulsion is considered to have been the prelude to the annihilation of European Jews. Many of those deported gathered in the border town of Zbąszyń.
© [Keystone]/[Hulton Archive]/Getty Images
The old arched bridge had stood over the Neretva River in Mostar since the sixteenth century. It was completely destroyed in 1993 during the war in Bosnia. Reconstruction began three years later and the bridge was reopened in 2004. It connects the eastern, Bosnian-influenced section of the city with the Croat-dominated western side, thereby symbolising hope for the peaceful coexistence of all ethnic and religious groups.
© Ramirez, Mostar Old Town Panorama 2007, CC BY-SA 4.0
Beginning in 1939, the German occupiers began to expel Poles from the annexed areas into the General Government or deport them to Germany for forced labour. The unfettered terror and systematic destruction of the Polish elite claimed innumerable victims. This photograph shows SS soldiers and police engaged in preparations for the ‘resettlement’ of Polish villagers.
© BArch, Bild 101III-Wisniewski-015-25A/Wisniewski
The interwar period in Europe was charged with national tensions. One example was the city of Rijeka, which was occupied by both Italians and Croats; Italy, the Kingdom of the Serbs, the Croats and the Slovenes both laid claim to the city. The city was declared the “Free City of Fiume” for a short time and became a site of bitter conflicts that ended finally in 1924 with annexation by fascist Italy. Most Italians fled what became the Yugoslavian city of Rijeka after World War Two.
The Czech initiative Antikomplex focuses on German traces in the Bohemian countries. One of its projects is the lost Sudetenland/Zmizelé Sudety. The touring exhibition contrasts old photographs of former German localities with new photographs. The ruins of the village of Grafenried/Lučina are seen here; the village was in a border area between Bohemia and Bavaria that was inaccessible for a long time.
© Antikomplex, Zdeněk Procházka
In recent years, many refugees from war and crisis zones such as Syria, Eritrea, and Afghanistan have come to Germany. This photo shows refugees upon arrival in Germany at the end of October 2015. They are being escorted by police to an emergency shelter close to Wegscheid in Bavaria.
© picture alliance/dpa/Armin Weigel
The international Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 legitimised ethnically motivated displacement. Right of return was denied to Greeks and Turks who had lost their homes in the course of the Balkan Wars of 1912/13 and the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-22. The photograph shows the Greek city of Thessaloniki in 1917, when minarets still hinted at the Turkish Muslim population.