History Highlights, Notes on German Culture

Berlin was once located in the center of Germany…now the German capital is oddly situated right next to the eastern border.

Current map of Germany with Berlin at eastern border

On a map of the German Empire in 1871, you can see that Berlin was once located in the center of Germany. The location of Berlin within German borders is the most glaring difference between old and modern Germany. When you look at a modern map, you see Berlin is oddly situated right next to the eastern border…and the reason why is that a huge chunk of Germany is missing, lost to the Allies after WWII. On this map you can clearly see that the capital city of Berlin was once in the center of the country, looking horizontally between east and west.

Old Germany map with Berlin in the center of the country

Prussia was declared defunct in 1945 by the Allied victors. The original (East and West) Prussia was cleansed of its ethnic German population and given mostly to Poland and the rest to Lithuania and Russia.

The reason behind this generosity to Poland was simple… Russia insisted on keeping the eastern half of Poland that it conquered in 1939…it happened at the beginning of WWII, when Germany and Russia were briefly allied and they both attacked Poland. So now, to compensate Poland for their lost territory, Russia proposed giving Poland almost all of the territory of East and West Prussia. The US and Britain agreed to this plan at the Yalta conference.

What about the population living in these eastern territories of the German Reich? Again, the US and Britain agreed to do ethnic cleansing on a large scale… to forcibly expel 9.5 million German citizensplus another 8 million ethnic Germans living outside of the Reich who were living in centuries old enclaves in a number of eastern countries. A total of 17.5 million German people became victims of the worst period of ethnic cleansing in the history of the world. Two million expellees died during these expulsions… after the war already ended.

Additionally, Russia demanded reparations in the form of slave labor…abduction into the Soviet Union of an estimated 874,000 German civilians (of which 45% perished) to supplement the 2.7 million German POWs in slave labor mining camps, where German soldiers worked in horrible conditions (according to the German Red Cross, 1.3 million POWs are still officially listed as missing, most are believed to have died). The US and Britain consented to Russia’s slave labor plan, labelling it as reparations payment. They should have upheld the rules of the Geneva Convention and labeled this a war crime. 

All of this unimaginable misery from 1944 to 1950 was barely known outside of Germany and Austria. People in the US and Britain were kept in the dark regarding these crimes. I know that US leaders were morally reluctant to go along with Stalin, but failure to confront him, for whatever reason, was no excuse. It you look at this objectively, the Nuremberg trials were very hypocritical. 

Revenge and retaliation against the Allies never happened. You could argue that this foiled Stalin’s intentions... to bring about chaos within Germany, where millions of uprooted, dispossessed and desperate people were crowded into a wrecked country. But there was no chaos, only a massive struggle to rebuild.

The expellees began to organize in 1949 and created a charter, announced all over Germany: The “expellees renounce revenge and retaliation”. They recognized the futility of revenge as a vicious cycle. Instead they focused on rebuilding their lives.

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