German Refugees and Expellees of World War II
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The question of exactly who can be regarded as a German has been a concern of German culture and thought since a true sense of German national identity was beginning to arise after the Napoleonic wars around 1800. The answer to this question is obviously not very straightforward, as even to this day politicians debate fiercely on this issue. In the 1930s and 40s, however, Hitler held a very strict notion of who belonged to his German Reich and who did not. According to him, Germans were Aryan, preferably blond with blue eyes -the master race destined to rule over all others. Such people existed not only within the pre-World War IT German borders, but also throughout Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. These people were the Volksdeutsche, ethnic Germans who had migrated east at some point during the past centuries, especially at the introduction of Christianity to territories in the east starting around the 13th century. German farmers and merchants began settling in Prussian territory and extending into the Baltic areas as far as Estonia after Kaiser Friedrich IT issued the Golden Bull of Rimini in 1226, meant to promote the christianization of Prussia They followed the Cistercian monks into Polish region of Pomerania At the request of King Ottokar II, German settlers started establishing themselves in Bohemia and Moravia, the area which was to be known centuries later as the Sudetenland. King Bela IV of Hungary encouraged further German settlement of Transylvania (Siebenbuergen in German) after being invaded by the Mongols. With the end of Turkish rule, territories of Romania and Yugoslavia were settled by Germans at the solicitation of the Kaiser in the late 17th and early 18th century. Over the centuries these communities contributed in numerous ways to the prosperity of their region, developing their own customs and culture and growing naturally attached to their Heimat, their home.