Sudeten Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia arriving in Berlin in 1946 to take a train to other parts of Germany.
The 'transfer' of the Sudeten Germans was a traumatic experience for millions of people. Whole communities were uprooted. This mass migration was made up of countless individual stories.
Many Sudeten Germans were placed in ‘holding camps’ (often camps that had been used by the Nazis during the war) before being deported to Germany or Austria. Many faced greater hardship as they made long journeys in search of safety and somewhere to live. At first, they believed their new homes would only be temporary but, over the years, it gradually became clear that they would not return to the Sudetenland. Demands for an apology, or for compensation, were rejected.
The term the Benes government preferred to use about the forced migration of the Sudeten Germans was 'transfer'. This neutral term had been used previously in the case of the population exchanges between Greece and Turkey after the First World War. Czechs disliked the word 'expulsions' and avoided using it as much as possible.
For those who were forced to move, the word transfer was not nearly enough. They regarded themselves as 'expellees', victims of the 'wild expulsions' caused by spontaneous violence and of the forced expulsions organized by the authorities in Czechoslovakia.
This presents a problem for historians and students of history. It is difficult to write about the forced migrations without seeming to take sides.